Gratitude for the active retirement community Laguna Woods Village in California

When I was a child in a big family with multi-generations, I was exposed to various convalescent homes, hospice units, “old people” communities and the like. I spent time at the veterans’ hospitals trying to bring good cheer as a Bluebird and Indian Maiden (Indian Princess). The overall feeling I was left with was how sad it was to get old. Even the independent community I visited in Seal Beach was depressing like a mausoleum. It felt like people were rotting without any drive to be active.  I never wanted to go back or consider living there when I was older. I continued to visit these facilities and people because I was taught to do this. My mother reminded me that some day she may be in a place like that. It horrified me to think of her in these depressing places like the one in Seal Beach. Then, when I was a teen, her friends moved to a retirement community in Laguna Woods, California (but it was still part of Laguna Hills then) The community is called Laguna Woods Village. My first exposure to this HUGE active adult community was attending a performance in their FULL stage theater performed by residents in their Theater Club. It was so upbeat, well produced and performed, I KNEW this place was different, and so did my mom. We also attended an annual show by their synchronized swim team, the Aquadettes! WOW! Those ladies are in WAY better shape than I am. It’s a way of life for them.

My father died a few years later and Mom was faced with a decision: live in our large suburban, empty-nest house alone or make a change. In her mind, the ONLY logical option was Laguna Woods Village. Her big brother, then 75, was moving there to marry his sweetheart. She was in the play we saw those years ago! He became a volunteer security guard, mom took some classes at the community college that used some of the community facilities. I watched her open up. She felt safe, she had less to maintain and the outside of her home always looked good. It was fun to visit her there because of all of the restaurants in the area. I’d pick her up and take her to Laguna Beach or the mall. We always had something fun to do nearby. I even held meetings for a volunteer group there so residents could help us make blankets for kids in need in the area. It’s that kind of place.

As time went on, it became apparent that my mom had more advanced Alzheimer’s, as did her brother and her older sister. She began to close up and it was more difficult to get her to participate in community activities. The residents had come to care about her enough that they would check in with her, and with us, and would offer to take her to church, invite her over. They were NOT going to allow her to deteriorate without a fight. The upbeat feeling of Laguna Woods Village residents helped me and my siblings through this time. The community management staff, PCM, also showed how much they care about every resident.

During these final couple of years, Mom’s love of restaurants and shopping helped. With so many good ones around the community and Laguna Beach so near, it gave us all a lot of options to take her out and then explore the greenbelts near her unit with the grandchildren. She loved this time. They are great memories for all of us. With six of us, we were each able to take a night and then rotate out the Sunday dinners and days with her. This was an outing day. I usually took her to Laguna Beach, some took her to see her siblings or for a weekend away.

My siblings and I were so grateful. As she continued to deteriorate, we hired a helper to come daily, we were all on shifts – each having our special day with her. I took Tuesdays – “Happy Tuesday” we called it. By now, my siblings and I were at the point of making a decision to have to move her to an extended care facility as her Alzheimer’s grew worse – fear, paranoia. It broke our hearts, but she no longer felt safe and she needed around the clock care. She was aware enough and afraid because she knew it was coming.

I will always be grateful that her prayers were most likely answered. She had gone through this with her own mother 60 years prior, and years ago made us promise to not listen to her pleading when the time came but do what was best for her without burdening ourselves. She and God were close – He heard ALL of her prayers and answered them all, too. She wasn’t greedy with her requests. God’s hand came in and took her with a heart attack one morning. She went quickly and peacefully at her last true home.

Once again PCM and the Laguna Woods Village community stepped forward to give us comfort, assistance and make it easy for us to move her things out.

Even when I drive down to visit family, I drive by Laguna Woods Village and smile at the generous, kind and lively community. Thank you residents and PCM.