When you reach the point where there’s nothing in front of you, hooray, you’re en route to victory if it’s a horse race, regatta or Iron Man contest! But nay, if it’s the dreaded finish line to life’s journey; beware the ides that haunt us all.
Having come up with another weird intro, where shall we go from here? How about joining me on an analysis of retirement home life after eight hundred days?
Yup, can you believe? It was two short years ago August when a comparatively healthy but aging widowed male Nisei carted a few belongings onto 325 S. Boyle Ave., L.A. 90033; on the minus side of assured, the plus side of apprehensive.
For the benefit of those still on the cusp of making a similar decision, an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of moving into “a facility” would be timely. And personal asides that may help Sansei who are concerned about the plight of aging parents.
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We are aware that options are limited where Japanese American facilities are concerned, varied with non-JA operations throughout Southern California. Many are very good, monetary considerations a big factor. The single most important component is the existence of waiting lists. You simply can’t decide it’s time to move – then check in like you would a hotel.
I was so (un)sure of making the move that my bed was warm and refrigerator filled at home as well as Keiro Retirement Home. That’s what you call indecision; the idea was to maintain separate residences until sure of where to sleep.
Getting used to not living at home is a physical as well as mental challenge. Going to Las Vegas for a weekend is one thing, constant living in cramped quarters is something else. And forget about the monthly poker game, coffee klatches, entertaining guests or watering the lawn. Not to mention room for wardrobe, cadenza, comfortable sofa. Imagine a room at The Cal and there you are. [Confession: CR2S has two rooms so am not as cramped.]
I believe I’ve mentioned the greatest societal change: The need to be constantly amiable amidst 145 neighbors, especially thrice daily during meals. Regardless of proper upbringing, always maintaining a cheery countenance can be awfully trying (and unfair).
The pluses that offset the negatives:
Uppermost, without doubt, is three squares a day. Some days they might be rectangles, but let’s be real, every meal at home wasn’t exactly five-star. The food factor is always #1, no matter female or male. At KRH it is obviously more **Jappo** than Western, meaning the most staple of staples, rice, is always handy. I am a picayunish eater. If the scheduled meal has no appeal (i.e. oyako donburi), I order take out, defrost or eat out. I also provide my own strawberries and tsukemono. Since I don’t eat their sausage, Canadian bacon, or ham, I have no qualms hoarding bacon when it’s offered once weekly. [I’m not CR2S here; I’m the bacon guy.]
As far as activities are concerned, residents have more choices than you can shake a pair of chopsticks at. You name it, it’s on the schedule: karaoke, origami, calligraphy, ukulele, exercise, socials, dancing, movies, arts & crafts, singing, bingo, religious services. Regularly scheduled volunteer drivers take residents to medical appointments and shopping in Li’l Tokio and Gardena, Wal-Mart, Costco, special events. Visiting youngsters, performers and entertainers book special appearances at KRH. You can go 24/7 and still not have enough time. Or you can go solo, meditate, hibernate and be nonconformist.
Staff is on hand to make sure all daily needs are provided as well as special, individual attention where needed. Monthly blood pressure and weight checkups are held as well as birthday parties so no one can forget. [Last month there was a special luncheon for residents over the age of 90; 42 were so honored!]
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I’m approached by single and coupled homesteaders who have no reason to consider moving – but they inquire – meaning they are concerned. And by Sansei who worry about the future of parents who won’t discuss the matter. “What’s the best thing to do?” enters the minds of all eventually, but unfortunately hesitate to follow through.
My advice is to inspect and investigate, just as you would buying a home, car or big-box item, even if there is no immediacy or consensus. Important caveat: Get on waiting lists where they prevail; it costs nothing and you always have the option to decline without penalty if your name comes up and you’re not ready. But you can’t simply move in because you want to. Lists are long, often years (at KRH) and will always be out of reach if you don’t sign up.
Remaining at the old abode alone would have been precarious and worrisome for my guys. Without doubt #CR2S@KRH has turned out to be very wise and prudent. And as an added, unexpected bonus, “O” knocked on my door. Life is Good.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at email@example.com Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.
Regarding the journey to the retirement home. Death is the commonality that we all share. The limitation of time and life are true to all of us. We can face these truth only when we stop running from them. As we face death without fear.
We face life without fear in residence at a Japanese Buddhist retirement home. Sayonara.