Though everyone needs their alone time, research has shown that connectedness, especially among older adults, is highly beneficial for one's general and mental health. That's especially true in places like Beacon Hill at Eastgate, a senior living community in Grand Rapids that for over 60 years has provided a residential community and a wide range of services to seniors.
Ashley Edwards, Beacon Hill's Marketing and Communications Director, agrees that a sense of belonging is incredibly important for older adults.
"We are made better, more whole, when sharing our lives with family, friends, neighbors and even strangers," Edwards said. "Helping those in need, building new connections, sharing in their joys and their sorrows ... we are greatly improved when we are part of a community."
Edwards explained that though many residents already have a supportive community in their families and lifelong friends, a person's community as they age can feel smaller for a variety of reasons, offering fewer "reasons" to get together. Thankfully, communities of all kinds—including churches, volunteer organizations and those like Beacon Hill—offer opportunities to gather, go on an outing and simply experience life.
"Residents at Beacon Hill can choose to be as engaged or serene as they want to be, and as social or as private as they choose," Edwards said, sharing more about what the Beacon Hill community is like for its residents. "Beacon Hill's residents enjoy an active and fulfilling life and take ample advantage of all the campus offers: social events, field trips, four on-site restaurants, a 120-person auditorium, a half-acre community garden, etc.
"In addition to resident mixers, residents can join any number of social clubs, from cards and games to current events. Take an art class. Attend a concert. Nurture your love of gardening. We also have a wide variety of wellness classes including yoga, water aerobics, walking club and more—plus spiritual enrichment classes, which make it easy to stay active and meet new people at the same time."
For many, aging can be understandably difficult to grapple with, whether it's not recognizing yourself in the mirror or being frustrated about not being able to do the same physical activities as you once did. But that doesn't mean we can't remind ourselves (and often) how fortunate we are to be afforded the opportunity to grow older.
"Aging is a privilege! We should all be so lucky as to live well into our 90s," Edwards said. "The senior population has so much wisdom to share, and they deserve everyone's respect."
Edwards emphasized the importance of listening to their stories and heeding their advice.
"One day, it will be you sharing that wisdom. And me—if I'm bestowed that privilege!" she said. "The happiest people I encounter are the ones who have accepted that aging happens to all of us and it's OK to ask for help when you need it. No matter what we look like, or whether you need assistive devices for daily living, your spirit and who you are as a person remains the same."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.