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Joining the Pennswood Village Community: An Interwoven Tapestry

Posted on March 31, 2017 in Community Feature

Helen Greven, and her sister Lisa Taylor

Pennswood Village is a community that prides itself on celebrating diversity and inclusion, so when you move to Pennswood, you will no doubt be welcomed with open arms and open hearts.

The transition to community living is made easy by being paired with a current resident, also known as a sponsor. Matches are made on a personal level. Your sponsor will be there from the start, even before you move into the community, to help guide you through the process and show you the ins and outs of community life.

Pennswood resident Helen Greven shares her experience of moving to Pennswood, and what inspired her to get involved in making Pennswood a more welcoming place for new residents. Read her story below:

“My husband and I moved to Pennswood Village in 2005 in our early 70s. We knew no one already living here, but in the course of numerous visits had been impressed with the beautiful campus, friendly atmosphere and the many activities offered. We came earlier than originally planned because exactly the apartment we wanted became available. I realize now how farsighted the founders were to plan for centralized mailboxes surrounded by a cafe, bank, mailroom, library, art galleries, gift shop, auditorium, hallway of bulletin boards, with Resident Health offices, Personal Care and Skilled Nursing facilities just down the hall.

For the next six months we were frequently invited to dinner in the main dining room by people we didn’t know, but who had read our biographies in the Bulletin and decided we might be interesting dinner companions. In addition, helpful staff members seemed to know who we were, even without our name tags, and were always quick to respond to our confused and anxious inquiries. I met more people by joining such activities as the Pennswood Singers, the Play Readers, the weekly Board Game Nights, and the Knitters. In other words, I finally had been offered ways to enjoy my retired life!

It took a while to understand that all these opportunities were actually created and coordinated by the Pennswood Village Resident Association, where all of us are represented by a 12 member Board, elected yearly by the residents. As I became, over time, more involved in the work of the PVRA Board, I realized how important resident contributions of time, talent and leadership were to the sense of community which we all appreciate, and must never take for granted. In addition to all the pleasurable activities, the PVRA Board also oversees seven Advisory Committees of residents who work with senior administrators to make sure that resident concerns are being addressed in such areas as health care, dining services, interior decorating of common areas, safety concerns, financial planning, and landscape policies and decisions.

It is a fact of Pennswood life, (and essential for its economic health) that about 30 to 40 people move into the community each year. It is generally understood that it may take from six months to a year for new residents to learn about all the different ways in which Pennswood Village serves them, and just as importantly, what choices they have to contribute as individuals to the vitality of our daily lives. Those of us who have lived here for several very satisfying years assume that after the first few months most new residents have found friends, and more than enough activities to fill each day. And, we assume that they, like the rest of us, will have forgotten, or repressed, how very difficult the actual transition was.

And then, about a year ago, my younger sister moved from California (where she had been living with her daughter and granddaughter since the death of her husband) into a studio apartment at Pennswood with her big white Samoyed dog. Suddenly I was plunged into the actual daily challenges of a new single resident trying to make a new life for herself in a completely unfamiliar environment. Lisa had a welcoming and knowledgeable sponsor who lived next door with her own dog, and a sister and brother-in-law in residence, and she still felt overwhelmed by the intricacies of community life with its many layers of institutional history and expectations. She kept challenging me, as President of the Resident Association, to DO SOMETHING to help new residents believe that they will actually survive the first few months, and begin to trust that moving to Pennswood was still a good idea! “New residents need to have some sort of support group! They need to sit together and compare notes, share ideas, complaints, and concerns!” She said. And the Newcomers Club was born.

We have now been meeting in the Penn Lounge, in front of the fire, on the first and third Tuesday afternoons of each month. Special invitations are issued to those residents whose pictures are posted on the New Resident Bulletin Board beside the mailboxes. Their pictures may be removed from the board after about six months, but any resident may consider himself or herself “new” as long as it takes to feel that Pennswood is “home”. Usually about 20 relatively new residents are present, along with a number of seasoned residents who offer answers, advice, reassurance and sympathy as needed. Some staff members are invited to share specific information, and often return because they are finding the impressions and experiences of the newer residents helpful in their work. There is an atmosphere of compatibility and trust which helps the newer residents share their feelings as well as their questions. It is so reassuring to know that others are experiencing what you are going through, and to begin to see other residents as possible friends. Everyone is learning together that there are definite stages in the process of creating a new Pennswood life, and to believe that they will ultimately feel supported, and connected. We all become part of a complex tapestry where our different threads and colors contribute to the unique composition which is our community. We learn each other’s daily rhythms, and are concerned when someone isn’t where they usually are. After 10 years I am still awed by how interwoven we become.”

For more information about what it’s like to live at Pennswood Village, give us a call at 866-740-4977, or contact us here.