Most everyone has visited a grandparent or a family member at a retirement facility a time or two.
And surely you remember the tired and bored looks on many of the faces.
Well, say goodbye to the old folks home and hello to bustling communities that offer activities like Nintendo Wii, pilates and tai chi.
“So now there is this whole freedom of just saying ‘Guess what? I’m 75 and now I can have fun and do whatever,’” said Colleen Wilson, the public relations manager for ACTS Retirement-Life Communities.
“They are out there living lives of retirement, a fun retirement because they don’t have to worry about maintenance. They can shut their door and travel; they don’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning.
Lanier Village Estates, an ACTS property here in Gainesville, offers to residents a retirement that is full of spunk and fun.
Many mornings, residents start with line dancing in the auditorium, followed by Wii bowling. After heading to the dining room for lunch, they get ready for tai chi or Pilates.
“I love the gym and we have lots of programs,” said Haines Hill, a Lanier Village Estates resident who also conducts tours for prospective residents. “We had a couple here last Saturday night and they played all the (music hits from the) ’30s, ’40s and ’50s ... we’ve had the Patriot Choir from North Georgia College.
“I love the people, the most interesting part is having dinner with them and getting to talk to them.”
Hill, who was the mayor of Dahlonega from 1985 to 1990 and 1995 to 2000, said he also enjoys talking with the several authors, former corporate executives and other interesting personalities who live at the community.
Along with the exercise facilities, other activities include billiards, woodworking shop, crafts, pottery, glass blowing and painting. For both residents and visitors, the facility seems more like an upscale country club than a retirement community.
But they don’t have a Starbucks — which was recently put in at Limestone Heritage Nursing Center in Oakwood.
“The first year it was an ice cream parlor,” said Beverly Wilson, the recreational director at Limestone Heritage. “We serve Starbucks every day and cookies, and we utilize the Starbucks coffee shop as a party room, too. Sometimes we make strawberry daiquiris.”
While Limestone Heritage is strictly a long-term-care facility, residents still enjoy activities beyond soap operas on TV and bridge tournaments. Rather, Wii games and pet therapy also are popular activities there.
“I lay awake at night thinking of stuff to do ... we have a really good family-oriented atmosphere. We try to make them feel the most at home as possible,” Wilson said.
Joe Judge, a Lanier Village Estates resident who spends a lot of time playing Wii bowling, said it’s the people that make the community special.
“(They are a) terrific crowd; we are a real community,” he said. “After you have been here a short while, you feel as if you are a large family.”
Judge moved to Gainesville from Atlanta, by way of Hiawassee, two and a half years ago with his wife.
“When you get to a certain age you have to get closer to good medical care,” he said. “Both my wife and I are cancer survivors so we had to be near good doctors and hospitals.”
Lanier Village Estates, is a continuing care retirement community where its roughly 500 residents can have private residences with access to assisted living and nursing care. This type of community is open to seniors age 62 and older; the average age of new residents at Lanier Village Estates is 74.
Perhaps 70 is the new 50?
Nicki Walker, a representative for Lanier Village Estates, said many of the residents just can’t get enough of the fun activities, and the staff at area retirement communities said they try to keep residents busy and help them feel at home.
“We have a lot of residents say they were less busy when they had full-time jobs,” she said. “It is so much fun ... definitely a family atmosphere.”
Creating a home-like atmosphere is even more important for residents such as Dee Klein — an avid line dancer and Wii gamer — who, with her husband, were in line for a spot at an ACTS community in Pensacola, Fla.
After hurricanes derailed their plans for a home on the Panhandle, they settled in Gainesville. And now that the community can accept them, Klein said, they’re not ready to go back.
“We have been called to go back and we turned it down because we are involved here,” she said.
Klein stays active by doing theater at Lanier Village Estates. She is alao a representative of her floor to the board and she loves to play duplicate bridge with her husband.
“We (play bridge) at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and on Thursday nights,” she said. “We are always close and we do our separate things, too.”
Some of the most interesting rooms at Lanier Village Estates are the three miniature train rooms headed up by two-year resident Taylor Rogers.
“I didn’t have a train when I was growing up,” Rogers said. “I love it ... I run it on holidays for the grandchildren.”