These days, most people know that living in a retirement community like Heron’s Key offers plenty of opportunities to stay active — physically, mentally and socially. Along with the promise of future access to advanced care and relief from having to maintain a home, the active lifestyle is a key reason many older adults consider moving to a senior living community.
Still, some people worry that they won’t be able to continue doing some of the things they enjoy if they move into a retirement community. It’s absolutely a legitimate concern. But it’s almost always the case that living in a community like ours opens up more possibilities, rather than limiting them.
New residents — like Kerry and Anne Smith, for example — are often pleasantly surprised to find out just how much there is to do here and how many ways there are to get involved. We’ll tell you more about their experience in a bit.
The Social Aspect of Aging
You probably already know that physical exercise can help stave off many of the health conditions that are normally associated with the aging process. You might also be aware that giving your brain a good “workout” may help to prevent or slow cognitive decline and memory loss.
There’s also the social component of aging to take into account. Older adults, particularly those who live alone, are vulnerable to feeling lonely and socially isolated.
Physical impairments, such as hearing loss and reduced mobility, can cause older adults to forgo activities they would typically participate in. So can lack of transportation. Spending too much time alone or being cut off from friends and family can affect a person’s health and well-being at any age — as we’ve seen during the pandemic.
Social isolation in elderly people places them at higher risk for heart disease, cognitive decline, depression and dementia, as well as other health conditions. And while social isolation doesn’t always lead to loneliness in the elderly, frequently it does. On the other hand, older adults who live with one or more family members also can feel lonely if there’s little or no meaningful interaction.
People who are lonely feel emotional pain, which can cause the same stress responses as physical pain, according to the National Institute on Aging. That, in turn, can lead to chronic inflammation and lowered immunity over time.
Activities for Seniors Promote ‘Healthy’ Aging
There’s a reason that so many of the most popular activities in senior living communities are group activities: Connecting with other people can be a lot of fun! But there are other benefits as well.
“People who engage in meaningful, productive activities they enjoy with others feel a sense of purpose and tend to live longer,” the National Institute on Aging advises.
Even if your favorite hobby or pastime is more of a solo activity — woodworking, sewing or writing, for instance — you can still easily reap the benefits of social interaction simply by living in a community such as ours. Other residents likely have some of the same interests as you and will be happy to connect with another kindred spirit. Plus, you can always meet some of your neighbors for a meal or an impromptu cup of coffee.
Residents at Heron’s Key have found creative ways to stay connected, even these last couple of years when the pandemic has presented more than a few challenges. Although we’ve had to suspend (or find alternatives to) most of the activities and outings that are normally such an appealing part of the Heron’s Key lifestyle, residents have expressed how thankful they are to be here instead of out in the larger community. The ability to stay connected, even during the lockdown periods, is one of several reasons they feel that way.
From fitness classes and meditation sessions to educational presentations and volunteer endeavors, there are ample activities and hobbies for seniors at Heron’s Key to keep your body and mind in optimal health. And plenty of ways to increase your social connections, too!
Anne and Kerry Smith: New to Heron’s Key and Eager to Get Involved
Having joined us just before Thanksgiving last year, Anne and Kerry Smith are among the newest residents at Heron’s Key. After a couple of visits to our community, they decided to put their house in Oregon on the market. It sold in just two days, and they headed north to Gig Harbor.
For now, with the safety protocols in place again because of the latest COVID-19 surge, many of the activities the Smiths are interested in exploring are on hold. Kerry has been involved with our in-house TV station, HKTV, and Anne has been playing pickleball at the nearby Y. She was very involved with the local pickleball community near their home in Oregon and is happy that she can continue to play now.
Before they moved, Kerry, who earlier in his career worked as a registered nurse, was a hospice volunteer with Kaiser Permanente. He found that providing respite for caregivers was “a very fulfilling” experience and said he had been looking forward to volunteering at Penrose Harbor. Although the plans were in place for him to do that, those plans have been temporarily delayed because of COVID restrictions. He said he misses being a hospice volunteer and is eager to resume. He also wants to get involved in “a lot of other groups” at Heron’s Key.
Speaking of groups at Heron’s Key, we had to postpone the Interest Group Fair originally scheduled for mid-January but hope to have it in March if all goes well. At the fair, every group in our community, including the informal ones that aren’t mentioned in Heron’s Flight, will have a display and someone on hand to provide information to residents who are interested in joining.
“I can’t wait until March, when we get to see all the things that are available,” Kerry said. Anne mentioned her long-time interest in genealogy research and noted that Heron’s Key has a genealogy group.
They’re also both eager to do more exploring in and around Gig Harbor when the weather warms up and the current COVID-19 surge has abated. Anne said they’ve already started mapping out many of the local spots they want to visit.
In the meantime, they’ve both been taking advantage of Heron’s Key social events via Zoom as much as possible.
John Krouse: A Longtime Woodworker With Wanderlust
John and his wife, Linda, have lived at Heron’s Key for about two years, and before that, they lived at our sister community, Emerald Heights, for almost a year. Prior to that, they traveled the contiguous U.S. for about a year and a half.
After they sold their house and before embarking on their cross-country adventures, they decided they needed to have a specific place to return to — one they would think of as home. They chose Emerald Heights, which John said is a “wonderful, excellent” community that he “highly recommends.” It was Gig Harbor’s “walkability” that prompted their subsequent change.
John’s grandfather was a master carpenter, and John has been working with wood since he was a boy. When he and Linda had their home, he had a huge workshop. When asked if it was hard for him to give that up, he was quick to say that both woodshops — the one at Emerald Heights and the one at Heron’s Key — are fully equipped.
“There isn’t a tool or machine you could want that isn’t available here,” he said, noting that in some ways it’s been an upgrade for him because many of the machines are newer or larger than the ones he had, and there are some he didn’t have at all.
He pointed out that the residents who use the workshop at Heron’s Key are dedicated to their craft. If there’s a piece of equipment they want, they’ll pitch in to buy it.
“These are woodworkers who are building a better workshop for themselves,” he said.
John combines his woodworking skills with his lifelong penchant for solving problems by building various types of wooden puzzles. He also is part of the smaller group of woodworkers who build toys — jump ropes, yoyos and wooden toy trucks, for example — to donate to local children’s organizations at Christmastime.
John earned a degree in photography and worked as a professional photographer for a while when he was in his twenties. When digital cameras “displaced the art of photography,” as he put it, John went back to school and became an electromechanical engineer. But he still enjoys photography and said he will be involved with the Heron’s Key photography group when it becomes more active again after the COVID restrictions have eased.
He also mentioned that he is interested in participating in the community gardening efforts, some of the reading groups, and possibly the genealogy group. And he and Linda both are looking forward to when the outings to sporting events, museums and musical events resume.
“When they start up, it’ll be a matter of how do we divide our time between these things?” he said. “They’re all attractive and fit into our schedule. They widen your enjoyment level.”
He also noted that he and Linda have expanded their social circle considerably since moving to Heron’s Key. Neither of them were “much into joining things” before they moved to Emerald Heights and then Heron’s Key, but that has changed because they know their neighbors better now.
On a final note, John pointed out that they still enjoy all of the traveling they did before, and now when they “get an itch to travel,” they can just get in the car and go. Last year they took a three-week road trip to Southern California and visited various points of interest in several states on the way home.
“Now, we don’t have to worry about getting the grass mowed while we’re gone,” he said. “It’s a different kind of freedom. It’s a confidence, a ‘go without any fear’ type of thing. You don’t have to worry about your home. It’s just another advantage of being here.”
Which Activities Might Capture Your Interest?
As you can see, there’s no shortage of activities at Heron’s Key. Whether you’re hoping to continue an activity or hobby you already enjoy or find a new interest, rest assured that you’ll find plenty of options here.
Plus, as Kerry and Anne Smith were pleased to find out when they first visited Heron’s Key, we’re one of very few Life Plan retirement communities in Washington state that offer a “Type A” Life Care contract.
We invite you to learn more about Heron’s Key and the lifestyle you could enjoy if you decide to join us. It would be our pleasure to welcome you to our community.