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What Does Community Mean to You?

What Does Community Mean to You?

December 19, 2023

We hear the word community every day in reference to our parishes, our schools, neighborhoods and even groups. It is defined in Webster’s as, “common possession of enjoyment…body of people having common rights, privileges or interest or living in the same place under the same laws of regulation.” Oddly enough, I was struggling to find the right words for this article when I received an email from one of our Ridgecrest Village residents, sharing a photo she had taken earlier in the week. Belinda Holbrook’s photo of Koning Chapel, the American Flag and blooming magnolias artfully captured something incredibly special about the Ridgecrest Community.

Last week, needing an after-lunch cup of coffee and chocolate I ran over to our campus café. I love our café. It is a wonderful place that I liken to a coffee shop version of the old Cheers sitcom where everyone knows your name. That day there was a discussion going on between a few of our residents about one of them recently being in the hospital. They paused long enough to greet me and pull out a chair for me to join them, which I did. They readily resumed their discussion, and it was clear this was not just idle chatter. Genuine concern was evident with each question about the recent hospital experience. These community members look out for each other in a way I have rarely seen. It moves my heart.

So why is considering “community” so important when contemplating senior living? Karen McCoy, a colleague with over 20 years’ experience in the senior industry shared this, “People are looking to see if they can see themselves living here, fitting in and being comfortable…. finding the right people who think, and act like them.” She hears people say all the time, “I don’t want to need to dress up for meals. I want some place where I can wear my world’s best grandma sweater and won’t be judged.”  She said, “Acceptance is huge. We have people who come from diverse backgrounds and occupations. When I’m doing a tour… yes, it’s about the smiles and saying hello, but when it comes down to it, it’s about looking around, seeing yourself sitting in that chair and being comfortable. It’s about surrounding yourself with those with common beliefs and being welcomed.”

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being locally owned and operated. We are part of the larger QCA community with a rich heritage that is reflected in many area businesses. One example of this is the Iowa Machine Shed. You feel at home when you walk in. You are reminded of steak, potatoes, homemade apple crisp, and corn-on-the-cob. Across the bridge, is the John Deere Commons. You are reminded of the tradition of tractors and all the businesses that have evolved from the farming industry in the QCA. Both remind us of the hometown goodness that exists in Iowa and Western Illinois.

The word community is undoubtedly overused in the senior realm, but it is the right word. That said, using the term as a broad stroke definition is a mistake. Senior communities are not apples to apples when comparing one place to another. When contemplating the right fit for you, think about what community means to you, where you will fit in and continue to experience all the richness that life has to offer.

Julie Arndt is a licensed social worker and Director of Marketing at Ridgecrest Village with over 30 years’ experience working in the field of geriatrics and senior advocacy.

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