Monday, December 5, 2011

A Resort Vacation the Senior Living Way

I just returned from four days in Dallas, Texas, but did not see much of the city. I experienced a relaxing, restful resort vacation – sort of.

My Mom (86 years young) has a close friend (94 years young) - they are related by marriage and call each other cousins - currently living in a senior independent living residence in Dallas. My Mom had not seen Helene in a couple of years. She wanted to visit, but did not want to fly alone. I went along for the ride.

The independent senior living center is two years old and beautiful; you feel like you are in a four-star hotel. Entering through huge, heavy double doors (hit the automatic door opener for instant easy access), the high ceilinged lobby includes a sitting area with a large TV over the fireplace, comfortable chairs and sofas. A board lists the current day’s events and a concierge-type person is available to assist your every need. Floor to ceiling windows along the back wall look out onto a large courtyard with a fireplace and several tables and chairs. This is the outdoor dining patio.

The dining room was decorated for the holidays. Tables varied in size from small, intimate tables for two to large round tables for eight (or more if you squeezed together). There was pretty china tableware, large cloth napkins and food was served with attention to detail. Each plate looked like a mini work of art. The staff could not be more helpful. I believe you have to be a special person to work in a senior-type facility. Residents can be very demanding. I guess people get used to things a particular way and expect others’ to accommodate them.

The menu included a stable of offerings as well as daily specials. The DR was open for lunch and dinner daily. A smaller bistro opened every morning for made-to-order breakfasts and offered light fare and snacks throughout the day.

The complex has a library, game room, beauty salon, arts and crafts room, Wellness Center, computer center, heated outdoor pool and free Wi-Fi. There is a theater with enormous comfortable lounge chairs, a popcorn machine and huge screen. I envision everyone getting comfortable, leaning back in his or her chair, and the lights dim. The movie starts and most people nod off. An hour and a half later the lights go on, and one after another members of the audience must be tapped on the shoulder and awakened!

The Wellness Center offers a large room for exercise classes and a room equipped with state-of-the-art treadmills, stationary bikes, a stair climber, weight machines, and assorted apparatus including balls, free weights and mats.

The two friends participated in activities throughout the day, enjoying meals together, catching up and reminiscing. I joined them for some doings, but spent time utilizing the gym facilities. I rode the bicycle, climbed mountains (hills, actually) on the treadmill and used the weight machines. The locker room was spotless, decorated with brown-toned tiles and stone. All areas are open, spacious and handicapped accessible.

Most people walked unassisted, but there were some wheelchair and walker-aided residents. The majority are in their eighties; there are doubtless a couple of residents 100+.

My Mom and I stayed in one of the guest suites available for out of town visitors. It was roomy, spotless and larger than most expensive hotel rooms.

I devoured an authentic Tex Mex meal when we spent an afternoon out at a restaurant (I was the chauffeur), shopping at the dollar store and Tuesday Morning, and visiting a craft show where Helene’s granddaughter displayed her jewelry. We were on a timetable and had to return home before the next scheduled activity. There was Wii bowling, bridge, Texas Hold’em, Happy Hour (which lasted way longer than an hour), exercise class…

The days passed quickly and the two friends did not stop moving. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and an inspiration. I hope I am as active and with-it mentally and physically as these two great ladies are at their age.
Mom and Helene, December 2011. 

A note on affordability (or not)
It all sounds very expensive and decadent, but prices are surprisingly reasonable. This particular place was not the most expensive Helene visited when researching independent living choices. But I do not believe there is any such place at affordable prices in the New York area (where my Mom lives) or probably other high-cost-of-living metro areas. If I am wrong, please let me know and I will pass the information on to my Mom and her friends…


  1. What a wonderful place!! I wouldn't mind being a resident... only much later in life.

  2. It does sound fantastic. I'm glad to know they exist out there. And your mom and Helene do look quite fit and happy. Makes me feel a bit better about getting older... :-)

  3. We have two elderly relatives in independent living -- father-in-law recently moved to a place in NJ; mother-in-law from different side of the family has been living in one in Pa. for almost 15 years (she's 96). I do not know details about the finances, but father-in-law sold his house, and that's how he's paying for it.

    Both places are fairly new and very nice, with friendly people and lots of activities. The only problem, of course, is that everyone there is old. I think it'd be depressing to live exclusively with other elderly people.

    I'd like to think, when I'm in my 80s, that I could still pal around with some 50 and 60 year olds, as well as my fellow 80 year olds. But then again, I might just be kidding myself. Wouldn't be the first time.

  4. The two women look so happy to be together...what a great friendship.

  5. Nothing wrong with that retirement picture! Sounds good for when you're old enough to need such an all encompassing environment. When I can still function independently, i wouldn't be interested. I have learned never to say never. When the time is right for anything, you know it!

  6. Awww...It's so nice that they spent some quality time in a very nice place. Well, I've heard so many great things about Texas. This is one great benefit of staying in a retirement facility.