An Apartment State Of Mind
September 29, 2023
If recliners, rockers, and wrinkles come to mind when you think of older persons, think again! Many of today’s older persons don’t let age define their abilities, and Fairfield is proud to offer affordable housing to seniors on lower, fixed incomes who appreciate the comfort of community. As Fairfield recognizes International Day of Older Persons this October 1, the theme, “Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World,” rings true. We marvel at the resilience of our senior residents, some of whom have had to navigate difficult life circumstances yet have managed to unite with their neighbors to create thriving communities. Fairfield’s senior affordable apartments provide much more than a variety of newly renovated apartments and 1 and 2 bedroom floor plans priced lower than market rates. Resident Services Coordinators and Program Managers are on hand to identify and coordinate resources that help Fairfield’s senior residents maintain healthy lifestyles.
Do you wonder what you will be doing when you’re in your 70s? Your 80s? What if you live to be 100 or longer? So far, Boardwalk Apartments resident Frances Swank takes the birthday cake amongst Fairfield’s senior residents living in Washington. Frances celebrated her 102nd birthday this year.
Frances Swank with Boardwalk’s Community Manager Cyndi Pugh at Boardwalk’s 2023 Summerfest event.
Frances’s milestone may soon be less common. World Population Prospects statistics predict that “by 2050, one in four persons living in Europe and Northern America could be aged 65 or older… and the number of persons aged 80 years or over is projected to triple.” Additionally, a 2021 report by the Population Division of the United Nations reported that the number of centenarians has doubled in the past 20 years.
Globally, the population aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups. Regardless of age or income level, living comfortably and independently in one’s home and community is a common goal. “Home,” however, can look differently for different people. That’s why Fairfield is committed to offering senior affordable housing options that allow older persons to live the lives they deserve at a price they can afford. Fairfield currently has senior affordable apartment communities in Washington, California, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia.
Fairfield’s non-profit partner CIRC Living is integral to the lives of many senior residents who don’t always know where to go when they need help, for instance, navigating confusing paperwork, locating dental and health services, preparing for emergencies, paying utilities and rent, accessing transportation, and much more. CIRC provides Fairfield’s senior communities in Washington with Resident Services Coordinators (RSCs) and Program Managers to lend a compassionate helping hand while upholding the privacy and dignity of Fairfield’s senior residents.
Imagine the changes some have experienced just with the progress of technology since the 1900s. Navigating the internet, using email, accessing online resident portals, and paying rent and other bills online were not even concepts for those who grew up using typewriters and writing checks.
Through the help of CIRC and local and resident volunteers, Fairfield launched Digital Navigator programs to help older residents adapt to modern technology. Senior residents can use the program to learn to navigate the internet, and some have even received free devices donated by community benefactors.
As getting out and about is difficult for some, resident volunteers bring the outside in - managing on-site food pantries, food bank deliveries, and fresh produce deliveries - all donated by local non-profits. CIRC helps establish the connections, and resident volunteers keep the programs running.
Meridian Court resident volunteer Paula Johnson is showing off staples she collects for the Meridian Court food pantry.
The Food Bridge Program provided by the Federal Way Multi-Service Center ensures that Meridian Court residents do not face food insecurity. This program brings a mini version of the Food Bank Market to Meridian Court so residents can choose from options available to create their own meals. Supervised by a CIRC Program Manager for Wellness, this program’s success truly relies on the community-wide effort of resident volunteers.
At most Fairfield senior communities, residents who lack transportation or don’t want to utilize public transit can use the van service organized by a CIRC Program Manager for Transportation. CIRC RSCs help with additional transportation connections.
As you may be realizing, regardless of income status, many in the over-65 crowd enjoy finding ways to keep busy. Volunteering benefits mental and physical health by providing a sense of purpose and social connections and is just plain fun.
On the first Tuesday of August, people across the United States take part in the annual National Night Out community-building events. This opportunity promotes police-community partnerships. It’s a time when City leaders and those working in law enforcement and emergency response join members of the community to get to know each other. Two Fairfield communities, Auburn Court and Lakewood Meadows, joined this celebration through the volunteer efforts of CIRC RSCs and program managers, on-site staff, and residents. While Lakewood Meadows residents chose to host a carnival event with games, prizes, and other carnival treats, Auburn Court residents hosted a Bazaar, BBQ, and Resource Fair.
The Auburn Court Team – Fairfield Senior Maintenance Technician Leon Thomas, CIRC Manager of Resident Services Kellie Rogers, and lead resident volunteer for food preparation Betty Brown, took time off from kitchen duty to get silly with photo booth fun.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that create the fondest camaraderie. Many ideas spring from the daily morning coffee social at Alderwood Court. The conversation led to a trip to the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, WA.
Residents made arrangements to utilize the Fairfield van to take advantage of Senior Discount Day.
Day-to-day tasks also keep older persons sharp and feeling productive. Because Fairfield residents take pride in their senior apartment communities, they volunteer to help keep common areas ready for games and various events. This writer recalls a time at Alderwood Court while setting up a volunteer appreciation event in the community room – one resident clasped my hands as I tried to clean a dirty dish and, with a big smile on her face, proudly said, “Stop. That’s my job. We have a dishwasher. I empty it every day and fill it back up. You don’t need to do anything!” Because she found a sense of purpose in this daily task, on-site staff backed off and honored her wish to serve her community.
You can step off the elevators on any floor of the buildings at Woodrose in Bellingham and find lovely sitting areas arranged by talented residents. And speaking of talent, one Woodrose resident started a weekly visual arts program while some of her neighbors organized a thriving food pantry after developing partnerships with the Bellingham Food Bank, New Song Church, and the local Food Network. When New Song Church donated a freezer to these efforts, residents rallied to keep the pantry full. Reports indicate that in just one week, over 300 residents benefitted.
Communities thrive when residents team up to plan activities and events for all to enjoy. A resident at Auburn Court saw a piece of land in his community just the perfect size for a horseshoe pit. He now offers monthly horseshoe tournaments!
Pea patches, or individual gardening plots, are available at a variety of Fairfield communities for residents with green thumbs and a passion for planting, pruning, and harvesting. Rooftop gardens, like the ones at Washington Terrace, provide a serene place to just contemplate the fruits of one’s labor and enjoy a beautiful day.
Fairfield’s senior residents appreciate the need to keep their minds sharp, whether it’s by organizing a variety of games and crafts activities or focusing on emergency preparedness and other learning opportunities – often with the help of Fairfield’s CIRC Program Manager for Training and Resident Engagement. Community partnerships with first responders and other service providers are also strong.
Residents take advantage of learning opportunities through various mobile library services such as Traveling Library or Library on Wheels. Resident volunteers connect with library service representatives to host monthly visits. These services are especially important for residents with mobility issues or those who lack transportation.
King County Adult Services Librarian Kate Morgan visits Auburn Court resident Ethel Craven-Sweet as they discuss the many opportunities a Traveling Library can provide.
Fairfield’s CIRC Program Managers for Health and Wellness contribute to healthy aging-in-place practices by providing programs that include visiting nursing students, vaccine clinics, and other health-related education and services. They also supervise exercise opportunities that include everything from chair-supported exercises to yoga to the SAIL (Stay Active and Independent for Life) Fitness program.
2021 ushered in the “Decade of Healthy Aging.” Longer lives, however, can pose financial problems and longer periods on retirement income. Many risk outliving their assets, which is why the availability of affordable apartment communities for older persons is a necessity.
Fairfield has been one of the most experienced housing operators of affordable housing in the country for more than 25 years. Our senior affordable apartment communities in Washington state, for instance, participate in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which allows Fairfield to accept housing vouchers and offer rents below market rate based on preset income limits. Peace of mind comes to many seniors just from knowing they have a comfortable place to age in place.
Community gatherings create a feeling of belonging and foster residents’ sense of purpose. Cedar Park residents enjoy the musical talents of Darlene Stephenson, who also leads bible studies for her community.
Cedar Park’s Darlene Stephenson entertains during the weekly Friday night Community Dinner donated and served by Community Dinner volunteers.
Another Cedar Park resident took it upon herself to create a Legacy Board at Cedar Park. Her first spotlight featured fellow resident Joan whose career as an RN led her to other countries to train fellow nurses on the use of the Nobel Prize-winning Hickman Catheter. This device, which she co-developed with Dr. Robert O. Hickman in the 1970s, revolutionized cancer care. Joan retired at the age of 80 after having raised 11 children with her husband. She has 35 grandchildren and is 91 years young.
Joan is only one of many interesting seniors at Cedar Park. Imagine touring the world as a puppeteer! That’s what Leola Wade did before she chose Cedar Park as her home.
Leola Wade with her main puppet Ginger who she says, “talks a lot” and her other puppet, Minky, who is musically talented!
In addition to human connections, pets provide important companionship to combat the loneliness that some seniors experience. With the rising cost of food and other essentials, it is difficult for some residents to include pet food in their budgets. Fairfield residents in many communities are grateful for the generous pet food donations they receive from such sponsors as All the Best Pet Care, Seattle Humane Society, and Homage Senior and Disabled Services through Homeward Pet Adoption Center.
Resident Maria Dayjohnson helps distribute donations for Cedar Park residents. Maria also volunteers with Cedar Park’s Food Pantry.
As we observe the resourcefulness of our senior residents and the many ways in which they rally to help their neighbors create thriving communities, we aren’t surprised. They have survived generations of change and are truly resilient. We’re honored to take the time to visit and listen to the stories many older persons love to share. On this International Day of Older Persons – and always – we hope you can find time to appreciate those who have come before you. Reach out to an older person today. The spirit you lift in doing so may just be your own!