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Newfound independence

Cedar Crest resident goes from introvert to extrovert in new home

Created date

February 21st, 2012

Pat Shiels loves to say ' hi to perfect strangers, ' flashing them a welcoming ' smile. In today s culture ' where many people ' turn their gaze away from ' passersby, Pat s actions may ' seem strange. Not at Cedar ' Crest. I used to be shy, but ' since I moved here, it all ' changed. It s contagious! ' she writes in an article for ' the community s monthly ' newsletter Mountain Matters, ' for which she volunteers. ' When you stop and ' think about it, it isn t that ' bad of a habit, at least at ' Cedar Crest. Pat moved to the Erickson ' Living community in ' Pompton Plains, N.J., in ' 2005, from Yonkers, N.Y. She ' had raised her family of five ' children there while working ' as a paralegal for her ' husband s law firm. I was on the shy side, ' quiet, she says. I participated ' in church activities ' and played tennis, but I was ' definitely more shy then ' than I am now.

Common change

Pat isn t alone in discovering ' another side of her ' personality after moving ' to a community like Cedar ' Crest. Research by the ' American Seniors Housing ' Association (ASHA, ' 2009) shows that an average ' of 57% of new community ' members will change ' their behavior toward an ' increase in social life and ' activities upon moving ' to an adult community. ' Changes include making ' new friends, socializing ' with friends, trying new ' activities, participating ' more frequently in social ' events, and eating alone less ' frequently. Cedar ' Crest has ' opened options ' to [Pat] ' that she was ' unaware of ' living in her ' house, says ' Bill Osborne, ' certified ' business and ' lifestyle coach and president ' of The People Business. ' Her sphere of socialization ' opened. Osborne explains that ' Pat s personality before ' moving to Cedar Crest may ' or may not have been outgoing. ' But her life revolved ' around one sphere of ' circumstances raising ' her children and working asa paralegal. Upon moving ' to Cedar Crest, Pat was exposed ' to a different role and ' different opportunities, he ' says. She could be anyone ' she wanted ' to be; she ' blossomed ' there. ' Osborne ' admits that ' change, at ' any age, is ' difficult. ' But, he says, ' for Pat and ' many people ' who move to an adult community, ' three variables ' converge to create a worthwhile ' shift in environment ' and lifestyle: 1. Openness of the individual 2. Appeal and invitation of ' the social environment 3. Normalcy of an active ' culture With more than 180 ' clubs and activities and ' 2,000 peer community ' members, the culture at Cedar ' Crest invites people to ' get involved and socialize. ' Pat, for example, became ' engaged in community ' activities likeMountain ' Matters, a pen pal program, ' the welcome committee, ' and church. But she attributes ' the majority of her ' personality transformation ' to being surrounded by ' friendly peers. Everyone here is so ' friendly; it s one of the ' things that appealed to ' me. I wanted to return that ' friendliness, she says.

Not in the house setting

Had Pat opted to stay in ' her house after her husband ' passed away and her ' children had grown and ' moved out, she most likely ' wouldn t have had the opportunities ' she has found ' at Cedar Crest to stay active ' and socially engaged. The home setting can ' be stressful, Osborne says. ' House and yard maintenance ' and other house ' management chores can ' hinder an older adult s ability ' to socialize effectively. ' Additionally, A person ' must do more planning ' for social activities in the ' house; whereas, in a community ' you re invited in and ' it s right there. The ASHA study also ' supports the viewpoint that ' the services and setting of a ' community, such as Cedar ' Crest, provide a better ' environment for socialization ' than a house. While ' the house may be comfortable ' and routine, it can lead ' to isolation, maintenance ' stress, and uncertainty in a ' medical emergency. In a community like ' Cedar Crest, with all basic ' needs including a medical ' center, pharmacy, restaurants, ' convenience store, ' classrooms and workshops, ' and fitness and aquatics ' center under one roof, ' community members don t ' have those worries and can ' focus on staying social and ' active.

Breaking out of her shell

When Pat first moved ' to the community, still ' swathed in her shy persona, ' she didn t reach out and ' say hello to strangers in the ' hallway. Instead, she met ' them at dinner. At Cedar Crest s four ' restaurants, unassigned ' seating plays to newcomers ' advantage. In some of ' the restaurants, if a person ' or couple arrives alone, the ' staff offers to seat them at ' a table with other diners ' arriving around the same ' time. I met most people at ' dinner, Pat says of her first ' years. Now a more carefree Pat ' meets people at dinner, in ' the hall, on the elevator, and ' through the many activities ' in which she participates. I am very happy and ' content and thankful that ' I m here, says Pat. It s ' given me independence ' that I wouldn t have had in my house." Socializing isn t just for the birds It helps delay memory loss as we age A study by theAmerican Journal of Public Healthshows that strong social ties can help maintain brain health as we age as much as 50% less memory loss! The study also shows that social isolation may be a risk factor for cognitive decline. ' Socially engaged adults reap other benefits such as enhanced life experiences, increased physical ' health, and even reduced risk of mortality.