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Project happiness

Finding contentment in retirement a craft of its own

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December 21st, 2016
Helen Giammattei poses with the two needlework books she and a friend, Mary Kay Davis, authored during the 1970s: Needlepoint From America’s Great Quilt Designs and More Needlepoint From America’s Great Quilt Designs.

Helen Giammattei poses with the two needlework books she and a friend, Mary Kay Davis, authored during the 1970s: Needlepoint From America’s Great Quilt Designs and More Needlepoint From America’s Great Quilt Designs.

Maris Grove’s Helen Giammattei calls herself a “lady of projects.” 

Helen’s primary campus activity at Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., is knitting with Social Stitchery, one of more than 100 campus interest groups. But she’s always loved and practiced other forms of fiber arts. 

Combining crafts

In the late 1970s when the Helen and her husband Francis lived in Michigan, she and her friend Mary Kay Davis collaborated on a book that interpreted quilting patterns in needlepoint. “We had a good time selecting patterns, which involved looking at the quilts at Winterthur,” Helen says. “After we completed one book, the publisher asked for another.”

Because of the pair’s publishing credentials, they also began teaching needlepoint classes at Michigan’s historic Henry Ford Village. 

At Maris Grove, Helen’s latest project came about when she recommended Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, to Maris Grove’s community resources manager and its resident life director. They read the book and gave it good reviews. 

“I thought it might be possible to have a small group discussion about Being Mortal, but [interest grew quickly],” says Helen. Her suggestion turned into a community-wide read and resulted in a large campus discussion in late September. 

“I’m getting more involved with more people because of that book,” she says. “[People here] are making the most of where they are now in life in ways that work best for them, and Maris Grove provides the resources for whatever they need.” 

‘Perfectly content’

Having such on-site resources available, should they need them, was a motivating factor in the Giammatteis’ move to Maris Grove. “We didn’t want to be a burden to our children,” says Helen.

Now that Helen has become her husband’s caregiver, the couple is drawing on those resources, which underscores the wisdom of their decision to move to Maris Grove. 

The on-site medical center is wonderfully convenient, and the 24/7 campus security and maintenance teams provide all community members peace of mind.

Every day, Helen picks up meals to go from a campus restaurant and brings them home so she and her husband can enjoy dinner with one another. 

And because Maris Grove’s buildings are connected via climate-controlled hallways and bridges, she can walk for exercise regardless of the weather. 

“We’re perfectly content with our lives,” she says.

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