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Band of sisters

Cedar Crest women’s group partners with local universities to share insights on aging

Created date

March 21st, 2018
Cedar Crest resident Pat Thaler is a member of Senior Women Achieving Together.

Cedar Crest resident Pat Thaler is a member of Senior Women Achieving Together.

What do you get when retired or semi-retired professional women get together? Support, friendship, knowledge, and a deeply rooted mission to inspire a younger generation of learners.

Senior Women Achieving Together (SWAT) has flown under the radar among Cedar Crest’s 180 groups and clubs for the past 12 years. But it’s high time this self-proclaimed “team” of professional women gets some attention.

Frank discussions

An invitation-only group since its inception, this unofficial club has become a band of sisters who share stories and concerns, and who support each other during tough times.

But perhaps most noteworthy of all their activities is that they have partnered with Montclair State University and William Patterson University in a no-holds-barred Q&A session to share insights of aging with gerontology students.

Questions like, “What’s it feel like to get old?” “What about spirituality in older years?” and “Do you have a sex life?” dot the conversation.

When asked if she’s afraid of getting older, SWAT founder Suzanne Hawes replies, “There is always fear of the unknown; however, I’m not as much afraid of dying as long as I can die well.”

Suzanne says that living at Cedar Crest among peers empowers her to live well and age well.

“It’s a wonderful environment, and for most of us who had fairly large homes, the fact that we no longer have to do the heavy lifting as a homeowner is wonderful. If you have a lightbulb or
a maintenance problem, [maintenance staff is] easily available.”

And, she says, “We have more time. The fact that we can be all-weather friends, visiting can continue [year-round]. You can participate in all activities. But we can also help our friends,” she says.

Two-way street

The student Q&A session is not one-way, and Suzanne says that’s one of the best parts.

“When we turned the tables, one woman in our group asked, ‘What’s the significance of the tattoos you all wear?’ We had amazing answers, some very surprising,” she says.

This two-way curiosity makes the time valuable for both generations.

“We get the joy of learning what people in this age group think—the issues that they’re facing—because we’re removed from all that,” says Suzanne. “And we can express to them how important lifelong learning is because that is what keeps us young and active.”

Lifelong educator and the group’s newest member Lucille Markay looks forward to working with a younger generation again.

“I was very happy for the opportunity to join, number one, because I have liked and respected the women 

in the group for years. And number two, because I think it’s wonderful what they’re doing with young people today,” Lucille says. “I feel I have something to contribute to young people, and it’s great to have the opportunity to see where they’re coming from.

Making meaningful friendships

Lucille and her husband moved to Cedar Crest almost nine years ago from Wycoff and haven’t looked back.

“I think it’s one of the best decisions my husband and I ever made. We made the decision together. We went through it all together. We’re very pleased and very happy with the friends we’ve made. There are some who are just acquaintances, but we have also made, at this stage in our lives, some very good friends.”

Aside from SWAT, Lucille also takes continuing education and fitness classes, volunteers with her husband on the welcoming committee, and participates in the current events discussion group and short story class.

Like Lucille, Suzanne says living among a diverse group of peers makes life much more interesting and vibrant.

“We have a fairly large degree of diversity. The size of the place and the ability to pick and choose among so many different kinds of people who like to learn, who have similar interests, is really wonderful,” says Suzanne.