About a mile or 15 minutes brisk walk from Brent House is Montgomery Place – a continuing Care retirement community and (much to my surprise) a place where I thought I could live. I am invited to lunch by the Director of Pastoral Care, Bob Petite, an Episcopal priest who has been working here for the last fifteen years or so. He is also the adviser on seniors (older people) for The Diocese of Chicago. A wise and humane person we immediately make connections – a delicious lunch and a similar sense of humour help!
The community is in fact a tower block of thirteen floors mainly for those who want to live in independent living. There is a small assisted living facility (residential care) and a nursing care unit. The block offers the most wonderful views over the water. The water (look on your map) while sounding like the sea is Lake Michigan – the largest block of water within land in the world. I would love to live by water – there is something soothing and reassuring about it.
There is a good feel to it all – nice design and a happy relaxed atmosphere. No one seems over pressed and staff always ready to stand and chat or offer a helping hand. The environment looks and feels stimulating and the residents,while clearly very frail, are going about their tasks – hairdressing, in the gym, playing cards, sitting in the lounge and chatting.
There are about 160 folks here. I am amazed at the management offices and the number of people who hold the place together. There is a full time admissions officer who co-ordinates care planning. There are two retirement counsellors who help older people manage the transitions. There are three people working in the marketing department. I realize that a this place’s success and ambitions are related, in part, to this investment in management resources and a staggering commitment to the constant improvement of services.
You might imagine that the literature matches these aspirations. Here is the headline on the front of their glossy folder:
Do you want to Stay at the top of your game?
With enthusiasm. With tenacity. With Courage. With Humor. With Intelligence.
The brochure then goes on to explain how that might happen! There is a philosophy and vision of age and ageing around which the services are organized. I accept that much of this happens because of the financial health of the core business – but in the UK – we would do well take take a step back and ask about out vision of what growing older means – and then fill in the gaps between ideals and realities! And if we aspire for better and different care then Government will need to resource this social care for all and not just those who can afford it. One of the sad realities of this place (for all its excellence) is that very few of us could afford to enjoy living here. It isn’t possible to leave economics and politics out of the old age equation.
And the most impressive thing is that there is joined up thinking here – what they say is what they do!
I’ll refect more on Bob’s role as Chaplain later – as it has challenged me to think about how I do my work.
And so the day ended – with a visit to Powell’s second hand book shop and I resolve myself to a budget of twenty dollars and not a dime more. Shelves and shelves – guess what I bought!! (including six second hand books by a J L Houlden …….. sorry Leslie).
And don’t forget that today is Ascension Day – so while you are in bed (six hours now behind you) I shall be in church praying in the pews!!
See www.montgomeryplace.org and for those who want a picture of the bookstore and its owner (big Michael) here you are – and read more about his work – we sould have more independent book sellers in the age of Amazon!! www.magazine.uchicago.edu/0112/features/powell.hmtl