The Inside Scoop on Independent Living

shutterstock_124272760If you’ve ever wondered what life is really like in a senior living community, just ask Mollee Kruger. The eighty-seven-year-old writer recently published The Swift Seasons, a novel that offers a humorous and unsentimental look at life among aging residents in an Independent Living facility.

Here, we share insights from the octogenarian author on her real-life experiences with senior living and aging in the twenty-first century.

Moving to Independent Living

In 2008, Mollee Kruger and her husband moved to an Independent Living community in Maryland. They made the decision because her late husband, who had lost the use of his legs to post-polio syndrome, needed to live somewhere he could navigate comfortably in his motorized scooter.

The biggest challenge, she says, was the downsizing and moving process. Ultimately, the Krugers paid a professional organizer to help plan the move. The organizer measured the new space to determine where the furniture would go, and to ensure it would fit into the two-bedroom apartment. “She also supervised the movers, helped me unpack, carted boxes to the trash, ran errands, and generally assisted in any way she could,” explains Kruger.

With all the help they had moving—their two sons and daughters-in-law pitched in as well—Kruger says the adjustment to new surroundings and routines was much easier.

Advantages of Senior Living

After the move, Kruger quickly discovered senior living’s many benefits.

“There is a feeling of freedom, not having to live in an entire house or large suburban apartment, especially one that is not designed to accommodate aging inhabitants,” she says. “That can be exhausting, and it denies the reality of your limited mobility, the burden of maintenance, the inaccessibility of health care, and soul-deadening isolation.”

With her Independent Living community handling these issues, Kruger enjoyed trips to nearby historical sites, concerts, shows, and lectures. However, one of her fondest memories took place inside the community itself.

shutterstock_338638163“After my late husband and I moved to our facility, we were determined to participate in all the activities we could manage,” she says. At one memorable masquerade ball in the social hall, she and her husband dressed up as characters from Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. She was Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire, and he was Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with a homemade sign affixed to his motorized scooter reading “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“We were the hit of the evening,” she says.

Writing a Book in Senior Living

The launch of her eighth book, The Swift Seasons, is a more recent happy memory. Kruger says her Independent Living facility “went all out” to make the event a success, facilitating publicity, book ordering, programs, refreshments, a panel to discuss themes of aging in the novel, and much more. More than two-hundred people attended the event, including the children and grandchildren of fellow residents—people Kruger didn’t even know.

“It made me tear up to see the entire community coming together to give me support—something akin to an old-fashioned barn raising, everyone pitching in to help,” she says.

Though The Swift Seasons is a work of fiction, Kruger says the characters are an amalgam of people she has met at her Independent Living residence over the years, as well as family and friends.

“Through the often humorous—sometimes heart-wrenching talk—I’ve tried to reveal the very real problems facing the elderly,” she says.

Kruger describes the difficulties older people have in balancing compassion for others with self-preservation.

“We have to draw boundaries for ourselves and not become too personally involved in the misfortunes of those around us,” she says. “This is hard to do sometimes, but we have to assume a kind of social distance between ourselves and new friends we make.”

Aging in the Twenty-First Century

In The Swift Seasons, the characters don’t feel at home in the electronic age, but Kruger says she and her peers need to “roll with the punches.”

“We all must adapt to change, whether we like it or not,” she says. “I believe the boomer generation will be more flexible than mine, and their children more flexible than their parents. But boomers still don’t understand the everyday lives of an older generation living in a retirement community. We have something to teach them.”

Though Kruger says her generation is more trusting and gullible than the generation behind them, she believes they have much to offer.

shutterstock_383995591“We can still inspire them with our resilience, our will to live, and our sense of humor,” she says. “We are still in the process of raising our adult children, and they are still learning from our example.”

Read more about the struggles and triumphs of Independent Living seniors in The Swift Seasons, which is available on Amazon.

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