The Rapidian

Senior Housing: Finding your niche in a senior community

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Creston Senior Volunteer writes about her expereince living in senior housing in Grand Rapids.
Underwriting support from:
Carol Brugger

Carol Brugger /Mac Brown

By Carol Brugger

When I was asked to write this article on Senior Housing many thoughts came into my mind. I became disabled at the ripe old age of 55. My dream was to work until I was at least 72 and then retire. I like to work and be productive in life. One day I woke up, had my breakfast, stood up and fell down and I couldn’t get up. I crawled to the phone and the next thing I knew I was in a neurologist’s office.

Me, disabled? No, that can’t be. I no longer could work my job, and I was devastated. I’m not a pity party person but at that moment, I was. It was suggested that I apply for disability. It was something I didn’t want to do, but I had to. I knew I couldn’t work like I did, 60-70 hours a week. I couldn’t even do five! So there I was applying for disability. A lot of people think you can just get disability, sometimes it takes two to three years. For me it was a six month process and in the meantime I lived at a friend’s house. 

I applied for housing at Mt. Mercy, which is a Rent-Subsidized Retirement housing complex on the northwest side of Grand Rapids. In other words, "housing for senior with low-incomes." I needed my own place. At the time they were opening the new building and called me in a short time after I applied. I went over to look at one of the apartments. It was small and I had way too much stuff but it was a place to live and a place for me.

There are some very good things about senior housing: It’s affordable, I get one bill for my rent, heat, electricity, snow removal, lawn maintenance, trash removal and water; it has many social activities; you know your neighbors; you don’t have to worry about fixing things around the buildings and someone else cleans the public bathrooms and hall ways. Yeah!

There are some not so good things about senior housing: privacy is limited and some people’s lifestyles don’t fit with yours. But all in all it really isn’t that bad. I tell people who just move in, “if we were all spread out in six blocks you would not know who does what.” It does take some getting used to.

So there I was living in a smaller apartment then I ever had, with nothing to do. I knew I couldn’t work at what I was doing before I became disabled. I also knew my disability had its good days and bad days. I grew up in a family that believed in volunteering. Both my parents volunteered while I was growing up and it was instilled in me that I can make a difference in life, just by volunteering. So I decided to put my hands to work. I worked in the food pantry and the craft room and did whatever I could at Mt. Mercy.

What senior housing does for me is allow me to not only have a home but a home that I can afford. It also allows me to be able to purchase food and nonfood items. It allows me to maintain my independence and dignity. Social Security is not all that it is cracked up to be. I believe in living within my means but if I had to do it outside of senior housing I could not live within my means. A great part of it is the community atmosphere at Mt. Mercy and the access to essentials they provide. They have a food pantry, a craft room, a library, a café that serves lunch 5 times a week and the Treasure Depot, which is a secondhand store for residents only.

I am very proud of the Treasure Depot partly because I am the founder and because it has helped so many new residents that have moved to Mt. Mercy. Sometimes it takes a while to get your disability as I said before. You can’t afford a storage unit to put your household items in while you rent a room or move in with friends and/or relatives. You end up with the personal items and the clothes you have and that is all you have left. What the Treasure Depot does is not just a secondhand store but a service that provides furniture and dishes and household items to new residents who have nothing left to bring with their new start in life. That is why I am proud of the Treasure Depot. I am no longer able to run the Treasure Depot but in short I made a difference directly or indirectly in many seniors' lives.

Since I no longer am in charge of the Treasure Depot, I get more time to dedicate to my passion. I get to garden. I love growing flowers and it is something I thought I would miss when I moved in. Mt. Mercy has let me plant, weed and water gardens on their property, and I love every moment. I get to watch them grow and bloom and they are pleasing to the eye. I watch people looking at my gardens at Mt Mercy enjoying the comfort they provide.

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