Each year, thousands of elderly in Leisure World and other active retirement communities around the country come to a sometimes painful conclusion: For their own good, it's time to relocate to a facility where they can get more help. Here are the stories of three who left.
Thelma Billman, an 86-year-old widow. She says she has no regrets about her decision five years ago to move to Lake Forest's Freedom Village. The impeccably groomed woman, outfitted in a striking pink suit, sat in a tasteful apartment filled with display cases of shells and coral she had collected in trips around the world.
Billman said that each morning she leads other residents in pushing and stretching exercises and that she enjoys the other planned social events.
"Leisure World is not for a single person," she contended. "Unless you are out chasing widowers, you will be alone at night. Here we have entertainment in the lobby every evening. Last night there was a woman who whistles to music. It was beautiful."
Gordon Lundgren, \o7 74, is president of Leisure World's Golden Rain Foundation, the resident-controlled organization that governs the community. \f7 Seven years ago when Alzheimer's disease was diagnosed in his wife, Onamae, he tried to take care of her at home. "I couldn't leave the house to go anywhere," he said. "I was constantly worried that she would wander away."
Finally, three years ago, Lundgren said, he needed surgery and put Onamae in a nearby Beverly Manor nursing home while he was in the hospital. Afterward, he decided to keep her there.
Lundgren still visits his wife twice a day to feed her. He shows the bite marks on his fingers where she has mistakenly sunk her teeth.
"I don't mind doing this for her because we had a great life together and I think about the good times when I do this," he said. "She would have done the same for me."
Reta and Joseph Crawford.
They recently moved from Leisure World Laguna Hills to a seventh-floor penthouse apartment in nearby Villa Valencia, where rent is $4,067 a month. They are still healthy but have tired of dusting, vacuuming and marketing. "We like cruise living, and this is kind of like that," said Reta, 86.
Besides, Leisure World is not the same as when the couple moved there in 1974.
"When we moved in the atmosphere was altogether different," said Joseph. "There were fewer infirmities, and it seemed people were in a better financial position. You can tell by how they dress and live and the cars they drive."