What is it Like to be 85?

in Active Aging

Written by PARC Retirement Living

Westerleigh PARC resident Dorothy smiling and playing the piano

We’ve all heard tired old myths about aging: life slows down when you’re a senior. Things are a little quieter; a little lonelier and less fulfilling. Well, fortunately, that’s just what they are: myths. And nobody knows this better than the residents of PARC Retirement Living communities. These vivacious seniors are redefining what “old age” looks like, one healthy and vibrant day at a time – eating wholesome meals, exercising, laughing and visiting with friends and family, learning new skills, participating in group activities and so much more. 

Recently several PARC Retirement Living residents took time out of their busy schedules to tell us about their lives, helping to dispel a few myths about aging. Read on to learn what life can look like when you choose the vibrant path, at 85 and beyond. 

Mulberry PARC resident Madatali boxing

Setting new fitness goals

Many people come to fitness later in life – and find themselves healthier than ever, even in their 80s. One such active senior is Madatali of Mulberry PARC. The former social worker moved in four years ago after a surgery, when his doctor recommended he avoid climbing stairs. 

Without skipping a beat, Madatali signed up for the PARC Fit program to increase his strength and speed up his post-surgery recovery. He quickly established a routine of rising at 4:30 a.m. every day to pray, meditate and exercise in his room before joining a group class. After five months of exercise class and physiotherapy, Madatali is healthier than ever. He’s even switched his out walker for a cane. His goal is to eventually lose the cane, as well. 

Today, no matter where you go at Mulberry PARC, you’re bound to bump into lively Madatali. Happily taking advantage of the residence’s many activities and amenities, he can be found at Tai Chi and yoga classes, boxing with the fitness trainer, playing pool on the second floor, visiting with his many relatives, playing Bombay Rummy in the private dining room or enjoying the residence’s delicious and healthy meals (which help him stay fit, too). As Madatali says: “This place is wonderful. It’s like a resort. I want to live here forever.”

Cedar Springs PARC resident Cathy watercolour painting

Finding the creative spark 

Think older people can’t be artistic or creatively fulfilled? Yet another myth! Some adults become even more creative and productive as they age and find time for new passions. 

That’s what happened to Cathy. The former legal secretary moved to North Vancouver’s Cedar Springs PARC in 2017 with her beloved 10-year-old Shih Tzu, Daisy Mae. She and Daisy Mae settled in immediately, and then something unexpected happened: Cathy’s creative streak bloomed. She rediscovered her love of knitting, which she hadn’t done since she was a child. She became a member of the residence’s knitting group, making baby clothes for needy newborns in Africa. 

Cathy also became an avid watercolour painter. She’d learned the medium five years earlier. But when she moved to Cedar Springs PARC, she really began to hone her skills, taking painting classes through the Cedar Springs art program and across the street at the local community centre. Starting with cultivated flowers and trees, she has expanded her subject matter to include songbirds and wildflowers. “I find that I’m looking at things differently with the colour of nature outside,” she says.

Cedar Springs PARC resident Cathy holding Daisy Mae

Building relationships and new friendships 

Life at 85 doesn’t have to be lonely. For many, it can be even more social and lively than their earlier years. That was certainly true for Cathy of Cedar Springs PARC. In her previous home, a West Vancouver condo, she’d spent a lot of time alone, rarely encountering neighbours in the hallways. She ate most of her meals at fast food restaurants and delis rather than cooking at home. But at Cedar Springs PARC, she found a whole new community of new friends and a welcoming atmosphere, not to mention healthy dining options enjoyed in a social setting.

Constantly impressed by the staff at Cedar Springs PARC, Cathy fondly recalls how they all knew her name (and Daisy Mae’s) right away after she moved in. They would always say a warm hello when they saw her walking the dog on the community’s landscaped trails and paved paths.

On top of the new friendships, she sees her family frequently. One of her two sons lives in nearby Horseshoe Bay, so he and his family often come to visit, see her latest artwork and take her to lunch, or join her for a buffet meal at the residence. (At least pre-pandemic; nowadays visitors can take advantage of outdoor summer dining in tents.) She credits a lot of her newfound happiness to Cedar Springs PARC. “They have a slogan, life’s better here,” she says. “Believe me, life’s better here.”

Westerleigh PARC resident Dorothy going for a walk

Adapting to change

We tend to think of seniors as totally set in their ways. They’ve had many decades to develop habits and patterns, after all. But older adults are more than capable of adapting to change late in life. Take Dorothy of Westerleigh PARC. Two years ago, the former teacher uprooted her life in Toronto and moved across the country to PARC’s West Vancouver community to be closer to her family.

While the move was understandably emotional, she acclimatized to her new surroundings on the West Coast like a champ, quickly making new friends and establishing a home for herself. Dorothy admits it was a bit challenging at first to fit in as an East Coast transplant. But her teaching experience and years of working in the U.S. gave her the ability to connect easily with new people. The milder climate and beautiful seaside location helped ease the transition, too!

Dorothy’s advice for other seniors making big life changes? “Pick the people that you enjoy being with and share the same interests with. You just have to listen and join in.”

Oceana PARC resident Ben teaching memoir writing class

Leading in the community

Think all octogenarians want to settle into the quiet life, out of sight? This is a myth. Great thinkers and doers don’t just stop because they get a little bit older. Ben of Oceana PARC is a perfect example. The published author and former music, theatre, art and language teacher has kept up his many crafts since he moved in last fall, writing, painting, singing and playing guitar. 

He’s also been sharing his skills with his new community – for instance, hosting memoir-writing workshops for his fellow residents. And the 87-year-old is looking forward to leading even more activities for seniors in the new year, like writing and acrylic painting courses. During the COVID-19 shutdown, the 87-year-old worked on a series of video-based writing workshops for seniors that he plans to put out in collaboration with Oceana PARC. During COVID-19, Ben also took the time to record a video reading of his children’s book, Henry Hamster Esquire (available from Rutherford Press) in a video for “all the little people stuck at home.”

To those making the move into senior-living communities, Ben offers these words of advice: “Meet as many people as possible. Get involved in whatever activities tickle your fancy. And spread your happiness to all.”

Summerhill PARC residents Marlene and Harry chatting in their suite

Finding new freedom and choices

One final and persistent myth about life after 85? You lose your independence – especially if you move into a retirement community. But this simply isn’t true, especially at PARC Retirement Living residences, which prize residents’ independence above all else. 

Scottish expats Marlene and Harry were relieved to find this to be true when they moved into Summerhill PARC a few months ago. Married for 60 years, the couple knew the move would put them closer to family on the North Shore, but they were reluctant to give up their comfortable Coquitlam apartment, independent lifestyle and nearby friends. 

From the moment they walked in the door of Summerhill PARC, Marlene knew they wouldn’t be sacrificing anything. “It’s a happy place, not one with sad people sitting about like in old folks’ homes,” she says. 

The congenial couple enjoy all the same freedom and social connection of their previous home. But now they have even more choices. They can choose when to go downstairs for lunch or for a stroll, and they can be as private or as a social as they like. A hospital, pharmacy and shops are just a 10-minute walk away, while nearby restaurants are handy for Sunday lunch visits with family. They can phone the receptionist anytime if they need something. Or, they can venture out on organized bus trips or use the driver service. Marlene has been attending and loving PARC Fit classes.

For now, whether relaxing in their spacious one-bedroom-and-den suite – with views of the Lions Gate Bridge, ocean and mountains – or taking a walk through Summerhill PARC’s lush landscaped grounds, Marlene and Harry feel free, yet safe and contented. As Marlene says: “Like everything in life, it’s what you make of it.” 

Truer words have never been spoken, about life at 85 or any other age!

Learn more about healthy, active and social living at PARC

Life really is better here! Embark on a new beginning, unleash the artist within or connect with a new community. PARC’s five independent living residences offer these opportunities and more, along with resort-style services, modern amenities and spacious suites. Explore each of our communities below to find the one that’s right for you: 

Mulberry PARC – Burnaby

Cedar Springs PARC – North Vancouver

Summerhill PARC – North Vancouver

Westerleigh PARC – West Vancouver

Oceana PARC – White Rock

Book a tour today!

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