An Approach in Regions with Few Friends

In Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) we are fortunate in having a good number of couples about the same age (between 70 and 85 years). About 20 years ago a group began thinking about the process of aging and what was important to us in the final stage of our lives. We met together at yearly meeting to share ideas and concerns. One of the criteria that became important was that we wanted to remain in Iowa close to our yearly meeting. An idea was to build a Quaker retirement community in conjunction with Scattergood Friends School. For a variety of reasons this never materialized. Yet, there still were many who knew that some day they would need loving care and spiritual support

in a friendly community. One couple searched among existing retirement communities on the East Coast and in our area, and three years ago they discovered "The Village" in Indianola, Iowa, founded by Wesley Retirement Services, Inc., in 1990. This couple’s enthusiasm for the Village’s facilities, the open campus, and informal, friendly community life spread quickly. Within two years four other yearly meeting couples from Bear Creek, Des Moines Valley, and Paullina monthly meetings joined them at the Village. Another couple from Ames Meeting will come in the fall of 2004.

This is a continuing care community where we will be cared for for the rest of our lives. This means our families will have peace of mind, knowing we are safe, and they won’t need to worry about our care in the future. For a couple it is also a gift to each other, knowing the surviving spouse has the support of a loving, Quaker-friendly community. We are fortunate to live close to Des Moines where there are excellent medical facilities when they are needed. While we are in reasonably good health in body and mind, this has been an excellent time to make this move and downsize our accumulations of many years. We find learning to live with fewer things is compatible with the important Quaker value of simplicity.

Life in the Village is very enjoyable. We appreciate the warm friendships we have made with other residents and with the staff. There are a variety of activities in which we can participate, which help keep us feeling young and active. We love being together and with the larger community. About half of the community is Methodist, and we are discreetly invited to join in weekly vespers, Bible studies, and other observances if we choose to do so. In the dining room we welcome mixing with other residents, yet find it good now and then to enjoy our own table.

It is a wonderful feeling to be here together sharing this final stage of life. We meet together for worship on Wednesday evenings in our various homes, which gives us the opportunity to go to our home meetings or visit meetings in the area on Sunday. Our Wednesday gatherings are a precious time for each of us, as we share in silent worship followed by a time of fellowship, either light-hearted or serious. Being mostly lifelong Conservative Friends, we regularly have extended "total recall" sessions about times past, and we enjoy reflecting on our Conservative Friends culture, the Peace Testimony, liberal politics, and lifestyle. Living here in this environment makes it easier to talk about subjects such as death and dying as a part of living, and how we want these last years to continue to be meaningful and spiritual. We love each other for who we are, and living here "separate in our togetherness" we feel deep spiritual connections.

A Village administrative official, during a recent interview, expressed unqualified enthusiasm for our group because, among other things, it affirms its mission to "provide retirement services to people of all faiths in a Christian caring way, promoting independence and active lifestyle."

Modern retirement communities, wonderful as they are, will not be for everyone, yet it is comforting to know Midwest Friends have topnotch, spirit-led sanctuaries available in Iowa. We share these thoughts in case there are isolated Quakers who may be interested in the idea of getting several Friends together as a compatible subgroup in an existing retirement community nearby.

Martha Hampton

Martha Hampton is a member of Whittier (Iowa) Meeting. She and her husband, Roy, farmed for 35 years before moving to a retirement community.