Living our later years in a joyful and supportive environment
Have you ever dreamed of living in a community where peace and justice have a central place? Where your home would be an attractive cottage or little apartment with its own garden space and a skilled nursing facility right next door? Where residents greet one another by name?
If you are nodding as you read this, you might be familiar with one of the many modest Quaker-inspired retirement communities. In addition to providing daily meditation and holding silent worship on Sundays, these homes often host speakers who are engaged firsthand in national and international service projects. They are equally welcoming to all faiths and beliefs, but keep the style simple and costs reasonable.
Friends House is the name of two different Quaker retirement communities in the United States. One is located in Sandy Spring, Maryland (www.friendshouse.com), and the other is in the Rincon Valley of Santa Rosa, California (www.friendshouse.org). Both established by Quakers, these communities are home to residents from a variety of faith traditions besides the Religious Society of Friends, including Unitarians, Jews, Presbyterians, Catholics, Buddhists, and those with no religious affiliation. Many residents are involved beyond the retirement community by serving their local meeting or church, peace and justice center, or earth-care group. Other volunteer activities include tutoring neighborhood school children or quietly taking part in addressing social concerns of the wider community.
Friends House in Sandy Spring has a close relationship with its neighboring Quaker high school which offers many intergenerational opportunities and activities. Friends House in Santa Rosa started the first adult day health program in Sonoma County and supported it financially for years.
Residents of both facilities have access to various levels of care. The cottages and independent living apartments offer the choice of preparing meals on your own or eating them in the dining room. In assisted living or skilled nursing, all meals are served to you, and round-the-clock staff are available to help with daily living tasks. The communities operate under the care of a yearly or quarterly meeting and are members of Friends Services for the Aging (www.fsainfo.org), sharing the organization’s “Hallmarks of Quaker Service” which include:
- Believing that all people have strengths and capacities that can be supported and nurtured;
- Respecting the dignity of each individual;
- Involving participants in decisions about their own lives and surroundings, including when they are infirm, as a way of recognizing independence and supporting the highest possible quality of life;
- Supporting mutual respect and interaction among those in our programs, other residents and their families, our staff, and the wider community;
- Creating social environments that draw on the skills and unique experiences that participants bring to the community’s life;
- Providing nursing care for frail and confused residents that is not dependent on the use of physical restraints;
- Involving employees in broad areas of decision making and treating them with respect;
- Operating under the leadership of boards of directors that carry out their business on the basis of Quaker decision-making processes and Quaker values;
- Managing finances prudently, as not-for-profit organizations dedicated to the service of their residents, patients, and participants;
- Believing that the later years of life are full of potential for love, growth, friendship, and contributions to others.
Many Friends have found their retirement years to be joyous in a supportive community, especially one that is founded on Quaker principles.