What is Abundant Life? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it simply as: existing or occurring in large amounts; marked by great plenty; amply supplied.
According to The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, abundance refers to a large quantity or plentiful amount of either material or non-material entities. In Biblical texts, it often connotes an amount over and above basic needs or expectations.
UCH’s first “home for the aged” was founded in 1916, during a period of ethnic discrimination, poverty and pandemic, with no safety nets for poor and older adults. This home created living communities based on the core values of compassion, respect, safety and warm hospitality. They served as a strong foundation for the organization’s focus on holistic, person-directed care.
Today, Baby Boomers (born between the end of WWII and the mid-1960s) are living much longer than previous generations and have different expectations and needs in their later years. Every older adult has different life experiences and defines abundant life in unique ways, much differently than 100 years ago.
“Some people believe that when you’ve met one older person, you’ve met them all, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” explained UCH Vice President of Engagement Rev. Beth Long-Higgins, who also serves as director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. “There is no magic formula or service that will meet every older adult’s needs – each individual is unique.”
Embrace a Community of Abundance with a Refreshing Perspective
United Church Homes does not seek a universal path to abundant life for all. Instead, it offers opportunities for personal growth in mind, body and spirit, and encourages older adults to define abundant life for themselves.
“We encourage our residents to ‘Live Life with Purpose,’ – whatever that means to them,” said Director of Customer Experience, Amy Kotterman. “We invite them to engage curiously and wholeheartedly in the possibilities of life in their UCH community, which are places where they can share their gifts, explore their passions and connect with others.”
Each UCH community is unique, as are its residents. From those who reside in independent living affordable housing communities, to those in life plan settings, all are encouraged to engage with others, participate in activities that align with their interests, and to try new things.
“A retired art teacher living in one of our communities teaches a class for residents,” Kotterman said. “Some who participated were surprised and delighted to learn that they have artist talents. Others who took classes did so because they’ve always had a love of art and wanted to continue to explore their creative sides.”
“It isn’t about whether you can execute every move in a fitness class perfectly or create a masterpiece in an art class,” Kotterman continued. “It’s about engaging with others, the shared experience and how it makes you feel. How do the activities you choose to engage in meet your needs today?”
Engage with Others on a Similar Journey
Jerry Goldstein and his wife Marty were the tenth and eleventh residents to move into The Polaris Community early 2022. Following their first downsizing, the couple found they had little in common in a community of much younger residents. They visited another community where residents were primarily in their 80s and somewhat limited in their ability to engage in physical activities.
“When we visited The Polaris Community for the first time, we knew right away it was the best place for us,” Goldstein said. “It’s a very friendly and open community and has quickly become home.”
The Goldsteins and other residents welcome those new to the community and invite them to participate in the many activities coordinated by Francie Hughlock, who serves as director of community life at The Polaris Community. A retired college professor, Goldstein has given lectures – on the science of making wine, immunity and infectious diseases, DNA and more. Other residents also contribute to the abundance of life in the community.
Victor and Annie Buenconsejo, who moved into The Polaris Community early 2023, appreciate the welcome they immediately received. Although their apartment has a full kitchen, they enjoy eating most meals with other residents and in doing so have quickly developed new friendships.
“We like to arrive early for meals and have made a concerted effort to sit at different tables to meet and get to know our fellow residents,” Buensonsejo said. “We came here to prepare for the next phase of life and chose The Polaris Community because of the value it offers. We love the community, the location – close to our daughter and with convenient shopping for Annie – and the friendly atmosphere. It’s a good fit for us.”
The Buensonsejos like to participate in community activities, and Victor has started chess and bridge clubs. When he discovered that most residents aren’t chess players, he offered to teach the strategic game to those who are interested in learning.
“The positive energy at The Polaris Community is palpable,” Kotterman said. “The smiles, and the sense of pride and enthusiasm, demonstrate our success in creating a community in which residents are truly living abundantly.”