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Getting Old and Getting Along

By Arthur Y. Webb - Village Care of New York

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Growing old, we all know, brings with it challenges, which vary with each individual and his or her personal circumstances. At some point, older adults and their families start to look around for help, Mac Senterfitt – Edward is his given name – was among the first to move into The Village at 46th & Ten, a residence that Village Care of New York opened in late 2001. The place was designed to accommodate seniors with a range of needs – from individuals able to live independently to those with assisted-living-level requirements.

Mac was living on his own, as he had been for 40 years, in a studio apartment in Chelsea, when he made the move on April 29 six years ago right around the time of his 86th birthday.

When we talked with him the other day, he related that at the time he had begun to worry about keeping his health and being able to keep up the apartment. “I lived alone all my adult life and got along very well. But an erosion was taking place,” he said. “Nothing serious,” he went on, “but I could see that I needed to find a place with a communal situation.”

Three nephews, whom he described as his closest and most involved family, encouraged him, helping him understand, he said, that the general decline of his health would only accelerate. “They said I should move into a retirement place before I need one, not after,” he told us.

He went to SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) looking for help. Mac said he was in his mid-70s before he “fully and completely came out.” He says now though, “My days, no matter how you slice it, are short, and I will be out and loud for as long as I can.”

SAGE gave him the name of several communities for seniors, and he checked them all out, including the Village at 46th & Ten, which he and his family chose. “We were unanimous on Village Care,” he said.

Since moving in, he said, living in a residential community has been wonderful for his mental health and well being. “It has widened my connection with the world at large,” he said, and he says it’s comforting to know that he is living in a place that can offer help if someone has “an illness or condition.” In his own case, just over a year ago he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, requiring surgery and close monitoring ever since.

Living in the community he’s found at the residence, Mac says, has helped. “It’s small. That’s one of the advantages of a place like this,” he said.

He says too that he’s grown more compassionate as he’s made friends at The Village at 46th & Ten, which he says has been “enormously good” for him.

“All of us have some kind of suffering,” Mac said he’s come to learn. As for friendships, he’s made some – and lost some – in the half-dozen years at the residence.

“Three very good friends I’ve made have died.” he said. “That is something to be expected too. But when you lose someone you’ve become close to, it makes living even more precious,” he said.

Physically, he feels he has no pressing concerns. “On the whole, considering, I’m doing very well,” he said.

At the Village at 46th & Ten, he appreciates the diversity and acceptance he’s found there, among other residents and the staff, and the efforts that everyone seems to make to welcome all others. In his case, he said it’s also important to him that he’s found a place that is openly supportive of gay people and is “gay friendly.”

From his perspective at 92, he says, “that’s a good development.”