A few years ago Don Da Ros and a friend of his offered a series of free poetry readings here at Providence Place. So when he was looking for just the right independent living retirement community to settle on, it was natural this one sprang to mind. Its atmosphere had always struck him as both “inclusive” and welcoming” he said, and since his move-in, “I have not been disappointed.”
What has surprised him is the degree to which he is enjoying community living. “The details of community living were abstract to me,” he explained. “Some of the people here are modeling for me what community living and this stage of life can be like. They model joyfulness despite, in some cases, their limitations. Simply put, there is a caring energy among residents and staff.”
While Don enjoys mixing with people, he tends to lean toward a contemplative lifestyle so relishes the availability of the chapel and the time he spends sitting in its quiet. He attends and participates in the poetry readings on the resident program calendar and leads Providence Place’s meditation group.
He says that for him, “Providence Place is the cornerstone of my new life. Embracing this life means trying to let go of the familiar and comfortable mosaic-like pieces of my former life.”
He has looked “with new eyes at the programs Providence Place offers” and has come to the conclusion that “my new home is a state of mind as well as a physical place where I can enjoy the company of others, morning sunrises and evening views of the lights of Springfield.”
To the question “What brought you to Providence Place?” resident Eileen Romani has a two-word answer—“My children.” She went on to explain. “My children are good to me. I was comfortable (with) living alone—but they weren’t. Being at Providence Place,” she says, “gives them peace of mind.” It’s a peace she feels they deserve. “They have their houses, their kids, their lives to live.”
What does she especially like about living here? “They offer varied meals and everyone is so friendly.” Eileen doesn’t seem to miss routinely shopping for groceries or preparing the majority of her meals, either.
At dinnertime she finds it “…more diverse and interesting to sit with different people each night.” She’ll go “up to a group” and ask if they have a “full table.” With that approach, she says, “You get to meet and know more people. I don’t mind eating alone, either,” she adds. “I’m very comfortable here.”
Eileen is a woman with a number of interests. “I have enough,” she admits. She knits, paints, draws, reads and takes the Tai Chi sessions Providence Place offers.
She also assists in the Sisters’ chapel as a Eucharistic minister filling in for the sacristan in her absence. She says it is important “to stay responsible” for something, and her commitments give her that responsibility. With Mass being at 8:30 a.m. it requires Eileen “to get up and get ready. If you don’t have a responsibility” she advises, “you might be tempted to stay in bed.”
She says Providence Place has a jam-packed event and activities calendar for residents to participate in, yet at the same time “…is quiet and peaceful.” Residents have the choice of what they want or don’t want to do, or be involved in. “If you want a day to be alone to take care of things you can be alone. What you do is up to you.”
“It’s all good,” she says at the end.
Frances Thompson has a long history with the Providence Place building—dating back to its prior time as Providence Mother House when her late sister, Gertrude, was Sister of Providence Marie Thaddeus.
When asked how she feels about living here now, she says, “It’s a dream coming true.”
She said when in the late 90s her sister told her that the Sisters of Providence were planning to transition their Mother House into the Providence Place retirement community, she joined her sister in attending the focus groups the Sisters had on the project. From what she heard at those meetings, she “wanted to move in from day one.” However her husband, Bill, wasn’t as eager, wanting instead to stay in their home.
Now here, Frances says she loves her apartment. “I don’t think of it as an apartment,” she continued. “It’s my home. I could stay in it all day.” She doesn’t though. Instead, she enjoys going to the concerts and entertainments, playing board games with other residents and most especially “playing cards with them on Friday nights.”
With Providence Place’s transportation services to grocery stores, banks, and the like, she is one of Providence Place’s residents who decided, “to give up my car. I miss it,” she admits. “But I wasn’t using it. It was just sitting there.”
As far as her level of contentment with her living arrangements, she says, “I don’t know what more anyone could, or would, want. And, I would be remiss,” she concluded, “If I didn’t add how fortunate we are, as residents, to have such a beautiful chapel—for our benefit—in our midst.”
Gene Adamz says his choice of Providence Place as the retirement community he would settle in “goes back a couple of years” to the time he and his late wife Barbara attended one of Providence Place’s chapel concerts. “We fell in love with the place. Loved the grounds, so well maintained. It’s like Eden, it really is.”
The couple initially thought they would be moving into one of the apartments together. But when Barbara’s failing health indicated that might not happen, Gene said, “She made me promise that I would still come here. She wanted me to be safe, to be to taken care of, and to not be alone.”
He smiles when asked what he would tell others about Providence Place. “ I would tell them to consider a cruise, their best cruise ever. Because that’s what Providence Place is—but you never leave port. It’s a cruise just for you with something going on all the time, whatever your mood is, delicious meals and entertainment.”
He was initially surprised “by the number of activities and entertainments that are here.” In addition to the chapel concert series, Gene says residents are routinely treated to “lots of other quality entertainers and piano concerts at the happy hours and birthday celebrations.” He enjoys Providence Place’s various lectures, “the ‘Remembering Days’ conversations, book discussions, meditation sessions, and even the follow up discussions on what we were meditating on.”
Before arriving here, he said he “couldn’t sing a note…couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Having now given in to other residents’ promptings that he join their choir, he can’t say that anymore. “The singing teacher is terrific. He has brought out songs in me I never knew were in there.”
Gene takes the painting classes, too. “The art teacher has deemed two of my paintings ‘frame-worthy.’ I was surprised. I gave one of them to my daughter. She was surprised, too!”
Noting that he is “a walker,” he enjoys walking the Providence Place campus each day and taking in all that nature has to offer.
When asked it there was something in particular he wanted to say about Providence Place, he answered: “I was welcomed here. The people here are all very kind. I’ve never come across one person here who isn’t nice.”
He added, with a smile, “And, the best thing—I left for last— Providence Place is worth the trip just to see the chapel. It is the most remarkable chapel I’ve ever seen.”
For Henry and Fran Benjamin, Providence Place means “having a safe home, and a wonderful meal each day. All and all, ” Henry says, “Providence Place provides the best combination of living in a community. We have our independence and, at the same time, a sense of security. Here people are concerned about each other.” To that, Fran adds, “We love the people here. They are willing to help with whatever is needed. We share the concerns of each other.”
The two met while students at American International College in Springfield and have been married for 61 years. They say living at Providence Pace is “an opportunity to establish a new lifestyle. It offers,” they said, “everything we’d hoped for—even flowers on the dining room tables.” They especially praised the staff, saying, “You can say ‘Thank you’ to the wait-staff 100 times and they will say ‘You’re welcome’ a 100 times back.”
The Benjamins thoroughly enjoy the resident programs and have joined the resident choir. They attend the armchair traveling programs featuring destinations like London, England, and feel the programs offered to residents, especially those on writing and painting programs, “help residents develop their talents and interests” most were unable to pay too much attention to prior to their retirements.
Part of what drew Pat Gagnon to Providence Place was her disenchantment with what, as a longtime homeowner, she calls her “man-jobs.” Though still capable of caring for her former home’s yard and its like, she “just wasn’t motivated to do it anymore. And living in a tourist area finding help to get those jobs done was no easy task.”
Describing herself as “practical,” she noted that “since no one is getting any younger, including myself,” she decided to do what she could to put herself in a position “to age with grace.” That included her considering independent retirement living.
For others at her juncture in life, she advises, “not waiting until you have an issue. It’s important you make these decisions yourself because your kids don’t want to make them for you.”
When she first came to Providence Place making new friends wasn’t on her priority list. “After all,” she said, “I was thinking ‘It’s just an apartment.’” Now that apartment “feels like home” and she finds the other residents “a friendly group of people. The longer you live here,” she explained, “you begin to connect with them in different ways.”
For her, Providence Place means “security without worry, independence without isolation and choices with support as needed.”
Concluding she adds, “Providence Place is the place to find and nurture new interests, and to continue to use your abilities and interests. It’s a place that encourages quality of life, and healthy habits for body, mind and spirit.”