Across the beautiful campus of Wesley Manor, nestled in the acclaimed retirement town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, you will find community living like no other. Featuring manicured grounds with string lights and green gardens, fire pits and beautiful back porches, there is no shortage of amenities and activities available to residents and guests that guarantee the best of community living. The most striking thing about Wesley Manor is that “old” is not the right word to associate with this retirement community or its residents. “Vibrant” is a more accurate description of the lifestyle found here.
“We don’t use the word ‘old,’” Kim Pittman, the Executive Director of Wesley Manor stresses. The community here embraces the aging process, but they are far, far from ‘old.’ “Getting old has nothing to do with a number. It’s in your mindset. The elders here at Wesley Manor are active and independent individuals,” said Pittman. She goes on to explain that the staff at Wesley Manor is dedicated to changing the way people think about retired living. “No one should dread growing older. Elders will always have something to contribute. We all have something to contribute.”
Pittman explains the philosophy of Wesley Manor — that elders are respected community members, and Wesley Manor is here to give them the lifestyle they deserve. It’s a philosophy that Pittman hopes will permeate the community at large. Often, there is a stigma attached to retirement communities, but at Wesley Manor there is an emphasis on debunking the established stereotype.
Wesley Manor feels closer to resort living than what is often depicted as a “retirement home.” Comfort, convenience, and affordability make Wesley Manor an appealing option for retirees who want a friendly environment for their active, independent lifestyle. Retirement living here affords the opportunity to become involved in programs, both educational and entertaining. Wesley Manor offers lifestyle choices for the residents; if residents want to work, they work. “All residents are mentally and physically able to take care of themselves,” Pittman explains with pride. “We’re here to break the institution setting associated with most aging service providers. We’re here to beat helplessness, boredom, and loneliness. That is the Eden Alternative Way.”
In a culture that typically views aging as a period of decline, the Eden Alternative philosophy asserts that no matter how old we are or what challenges we live with, life is about continuing to grow. Building on this new paradigm, the Eden principles affirm that care is not a one-way street, but rather a collaborative partnership. That is exactly what you find at Wesley Manor — a place where elders and staff members work and live more like family than providers and residents.
The community members’ ages range anywhere from age 62 to 94. There are residents who still work full-time, there are residents who are members of the neighborhood council, residents who are siblings, residents who are married and can live together, and even families that have spanned generations at Wesley Manor. “One resident’s mother lived here,” Pitman explains, “And now the daughter lives here!” Though she is the executive director, Pittman is also a part of the Wesley Manor community along with the other 12 members of the staff. The residents view the staff as family, and they love spending time together. The staff members actively participate in the daily activities of the community, and there are staff members that have been at Wesley Manor for 21 years and counting. “Providing for the needs of these elders is much more than a job to us,” states Pittman, “It’s a privilege.”
Your apartment; your home
At Wesley Manor, residents have their own space, their own apartment home. Wesley Manor reinforces the idea that their community is in no way a loss of freedom, but rather a new home equipped with the advantages that community elders deserve, which offers more independence than ever before. The apartments are private and fully functional — new residents can pick their floor plan, including having a kitchen or kitchenette, and residents may furnish and decorate them as they please. Wesley Manor understands that some family members have four legs, and happily welcome pets into the community as well. Meal plans and free maintenance make hard labor a thing of the past. There are no restricted quiet hours, and visitors are welcome any time. The elders may come and go as they please, and the same is true for their guests.
Life at the manor
Wesley Manor offers true, independent living and all of the freedom that comes with that. Kayla Garraway, the Activity Director at Wesley Manor, enthusiastically emphasizes that it is “not just Bingo.” She laughs and explains that the residents at Wesley Manor are active and independent and their activities reflect that. Residents can spend their mornings how they please in their own homes, and scheduled transportation can take them anywhere they need to go throughout the day. There are scheduled grocery trips, and residents often go out with their friends. Lunch is a “come and go” sort of affair held from 11 am to 1pm, where hot, delicious meals are served restaurant style. However, if a resident wants to spend the day relaxing in their home, meals can be delivered to their apartments as well.
A salon is available on campus, so the residents can have days at the beauty shop where they can have their hair and nails done without the hassle of going out. Ingrid, the resident beautician, will even pick up residents from their rooms for their beauty appointments if they’re in wheel chairs. Wesley Manor is also home to a physical therapy room where an outside physical therapist is on campus two days a week. Residents are saved from a trip and can receive their physical therapy from the comfort of their own community. Residents here truly have the best of both worlds — all the amenities they need and the freedom they deserve.
Something that is hard to miss about Wesley Manor is that boredom is seldom seen in the community. Among the many amazing amenities that are offered by Wesley Manor, a few stand out — such as the home theatre room that is fully equipped with large screen television, full recliners, a popcorn machine, and of course, Netflix. There is also a free movie rental center, two fully stocked libraries, and the best part — these are not just for the residents, but for their friends and family as well. “We love to see friends and family get together to watch a movie, or check out what’s on Netflix,” Kayla explains. “There’s always something to do here.”
Kayla has orchestrated countless opportunities for the residents to socialize and learn, including classes nearly every day of the week. These classes include fine art, history, and plenty of outdoor adventures. The residents are even taking group hiking trips to local landmarks, such as Red Bluff. Garraway encourages the residents to be adventurous. “Going to Red Bluff was fun for everyone,” she states. “We all took pictures at the top of the mountain and shouted from the peak! Some of the residents even remember going to Red Bluff in high school.” This trip, provided by Wesley Manor, was recognized by the Eden Alternative, in a recent blog post, as the sort of engaging activity that all retirement communities should strive to offer residents.
One of the more modern amenities that Wesley Manor offers residents is the new computer lab that was installed just six months ago. Using the new computer lab, classes are now available to residents that teach them to use Netflix, Facebook, and they even offer a “Smartphone 101” course. This enables the elders to stay in touch with their friends and family, and continue to grow with the digital age.
Becoming a member of the Wesley Manor community means becoming a member of a community that values independence and respects the wisdom of elders. The Wesley Manor experience is one that allows residents to continue to grow, learn, and live their lives to the fullest, regardless of age. By implementing the Eden Alternative principles, Wesley Manor is breaking the institutional setting and providing an engaging lifestyle for residents that promotes dignity and respect for elders.
To plan a visit and tour Wesley Manor, where you can learn more about their unique apartment living for seniors, call 601-264-8847 today, or stop by and visit the campus at 246 Westover Drive in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You won’t believe retirement living can be so accommodating and affordable. For more information visit www.mss.org.
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