Theresa (left) and Dee (right) discuss upcoming events and activities.    

One is welcomed to Elderwood Assisted Living at West Seneca with hot coffee, tea or cool pink lemonade – as well as Theresa Sabia, 86, and Dee Urbaniak, 88. These two dynamic and vivacious women serve as part of the welcoming committee for new residents. With their cheerful smiles and warm personalities, it’s no wonder they were asked to help make newcomers feel at home.

The lobby and front hall are rather busy today with a mass service letting out, a resident playing “She’s a Grand Old Flag” on the clarinet and a roulette game about to begin. Visitors peer into the living room where the “Wall of Honor” displays framed photos of war heroes who either live at the community or were related to one of the residents. Theresa’s husband’s picture hangs proudly on this wall.

Theresa’s Tale

Theresa moved into her apartment in March 2013. She wasn’t keen on leaving her South Buffalo home at first, but soon found it too challenging to cook or go up and down stairs. After visiting two other assisted living facilities, she made the smart decision to relocate to Elderwood.

Some of the benefits of moving? “Having three meals a day cooked for me, having my clothes laundered, no more counting pills,” and the list goes on. But most importantly, she says, “The people made me feel right at home.”

Dee’s Story

Dee, short for Dominica, has a similar story to tell. Her husband passed away and she was alone for about two and a half years. She began to have difficulty using the stairs. She also worried that something would happen to her house and she’d have to address the cost of repairs. “I didn’t want to spend another winter alone,” she says. “And it was a good thing because look at how bad this winter was!”

Dee took an active role and told her daughter that they should start looking into assisted living apartments. Her daughter investigated Elderwood Assisted Living at West Seneca first and really liked it, so she brought Dee in to talk to Karen Rondinelli, the Residential Sales Manager. Together, they discussed everything that needed to be done. Dee visited three times before she “decided this would be the place for me. I was able to meet a lot of people and get to know them before I even moved in. I’m glad I came.”

Welcome, welcome!

When a new person arrives, he or she is greeted by a team that includes a caseworker, nurses, dietary staff and other friendly residents. All this is done in an effort to make Elderwood as homey and personal as possible for each resident.

Theresa outlines a typical “welcome.” “We ask if we can visit them once they get settled. We make a date and talk to them and ask them what they like to do. If they like an activity that we don’t have already, we try to add that.” Dee adds, “The dieticians ask new residents what they ate at home so they can serve it here to make them more comfortable.”

Activities abound

If you don’t see these two women welcoming newcomers, you’ll find them at one of the many activities offered at Elderwood. “I’m a gambler!” Theresa admits. “We have roulette. It’s a dime a throw and I love it. Once I won five times.”

Another activity is Kreative Konnections, where residents exercise both sitting and standing to music like “In the Mood” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” “You should see Jesse kick!” Theresa exclaims about a fellow resident. “And she’s 100 years old!”

Cookie sales are not only fun, but also fundraisers, as all the proceeds are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society. “I collect the money. It’s just like I was back at work.” Theresa refers to her job as a cafeteria worker at South Park High School where she worked the register and made sandwiches and milkshakes. “I did three things – everything I liked. And the boys loved me.”

Dee explains why she likes to be involved. “I was always a very active person, involved in many things. I want to continue to feel valuable and feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. That’s why I was so happy when they invited me to join the welcoming committee.”

All the comforts of home

Theresa has lived at Elderwood Assisted Living at West Seneca for a year. Her apartment is warm, comfortable and holds all the things she loves, from her beautiful china cabinet to her glamorous wedding photos. Outside her window, a family of deer frolics in the snow. “They’re here all the time,” she says.

Each apartment consists of a bedroom, private bath, living room and kitchenette. Residents can bring as little or as much of their personal belongings and furniture as they like to make their space feel like home.

Why Elderwood?

When asked why others should choose Elderwood, Theresa explains, “For me, I needed to get out. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t get any exercise. And I was alone from morning to night. I couldn’t cook anymore so I had to get an aid. Just coming here and being with people…You get a lift.”

Dee has an abundance of reasons: “It’s the greatest place to come to. First of all, because you always have someone to talk to. You can be with other people. You don’t have to feel lonesome. The staff here is wonderful. They’re so kind and always ready to help you no matter what. If you feel down, you talk to them and they bring you right back up again.”

She continues, “All the tenants are very, very friendly. And the food is very good. And for me to say the food is good – I love to cook and bake – is a real compliment. We even have a cooking class. One Saturday a month. This Saturday we made Amish cinnamon bread. And the surroundings…I came in the spring. It was beautiful. The greenery outside, the trees, the flowers, the koi pond and a shelter to sit under so you don’t sit in the sun. It’s just great.”

To take a personal tour of any of the Elderwood locations, call 1-888-826-9663.