For many seniors, there comes a time when it makes sense to leave the family home and move into a senior living facility. A variety of factors can play into making the decision. Perhaps their single-family home’s maintenance has become too much, or medical needs mean it’s no longer safe or comfortable to stay in their homes.
Many struggle with the decision to move into a senior living facility. And, once the decision to move is made, choosing a place that feels like it can be home for the next stage in life can be another challenge.
Oak Park is home to multiple senior living facilities, and the newest, American House, 703 Madison St., recently welcomed its first residents. A few of these residents, all moving from within Oak Park, discussed with Wednesday Journal why they made the move.
Doug Wyman raised nine children with his wife Barbara in Oak Park. When Barbara passed away four years ago due to complications of Alzheimer’s, Wyman stayed in his home and continued to stay active in community events and with Ascension Parish.
When he began to explore senior living, he wanted to stay in the area, if possible. Three of his children are nearby, and he liked the location.
“Here it is right on Madison, right in the middle of everything,” Wyman said. “It’s close to Ascension and everything else in the Oak Park area.”
While Wyman has a car, which he can park in the garage at American House, he also liked that he has the option to use transportation provided by American House or by Oak Park Township.
His daughter, Mary Wyman, in town from the Los Angeles area to get her father settled, said American House has made the transition easy for her father. She points out that the facility accommodates her father’s small dog.
“Dad loves Tai Chi, and he wants to do it in the morning, and they help that happen,” she said.
The “they” she refers to is Adrian Dalmacio, the life enrichment director for American House. A certified Tai Chi instructor, he makes sure Wyman get in his daily practice.
Dalmacio says it is his job to get to know the residents and help them find the activities and routines they need be fulfilled. When residents move in, he schedules an initial meeting
“I really try to get to know them on a personal level — their likes and dislikes,” he said.
Dalmacio has a lot of material to work with at American House. The first-floor space includes a cinema room, complete with popcorn machine, and a spa room for residents. An outdoor heated patio off the main dining room allows for events and dining outside when weather permits.
On the second floor, there is an open kitchen for the monthly chef demonstrations that Dalmacio coordinates. A large lounge area is a place for residents to gather to play games or listen to speakers. There is an art studio on the third floor, and large, built-in cabinets that will display residents’ art line the common-area walls.
The second and third floors of American House are for assisted living residents, and these residents have their own dining room. The space opens up to an expansive patio with grills, trees and large planters filled with vegetation.
The fourth floor is the memory care unit. Dalmacio has trained to work with dementia patients and says that this floor was carefully planned to provide comfort and safety. There are wreaths on the doors to the individual apartments.
A sensory room is stocked with weighted blankets and comfortable chairs. Lifelike dog and cat animals are in the lounge space to help residents find comfort in their soft fur. The outdoor space has walls for safety but an open roof to allow in sunlight. Curved planting beds, wind chimes and a fountain provide a soothing area to be outdoors.
The fifth through seventh floors are for independent living and offer apartments with one or two bedrooms. Sandy Prolman and Max Dieber live on the seventh floor.
The couple has lived in Oak Park since 1987, two blocks away from the American House site and watched it being built. Prolman, who recently had a knee replaced, says their condo had three floors and too many stairs for this stage of their life. Their two children live in different states, so the couple decided it made sense to stay in Oak Park.
Dieber says they looked at many places in the Chicago area, but knew American House was the right place after their scheduled tour.
“It looked like it would be a good fit financially and lifestyle-wise,” he said.
Prolman says that while choosing American House was easy, the choice to take the step into senior living took some adjusting to.
“It sounds like it was an easy decision, but it wasn’t,” Prolman said.
In spite of the challenges in making the decision to move into a senior living facility, she points out that there are many positives.
One is having a network of care already in place, so the couple doesn’t have to manage all aspects of health care, physical therapy and taking care of a larger home on their own. Another perk? The food.
“I don’t have to cook anymore!” Prolman said.
American House has a professional chef on staff in Alan Bloom, who manages the building’s four kitchens, which will eventually serve 180 residents. With a background in fine dining, Bloom says he loves to cook seafood, chops and steaks. At the seventh-floor Bistro space, he gets to flex his creative muscle and come up with a restaurant-style menu.
The main dining room on the first floor includes a bar called the Madison Street Café, which will also have a separate menu. Bloom says he balances flavors with the needs of the residents, noting that for residents who are 55 and up, some will need special diets due to allergies or health concerns like diabetes.
Independent living residents have breakfast and dinner included in their rental plans, and Prolman said she liked the individualization Bloom brings to the dining services.
“I told him that I liked strawberry yogurt. He made it for me,” she said. “I mean, he bought vanilla yogurt and chopped up fresh strawberries for me. I told him I liked Muesli cereal, and he made me that from scratch, too.”
Wyman, Prolman and Dieber agree that while the facilities are top-notch, it is the staff that sold them on American House. Dalmacio says that a commitment to the well-being of the seniors is a quality that runs throughout American House.
“It’s a way to use my creativity to give them the spice of life,” Dalmacio said.