Janet Bisbing grew up in West Philadelphia, and moved to California in her late-20’s where she lived in San Francisco for a number of years, then Santa Monica, and then returned to the San Francisco Bay Area. She has also lived and worked in other countries.
Finding a Retirement Community
Several years after retiring, Janet started to consider what it would be like to live in a retirement community. She explored both the Bay Area where she lived and in and around Philadelphia. Janet chose Kendal at Longwood, both for its location, and its affordability.
“It was clear, after starting to have some health issues, that it was time to consider making a change. I began to look around and consider options. I knew I didn’t want one of the “cruise ship” type communities, but somewhere where people would share my values.” Kendal-Crosslands Communities fit the bill, with a supportive, active community where residents were a true community, not just passive neighbors.
Janet spent many years working with delinquent children as a clinical social worker. While she had many other careers (in music, theatre and finance) including working as a stewardess, then purser, in charge of international in-flight service for Pan-Am for a number of years, she returned to her first love of social work, helping troubled youth. “The pay was low, but I loved the work with troubled teens and families“ she said, and you could see the memories of the many children she worked with pass across her face. Social work is one of the many careers and lives of service which are often not highly paid, leaving people feeling insecure about their ability to afford a comfortable retirement. “I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be able to afford Kendal, but my studio cottage with the sunroom is both affordable and comfortable, and I have all the space I need.”
Looking Around to Find the Perfect Home
Janet looked around before settling on Kendal at Longwood for her retirement home. “I initially looked at Enso Village, a Kendal Community in California, but it was prohibitively expensive, so I began to look elsewhere. It was my dear friend, Lelia Calder who introduced me to Kendal. I felt fortunate, as I would not have even known anything about Kendal if it weren’t for Lelia, whose enthusiasm and love of her residence was catching. So I flew to Philadelphia for my “Try Us” visit, and I knew from the welcoming nature of the people I met, that I had found what would be my new home. Everyone made me feel valued and cared for- even the staff in the dining room, cared and made me feel special,” Janet stated.
“I had been a part of a Sufi spiritual community in Santa Monica and a Zen spiritual community in San Francisco. Spiritual practice remains the most important aspect of this life. In addition, I am very active- I like to swim, hike, kayak and I try to stay in good shape. I began having back problems, and I knew that when the cortisone shots were no longer effective, along with not getting any younger, I needed to start thinking about making a change.” It was a difficult choice, though, as I had informally “adopted” a Taiwanese family. The two children grew up with me as “Grandma”. So, leaving them was hard. The parents understood, but the children and I had to work through our feelings, with the knowledge that I will return for visits and also have them here for visits.”
Adjusting to a Smaller Footprint
Another adjustment was moving from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home to a studio. In a way, it’s been a marvelous blessing – going light. “My studio, with the wonderful sun porch, has all the space I need. It’s a bit like my own little monastery- I am learning a lot of lessons about what I need, what I don’t need, and how I want to spend the rest of my life. It feels good to be living “lighter”, having chosen to bring things that mattered, and meant something to me,” Janet mused. “I had lots of things- Drexel furniture, many of the traditional things everyone has, but I ended up giving almost everything away or also selling them for almost nothing in an estate sale. With that done, I was able to reinvent and choose what I wanted for this next stage of my new life here at Kendal.”
“The space here is smaller, of course. I chose to have a tall bookcase built to add some storage, and also added a bathtub, because that was important to me as well. I’m still working to make sure I have everything the way I want it- COVID has made it more difficult to go out and really shop for those special items- I like to touch things and explore- so I am taking my time – no rush.”
Transitioning During COVID
Janet made the move to Kendal at Longwood in June of 2020, during the pandemic. During this stressful time, many of the activities and group gatherings were canceled or still being carefully planned to make sure they were COVID safe. This meant her first gatherings with other residents were around July 4th, when the residents hosted an outdoor, socially-distanced celebration.
“When I first got here, I had to be quarantined, so the first time I got to meet other residents in person was for this July 4th celebration. Although my new neighbors were concerned about my isolated introduction to the community, I actually needed the quiet time to unpack and get settled. It was perfect. When I finally entered life “outside”, my new neighbors, at this outdoor party welcomed me with open arms. I could not have been more embraced in my new home. “
“Fast forward 6 months – last year at about this time, to my great delight, it started to snow. After a day, there was enough accumulation to make me think “Snowman; snowman”, but I wondered if anyone would be interested. It was suggested that I send out a note to our quadrant..which I did. AND almost the whole neighborhood showed up. What a team! We built 2 “snow people”. Someone said “Hah, it took the Californian to get us out to do this.” The truth was that it gave everyone a long-needed opportunity to be outdoors and be together – masks and all.”
Medical Help Nearby
“I also want to let anyone who’s contemplating moving to Kendal to know that the medical care here is superb. For example, due to some minor issues, I almost fainted one evening and hit my head. A nurse was down to my unit, taking care of me within 15 minutes and followed up the next day. I was back to normal health fairly quickly with Resident Care’s support. Even the supervisor of housekeeping checked on me the next day. The care and attention to detail from people at every level of the staff is remarkable, and reinforces the feeling that I, indeed, made the right choice – to be right here,” Janet said with affection for everyone who helped and followed up afterwards.
A Studio Cottage with Room to Breathe
Janet’s studio cottage seems roomy- she has chosen her furniture carefully, and has added storage with built-ins to maximize space. She is even using her sunroom as a bedroom, with a daybed where it feels almost like she is getting to sleep outdoors- surrounded by trees, and beautiful sunrises in the morning. It is incredibly peaceful and “zen”, just like Janet herself.
Learn More about Available Homes
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