Assisted living communities in Rolla provide care for elderly

Lauren Ulrich, Staff Writer

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Senior citizens play a vital role in the foundation of a community, but can be placed in a vulnerable position if their needs are not met. The Rolla chapter of the Agency on Aging works to ensure that seniors have the services necessary to live comfortably and to continue sharing their insights with the community. Scott Shaffer is the care coordinator for the Rolla agency.

“We provide services to seniors to try to keep them independent in their homes, and to try to keep them out of nursing homes as long as possible,” Shaffer said.

These services include delivering hot meals to seniors’ homes, transportation assistance, assistance completing medicaid and medicare applications, and advice on how to eventually enter into a nursing home facility. As beneficial as these services are, they may not always be enough on their own.

“Money is tight and we try to take advantage of all the agencies that are there to help, but a lot of times we get calls from seniors who are just needing money and that’s hard to do. It’s getting harder and harder to try and contact some of these different agencies, so that’s always a barrier,” Shaffer said.

The practical services that the agency provides are essential, but giving seniors companionship and a sense of purpose is an equally important aspect of support. Many groups in the community work to support seniors not just in terms of meeting practical needs, but in moral support as well. One such group is the Rolla High School Student Council. Freshman Ariella Lara recently coordinated a STUCO visit to the Oak Pointe assisted living facility to play bingo and socialize with the residents.

“I do it really because my great grandpa died of alzheimer’s and I was like I want to do this I want to help out,” Lara said.

Lara and her fellow STUCO members used this opportunity to find companionship with residents of Oak Pointe and to learn from their experiences. Such residents included one happily married couple, Edna and Herman Waidman. The Waidmans are a prime example of senior citizens with contributions and insights to share with the community. Edna and Herman, ages 86 and 96 respectively, are lifelong residents of Missouri who moved into Oak Pointe recently.

“Our health wasn’t good and our daughter didn’t live very close to us,” Herman said. “It was too much of a burden for her taking care of us. A girl that we knew was at Oak Pointe and she knew we were looking for a place to go, so she recommended here.”

Although Oak Pointe is a far contrast from the house they built together, the Waidmans have found their transition into assisted living to be an altogether beneficial experience. Oak Pointe is at the higher end of nursing homes and the Waidmans consider themselves fortunate to be its residents.

“It’s a very nice place. It’s the nicest one that I’ve ever been in,” Edna said.

The Waidmans are happy with their current residence and even happier to share their lifetime’s worth of experiences. Herman, a World War II veteran, is ever eager to share a story or two, but Edna is the one to share the story of how she and her husband met.

“I worked at Paramount Cap factory and Herman’s brother in law was the main guy there. One day he came in with a picture and it was a picture of Herman. He said, ‘this is my brother in law, would you consider going out with him?’ I said yes and so a couple weeks later we made a date and that was the beginning of our courtship,” Edna said.

64 years of marriage later, the Waidmans are able to look back on their lives together and reflect on both the good times and the bad.

“I was raised up on a farm so poor that I didn’t get to go to school. Up to sixth grade is about all the schooling I got. From there on I had to make my own way. I was very very lucky that without an education I was able to do what I did. I shouldn’t complain,” Herman said.

Despite his fair share of hardships, Herman remains thankful for the successes he has had. This mindset has been helpful in easing the burdens of old age and also influences Herman’s outlook on society.

“I liked the country better years ago when I was growing up, when we had nothing. We were better off then than we are today with everything,” Herman said.

Edna expressed similar conclusions.

“People are happy now, but it was a different happiness back then I would say. They were happy with less,” Edna said.

The Waidmans reflections on society are representative of the valuable perspectives that can only be formed from the experience held by senior citizens. When presented with the opportunity and care necessary to share these insights, seniors can inspire their communities and attain personal fulfillment, making the prospect of aging more manageable.

“I know aging is not something interesting to look forward to advancing to. I never did think I’d be here, but as you get older things change. You go wherever you need to receive care,” Herman said.

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