At 87, Ms. Sandra is Living Her Best Life

Sisters Villa resident, Ms. Sandra’s social calendar fills up pretty quickly these days. Whether she is participating in one of the many Resident Services programs at this senior community located in Eagle, ID, baking her famous chocolate chip cookies, or enjoying lunch with friends, Ms. Sandra stays busy. And at 87 years old, she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“I do a lot of activities,” she recently shared. For example, this past Easter, Resident Services Coordinator, Ellie organized a scavenger hunt. “She put the little strips of paper in the Easter eggs,” Ms. Sandra said. “It was really fun because residents got to go places on the property that they don’t generally think about going…Ellie just got us up and on our feet!”

There was also the big St. Patrick’s Day party. “A lot of residents have animals, so we dressed up all the dogs and walked them around the perimeter of the parking lot,” she described. “I don’t have a dog but still walked with them. It was a lot of fun.”

Sisters Villa resident Ms. Sandra sits in the community room.

Independent Woman

Divorced at 45, and having spent years as a stay-at-home mom, Ms. Sandra found herself needing to get a job for the first time. “No one would hire me because I didn’t have any experience,” she shared. She signed up with a job placement agency, where she had to pay to get interviews. Ms. Sandra then connected with a couple of acquaintances in Boise, who worked at a water company. “They were friends of my parents, so I got the job. But the manager told me that he couldn’t do any favors for me.” To which she replied, “Pete, I don’t expect any favors.”

Ms. Sandra went on to work at the water company for 23 years. “I was a supervisor of several different departments,” she shared. “I guess that was kind of a highlight.” But beyond that, “I at least proved to myself that I could do something.”

She retired briefly but soon realized that she couldn’t sit around and not do anything. “One of my neighbors was the director of the Parole Commission, and I worked there for eight years.”

Now fully retired, Ms. Sandra shared that getting a job was a highlight because she proved that “I could do something and take care of myself,” she proudly stated. “I found out that Sandra could do things that she didn’t know she could do.”

The Road to Sisters Villa

Ms. Sandra moved into Sisters Villa nearly 17 years ago. Though she owned a condo in Idaho, her daughter, and son-in-law were living in nearby Eagle, and she agreed to look at the senior community.

She immediately said “no,” upon visiting the area, explaining, “I won’t live here because it’s nothing but old people (and they didn’t have a washer and dryer in the unit).”

About a year later, Ms. Sandra decided that she wanted to live closer to her daughter, who was always driving her to doctor’s appointments, and other dates during the week. “I had sold my condo, moved into an apartment, and needed to decide whether or not I would sign another lease.”

She put in an application for an apartment home at Sisters Villa and moved into her one-bedroom apartment within the year.

“It’s just awesome,” Ms. Sandra shared. “It’s big – I have a huge bathroom and the kitchen…I have a dishwasher, a nice stove, and a nice refrigerator.”

Celebrating Diversity with The Culture Club

Ellie, Resident Services Coordinator for three Mercy Housing Northwest communities, including Sisters Villa and neighboring Eagle Senior Village, recently introduced “The Culture Club,” to Sisters Villa residents. “She gave us a homework assignment,” Ms. Sandra laughed, “and I thought ‘I’m too old for that!”

The homework assignment was for residents to bring something to the next potluck that pertained to their heritage. Ms. Sandra decided to bring hot dogs, “I happen to be American…we checked everything, and my ancestry just goes back to Idaho basically.” Adding, “If I have time, I will bring some chocolate chip cookies too.”

The Culture Club encourages residents to learn about everyone’s culture, along with their own. Ellie has added a map in the community room that has little dots representing where everyone is from, including where they live, where they consider home, and where they were born.

“We have Minnesota, Washington, but most of them are from Idaho,” Ellie shared. “The purpose of the Culture Club is to expand on that – their diversity.”

The first meeting started off with residents getting to know themselves and where they came from – where they were born, raised, and raised their families. “Things that were special about that place that made it home to them,” Ellie explained.

Ellie then turned their answers into a game of BINGO, with participants having to find words instead of BINGO numbers. “I took all the words they used to describe their home place and put them on BINGO boards.”

The Club is now expanding to learn about their grandparents’ roots and where their families originated, which they will share at the next potluck.

When asked what Ms. Sandra had learned about her family’s roots, she said, “I honestly did not realize that my great, great, great grandparents and all of us were from Idaho. That surprised me.”

“I know…she’s a true American,” Ellie added.

Aside from opening good dialogue between residents, The Culture Club encourages them to get to know their neighbors on a different level. For some residents, getting to share their ancestry is exciting and fun, especially when discovering it for the first time.

“It’s fun and educational.” Ms. Sandra said. “I’ve always liked learning something new. I love to play BINGO when there is a purpose.”

When Friends Become Family

“These two buildings…they’re my family,” Ms. Sandra said, referring to Sisters Villa and Eagle Senior Village. “You cannot imagine the friends I have made here, and I know they feel the same way.” In fact, when neighbors haven’t seen Ms. Sandra for a couple of days, they always call to make sure she is ok. “It’s family,” she explained. “We just all love each other.”

Ms. Sandra and Ellie love their daily chats

Having given up driving about 18 months ago, she has leaned on this close-knit community to get her where she needs to go. “People have stepped up and if I need a ride, they will take me. I ride the senior bus too.” The senior bus is important to the entire community as the driver takes residents to doctor’s appointments and other events happening in town. “The drivers are so nice,” she added. “They treat us with respect and are happy that we are there.”

And it’s not just fellow residents who feel the love. Ellie has felt it too. “One thing that Sandy and a couple of other residents did was bought me a Keurig to put in my office because we like to sit out here together, enjoy coffee and visit.”

Ellie and Ms. Sandra have developed a close-knit bond. “I think it’s a testament to the family thing around here,” explained Ellie. While battling some health issues recently, she turned to Ms. Sandra, “She was one of the first people I told, and she’s been so supportive. They treat me like family, just like they do each other.”