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An older man named, Andy posing for his photo in the Westerwood dining room.

Can Single Seniors Find Happiness in a Retirement Community? A 20-Year Westerwood Resident Shares His Story

If you’ve ever wondered about single life in a senior living community, you’re about to get some valuable insights from someone who has lived through many changes during his 20 years here at Westerwood in Columbus, Ohio.

Westerwood resident Andy Halatek spoke with us about his experience over the past two decades.

Since moving into one of our beautiful independent living apartments in 2004, Andy has loved, lost, and most of all lived. He credits the residents and staff of the Westerwood community with helping him through it all.

Sometimes the Retirement Community Finds You

Andy and his wife lived in a beautiful three-bedroom home in Westerville. Their house was on a cul-de-sac and on nice days, neighbors would gather in the driveway to hang out. One of those neighbors was a nurse at Westerwood for many years. She often spoke highly about the community, so the couple was familiar with its offerings. But they also got to know many of the residents on a personal level from spending time on campus—something Andy encourages of anyone looking to move into a senior living community.

Andy had been part of a local singing group that performed at Westerwood twice a year. “I was singing with the Westerville Song Spinners, and we would always have the last rehearsal for our spring and Christmas shows there to get a feel from the residents. We wanted to know how we sounded,” he says. “One of our singers was a fabulous French pastry chef at the community so we’d finish our set and then we’d sit and chat with residents while eating our pastries.”

Andy and his wife also spent time on campus when she received therapy at our five-star healthcare clinic on several occasions. As a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), Westerwood offers a full continuum of healthcare that includes assisted living, short-term and long-term rehabilitation, memory care, assisted living, respite care and skilled nursing, all of which have earned national recognition.

After her treatments, they would always go to the soda shop on campus to play cards or dominoes and have something to drink. The residents who passed by would stop to chat with them.

“Everyone was so friendly and happy. They made you feel like part of the community even if you didn’t live there,” Andy remembers thinking. He knew nothing can be that perfect, so he asked one of the residents they had become friendly with to tell him something negative about Westerwood—something that really got under his skin. The man had nothing bad to say. He continued to ask others the same question. No one ever uttered a negative word. So, when the couple decided to give up their home in Westerville and move into a retirement community, the choice was easy.

Living Alone Without Feeling Lonely

“It was during her third treatment that we signed the paperwork to move into one of Westerwood’s independent living apartments,” Andy recalled. “We celebrated our 51st anniversary on June 6, 2004, while she was still in rehab, and she passed away 22 days later.”

Andy’s five children encouraged him to get out of the contract and move into a one-bedroom apartment, but he had his mind made up. “You have to understand, walking into an empty apartment is every bit as lonely as walking into this three-bedroom home I’m at now. Your mother and I signed the papers and I’m going,” he recalled telling them at the time.

He went on to say, “When you live in a condo or apartment, you might know your neighbors by name or just to say hello. At Westerwood, you have an association with the people. They become family.” Little did he know how quickly his family would grow.

“When my first wife passed, my doctor told me I would get married again and I said it would never happen. I married at 18 and was married to my first sweetheart for 51 years and 22 days,” he says. “Now, for the first time, I was footloose and fancy-free. But I guess God had other plans. I moved in on November 15, 2004, and married my second wife, Donna, the following March.”

Finding Happiness in a Retirement Community

Andy recounted how the relationship with Donna came out of nowhere. They had both lost their spouses and knew each other from the community, but that was it. “She was coming from vesper service one Sunday night and knocked on my door to ask me asked if I could teach her how to study the Bible,” he says. In addition to the two Bible Study groups he heads up for Westerwood residents, he agreed to work with her individually. “I would go to her apartment once a week and we would spend an hour or so reading the Bible and talking about the passages,” he says. “Then one night I go to her apartment, and I get this voice in my head that says, ‘Ask her the question.’ Before I know it, I’m down on one knee proposing to her.”

Over the years, Andy and Donna co-chaired several events and festivals at Westerwood, including the Spring Festival, which honors any resident or staff member who has been part of the community for at least 18 years. The pair also headed up the annual Halloween party that would have up to 175 kids coming through—many of them children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of residents and staff.

Andy and Donna were very active with community events up until she passed away in 2016. But Andy knew he wasn’t alone. The community would once again get him through the tough times, keep him active, and help him adjust to single life in a senior living community.

Staying Active in a Senior Living Community

For years, research has shown that staying active can prevent loneliness and improve physical and emotional wellness for seniors. Andy, who turns 90 this year, is living proof. He shares some of the things that keep him busy at Westerwood: “I’ve been the chair of the Marketing Committee for 17 of my 20 years here. We have “Coffee with the Crew” every Friday morning and introduce new residents the last Friday of every month. I also chair the Philanthropy Advisory Committee. We raised $141,000 to refinish our front entrance and lounge and we raised another $250,000 to upgrade our beautiful woods area. I’m part of the choir. We have a retired minister who handles the music here. He’s got a small band and there are about 45 of us in the choir. We just had our concert a couple of weeks ago. I call BINGO every four weeks. I lead two Bible Studies every week. And when my second wife was alive, we chaired the Spring and Christmas Festivals and the Halloween Party.”

In addition to being physically and socially active, Andy knows the importance of staying mentally active. “I like to stay sharp,” he says. “A group of us meet regularly at the Friendship Lounge for breakfast, and one of us asks a question to see if anybody knows anything about it. One gentleman was a schoolteacher and he’s super knowledgeable about the history of Ohio. So, we all research things we think maybe the others won’t know to try to stump them,” he laughs. “I had four pages of notes on presidents of the United States and things they were the first to do. They didn’t know any of them.”

Andy sums up his activities by saying, “I stay very busy. When I’m not doing what I want, I do what I like.”

Something for Everyone

At Westerwood, you can do as much or as little as you want. “We have so many groups you can join. We host community events. We even bring in outside entertainment. There’s just so much to do that no one can stay lonely for long.”

“It’s a huge place. We’re on a 23-acre campus. They say if you walk all the halls on all the floors you will have walked three-and-a-half miles and never left the building. It’s a good place for a retiree,” he shares. “I used to walk more, but I have a pinched nerve, so I bought a power chair and I just buzz around now.” When asked about the speed limit, he says you’re not supposed to go faster than anyone can walk,” Before adding, “But if someone’s going slow in front of me, I have to yell, ‘Beep, beep!’ because my horn is too low, and they won’t hear it.”

It seems like nothing can slow Andy down.

Not All Retirement Communities Are Created Equal

Although he didn’t visit other communities before moving into Westerwood, Andy admits he’s gone undercover to check out other communities since. He contends Westerwood has more activities and things to do than any other place in the state of Ohio, and more are being added all the time.

If there’s a group, activity or project that you’re interested in that isn’t offered, you’re encouraged to present it to the Philanthropy Advisory Committee—or the Trustee Development Committee, depending on associated costs.” In case you have any doubt, Andy sits on both.

When people visit and say they’re still looking, he puts on his marketing hat and replies, “Visit the rest, you’ll come back to the best.”

Still Have Questions About Single Life in a Retirement Community?

Call us today at (614) 568-0503 to learn more about our beautiful Columbus, Ohio senior living community or set up a visit. Ask about staying in one of our guest rooms to get the full Westerwood experience. Tell them Andy sent you.

Send us a note

We’d love to send you more information about us or answer any questions you have. The more you learn about Westerwood, the more you’ll want it to become your new home!

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