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The novel, Walden; or, Life in the Woods is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance and seems so fitting for elders moving into a home-like environment for support in their daily lives
The writer, transcendentalist, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived on the northern shore of Walden's Pond in Massachusetts for two years starting in the summer of 1845. His account of the experience was recorded in Walden; or, Life in the Woods, and made the pond famous.
Thoreau is quoted in the book saying:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
And at Walden's View, we believe elders should not practice resignation – resigning themselves to 'being put away' or 'no longer able to contribute' – but rather, reduce the common acceptance of aging as 'used up' to its lowest terms and live fully, the genuine fullness of what this next chapter holds for them.
The name Walden's View reflects not the physical view of the community, but rather the creed in which we serve elders who choose to reside here. Our view, that of our team, leadership and partners, is one that works daily to prove the experience that aging is sublime and life is meant to be lived deliberately no matter our age, our abilities or our chapter in this journey.
Although many topics are touched on in Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Thoreau talks about Solitude, a common and unnecessary situation that befalls many elders. He explains how loneliness can occur even amid companions if one's heart is not open to them. Our daily activities and special events that occur throughout each month, endeavor to create an atmosphere where folks from varied backgrounds find solace, not “solitude” in their participation.
Thoreau also reflects on his new companion, an old settler who arrives nearby and an old woman with great memory – “memory runs back farther than mythology". Often, our events become a life-line for residents to share their histories and enrich not only their lives, but our team's lives as well. Imagine, our team discovered living among the residents at one of our communities, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient – the highest honor in the land! Just as Thoreau valued relationships, we work to create opportunities for our residents to live fully and develop new and meaningful relationships in this next chapter of their lives.
Thoreau repeatedly reflects on the benefits of nature and of his deep communion with it and we embrace the same exposing our residents to the beautiful nature that surrounds our community in Western Pennsylvania. From trips to the Duquesne Incline overlooking Point Park in Pittsburgh to hikes on the Appalachian Trail in the Laurel Highlands, there is an opportunity for our elders to “live deep” in their new experiences. This “closeness with nature” provides the exposure for our elders to transcend traditional aging labels and experiences.
Despite Thoreau's personal love of “solitude”, he recognizes the importance of companionship and documents his enjoyment of it through his description of his humble cabin. He always leaves three chairs placed just so for visitors. In fact, he talks about having more company at Walden's Pond than when he lived in the city and that is a goal of our community. Too often we accept the idea of a 'senior's home' being tired, institutional and scary. With careful attention paid to creating an inviting space with options like a café, chapel and movie theater, Walden's View works to recognize the importance for our elders to have and receive company often and frequently – we even keep three chairs placed just so, for our visitors in the main lobby!