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Westminster-Thurber Community


An Author's Note on Animals in the Community: All at Westminster-Thurber are quick to tell visitors that plants and animals are not the reason that this Eden community works. It's relationships that form the foundation for success.

I'm the first to agree, but Westminster-Thurber is a bit unique. They don't just honor elder "people" in the community. They also honor quite a few "elder" animals. Without doubt, the way that these animals are treated exemplifies much of culture change, and I learned a great deal about community by watching the relationships of the animals at Westminster-Thurber.

On the importance of meaningful activities - It helps that the Activities Director, Jamie, is a bit of a Dr. Dolittle. All of the animals love her and she "knows" them. Shelby, the 13-year-old, is Jamie's assistant and spends lots of activity time with the elders. She just recently celebrated her birthday at a party with friends.

Several of the animals in the community were rescued. Through activities with elders, they "adopt" a primary person and move in with their new friend. Story after story proved to me that these animals "chose" their new homes.

Personal schedules based on preferences - During the case study, I wondered about a "day-in-the-life" of 12-year-old Trudy, the beagle. As it turns out, Trudy's bed is in the Activities office. Jamie keeps it dark so that Trudy can rest until her desired wake-up time (usually in the afternoon). Trudy then typically makes her way to Executive Director, Steve LeMoine's office, where another bed is located right underneath his desk. Steve feeds her "the best low-fat treats" and she sleeps and (very audibly) snores away much of the afternoon.

One day, I followed Trudy on a jaunt just to see what adventures awaited a beagle with full access to a CCRC. She visited two dining rooms looking for scraps, greeted many an elder with requests for goodies, and ended up under a resident's chair (the resident was conveniently eating a big sandwich with lots of potential for crumbs). In short, Trudy spends her days doing just as she pleases, and everyone in the community respects her schedule and time!

An inclusive community and "home" - Perhaps this is best exemplified by the late Valentino. As evidenced by his name, Valentino was a charismatic rabbit who loved the ladies. I was there the day his babies were born and watched his reaction to the little puffs of fur. When the babies were old enough, we all had the opportunity to hold them. Elders, staff, and children - we all had the same thrill of cradling a new little life. Sadly, I recently found out that Valentino had died, and tears well up in the eyes of those who loved him at the mention of his name. Fortunately, many of his babies were adopted by members of the community, so there are constant reminders of this unique character and friend.

In summary, through the animals of Westminster-Thurber, I learned the simplest of lessons:

- A community is a place where they "get" you. You can spend time with your friends, and you can celebrate life. And, no matter how old you are, nothing is better than a baby bunny.

- A community is a place where you can do what you like, snore as loud as you want, and spend lots of time looking for the perfect sandwich.

- A community is a place where you are loved. Communities celebrate new life and mourn loss, because everyone is unique and special. Every life makes a mark and contributes to the community. It takes everyone to create a "home".

Check back for frequent updates on Westminster-Thurber's Implementation progress!

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