Residents Make the Difference: Happy Hour to Happily Ever After
Ken Burkman, Tom McCormick and Dr. Roger Giesel, the men behind “Saturday Night at the Movies.”
Photography by Daniel Smyth
No one enjoyed the convivial ambience of a cocktail party more than Art Kuhn.
“He was an amazing, generous man who loved, loved, loved our community,” says Laura Lamb, CEO of Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). “Everyone who knew him knew he greatly appreciated the social camaraderie created around a memorable resident mixer at Deupree House.” Kuhn, in fact, was responsible for getting the rather elaborate parties started – and paid for – beginning in the early 1990s, seeing to it that they were listed on the community’s monthly event calendar for years.
Still, Lamb recalls, it was quite a surprise to discover that when Kuhn passed away at 100 in 2004, he left a rather impressive endowment to carry out his wish that the cocktail parties continue after he was gone. And so, 13 years later, Deupree House residents party on in Kuhn’s memory on the third Thursday of each month. Refreshing cocktails, delicious appetizers and enjoyable background music take center stage in the beautiful Deupree House clubroom to the tune of between $350 and $500 a month.
“It’s a wonderful way for the residents to socialize and get to know each other,” says Lamb, good-naturedly boasting that she is fairly certain Deupree House is the only retirement community in the area with an endowed cocktail party. “Art just enjoyed the social connection so much, he wanted to make sure the get-togethers would never, ever be tossed aside due to budget cuts.”
Socially engaged residents are healthy, happy and whole residents, says Bryan Reynolds, ERS integrated marketing director. And Kuhn’s well-attended perpetual happy hour is but one example of how vital socializing and community involvement are to Deupree House residents’ overall well-being.
“We encourage our residents to become and remain socially, actively engaged,” Reynolds says. “Our organization has adopted a philosophy of person-centered care that has become a staple with not-for-profit senior living communities like ours. We offer all the opportunities we can to help residents fulfill their purposes in life.”
Kay Hauer, was the editor of the Cincinnati Society Blue Book and well known as the Cincinnati Post society page editor for 10 years. She and her husband, William, a prominent attorney, moved to Deupree House in 2007. William passed away in 2009. Hauer has since reinvented her professional persona as library director at Deupree House. She has a budget from which she works, shopping for and keeping track of the library’s collection of about 2,000 books.
“I worked my whole life. I like organizing (the books). I could organize everything in the world but my husband,” Hauer jokes. Her volunteer job as library director helps her keep abreast of what’s going on in the literary world, and she enjoys providing this important service and interacting with the other residents who visit the library. “They are so delightful. It’s very pleasant work. In fact, I can’t even call it work. I have good memories of my past, but I am happily busy now. I’m enjoying every day of my life.”
That kind of involvement in the day-to-day operations of Deupree House is an integral part of the community’s culture. It helps new residents assimilate quickly as they are welcomed to their new home with open arms and warm smiles. Susan Smyth likens being a newcomer in a retirement community to the major changes one undergoes as a college freshman. Smyth, who continues to work as a management consultant, and her husband, Ernie Lewis, a retired teaching executive, have lived at Deupree House for just a little more than a year. She recently started a “Frosh Lunch” to greet new residents with food, conversation and laughter. The first event was in November.
“It can sometimes take a while to feel at home after a major change,” Smyth says. “For some, it takes longer than others. Maybe some people are new to Cincinnati, or they are from other parts of the country, or just feeling a general loss at not knowing anyone. You move in and spend a lot of time that first month getting your apartment arranged, settling in and nesting. Then you come up for air and you realize, ‘I’m going to live here the rest of my life. Now it’s time for friendship.’ ”
That’s where the Frosh Lunch comes in handy, getting everyone together to share stories of their lives and common interests over a tasty meal in the dining room on the third Monday of every month. “There is some structure to it,” Smyth says. “Each person is asked to share something about themselves, and I always ask an extra question like, ‘What is a nice surprise about moving in here?’ For me, it was getting to know the maintenance staff. They are so helpful. Just wonderful.”
For Dr. Roger Giesel, moving into Deupree House, joining the Life Enrichment Committee, becoming a hospice counselor and establishing himself as one of the “movie guys” who helps pick out a weekly film, are what have turned out to be what he describes as the best time of his life. The retired Anderson Township physician enjoys spending his spare time teaching his fellow seniors the finer details of iPhone and iPad operation. He is also writing his memoir, which includes recently meeting the love of his life.
Episcopal Retirement Services is proud of its commitment to ensuring the emotional and physical well-being of seniors, says Arlan Graham, ERS creative director. The legacy continues, thanks to the dedicated professional ERS staff and dozens of active, involved residents like Hauer, Smyth and Dr. Giesel, who are happy to give their time and talent in order to enrich their fellow residents’ lives.
Since 1951, ERS has worked to improve the lives of older adults through innovative, quality senior living communities and services. ERS offers premier senior living, skilled nursing, assisted living, memory support, affordable living and in-home healthcare and other community-based services.
Episcopal Retirement Services is located at 3870 Virginia Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45227. You can reach them at 513.271.9610 or visit www.epsicopalretirement.com.