Guest Article by Cara Clark, Freelance Writer and Editor
Lila and Bernie Barton decided for themselves when it was time to move from their Trussville home to a no-maintenance independent living facility. The Bartons moved to a spanking new facility where they were the first residents in the building. It had all of the amenities and promise of future success, but it turned out not to be the right place or the right time.
“It was a very lovely apartment, but very few people moved in,” Lila says. “We knew in a year or two, it would be wonderful, but they had a lot of learning to do, and we felt like we didn’t want that to happen on our nickel.”
The Bartons, who had lived in different areas of the country over the years, had moved to Trussville to be closer to their daughter, who had been in the Greater Birmingham area for 30 years. It was her suggestion that took them to Fair Haven.
“From the moment we walked in the door, everyone was warm and loving,” says Lila, now 88 years old. “We absolutely made the right choice, and this has been one of the best experiences of our living anywhere at any time.”
That feeling was reinforced less than six months ago when her husband died after the two lived together at Fair Haven for almost three years.
“Everyone surrounded me with love,” Lila says. “They have been so kind and considerate. Here I feel like I live in a huge apartment with 60 other wonderful people around me.”
Lila believes its people that make a true home – the actual structure is simply four walls and a roof.
“The best thing about the experience was that we decided on our own,” Lila says. “We knew for ourselves that it was time to make a move. We didn’t want to live in a house all by ourselves. We needed the companionship of other people. I tell people they need to do this when they are capable and not when it’s decided that they need to be in a facility.”
As she discusses her life, Lila corrects her verbiage several times, saying she doesn’t view Fair Haven as a facility, but as a treasured home. If the couple had not settled there, she would have been completely adrift when she lost her husband.
“I would have been totally devastated with no support whatsoever,” she says. “Here, I open a door, and within two minutes someone is here. I would do anything for any of these people, and they would do anything for me. It’s a caring, wonderful home.”
Originally from New York, Bertie was a psychologist and Lila was a school teacher. They moved from South Carolina to settle close to their daughter in Birmingham. Another daughter lives in Seattle, a climate they wanted to avoid, and a son is in Australia. They lived in their Trussville house for almost 14 years before deciding the upkeep was becoming a burden. Life at Fair Haven is relatively carefree.
“You pick up the phone, and they fix a lightbulb or change a fan or help with the television,” Lila says. “It’s so much easier to be here. It’s all inclusive for me.”
Lila loves to read and takes part in a book club and playing bridge. She’s also an avid knitter and almost started a cottage industry of her own knitting for people’s great-grandchildren.
“I love people,’” she says. “That’s the best thing about life – the people you come into contact with and hopefully make an impression on. Life is about being kind and caring for the other person so they can care for you.”
For more information about life at Fair Haven, including details on our how to make Fair Haven your new home, contact Lifestyle Specialist Ardell Fleeson at 205-956-4150, or send an email to her at AFleeson@fairhavenbirmingham.org.