Barbara and Bill Smiths’ Story

For Bill and Barbara Smith, the decision to move to St. John’s Meadows was researched and well thought out–the way they do most things. In fact, the move they made this past June into Briarwood was not the first time they downsized purposefully. They went through a similar experience 34 years ago upon moving from their large Victorian family home into a nearby townhouse in the Pittsford area when their two daughters, now in their fifties, went off to college.

“I am a planner and an organizer. I measure everything,” says Barbara, with Bill concurring strongly, nodding and chuckling. They had begun exploring a move from their townhouse for about three years by attending events at area senior living communities and visiting friends who had already made similar moves. According to Barbara, there were similarities between independent living providers, but St. John’s positively offered a “different kind of culture.”

There was also, perhaps, an even more important impetus to making this transition at this time. When Bill was diagnosed with dementia, Barbara felt it was important to be open about it and “tell everyone” in order to learn as much as they could from others. Finding a place that was accepting and knowledgeable about those with dementia, as well as which provided resources and supports in this area, was a factor in their decision.

In terms of needing immediate dementia care, “we are not there yet, but we may be someday,” says Barbara. The Smiths recently learned about St. John’s new project to build a physical dementia resource center at its nearby 150 Highland Avenue location and its current offering, an online caregiver tool box of resources and articles.

Although Bill’s dementia has not yet progressed to the point of needing a high level of care, Barbara says that it did make an unexpected impact on the move. “I would encourage people to make a move sooner rather than later,” says Barbara, of those who have a loved one with dementia. Barbara shared a short “funny” story, with Bill’s approval, demonstrating the challenges of repeating your packing when your husband puts back on the shelf the same items you have boxed up for the move. Says Bill with a smile, “you pack twice or three times.”

Now that they have settled in, it is “all good,” says Bill. Barbara agrees, “I do not have any complaints.” In fact, Barbara was recently “wowed” when there was a small problem with a bathroom fixture in their new apartment and St. John’s Building Services resolved the issue in less than 30 minutes. “You can’t do anything better than this,” says Barbara.

Barbara and Bill are looking forward to exploring all of the offerings available at St. John’s Meadows. “All of the amenities here. I just cannot say enough good about it,” says Barbara. The couple is on bundled plan and intends to benefit from the value this provides. And, according to Barbara, Bill likes music and also wants to use the indoor pool.

A weaver who at one time owned her own boutique in the Syracuse area, Barbara is still an avid crafter. One of the rooms in their new apartment is set up as her crafting sanctuary with many small projects in various stages of progress.

Bill, who was by profession an environmental engineer, has hobbies of his own that he hopes to continue at St. John’s. According to Barbara, Bill had a “workshop that was a dream,” which Bill notes took four trips to pack up from their townhouse. Bill looks forward to using the woodshop at Briarwood, as well as continuing support of the Finger Lakes Boating Museum in Hammondsport, NY, where he had served as a board member.

Having for many years served as volunteers for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance traveling to disaster areas across the nation not knowing what they would encounter upon arrival, the Smiths are certainly committed to service and value relationships with people. “We are all the same in the same ways we are all different,” says Barbara, of the people she has met, many with whom she and Bill remain in contact.

It is clear that these “newbies,” as Bill calls himself and Barbara, to St. John’s Meadows, will not remain strangers for long to fellow residents. They have many stories to tell about their past adventures; hobbies to share with other resident crafters; as well as a desire to learn from those that have traveled similar roads before them, especially when it comes to learning about Bill’s dementia. “I feel as though we all ought to be open,” says Barbara, who talks freely about their circumstances. “In case that person says, ‘OK, I can help.'”