June 2014

Active older adults drawn to cottage-home living

Brigitte and Chester Umlauf find the close proximity of their cottage-home at Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown/The Robinwood Campus to family members and a variety of convenient services to be comforting.

Brigitte Umlauf likes the fact that she can plant flowers, but doesn’t need to worry about mowing grass or shoveling snow. Bob House appreciates the chance to use his building skills to make a throwing game for neighbors instead of the types of projects on which he worked while operating a home-improvement business.

Both moved, with their spouses, into cottage-homes on the Robinwood Campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown within the past year. And both have found that this type of senior living accommodation suits them and their families perfectly.

“We should have done this a long time ago ...."

Brigitte and her husband, Chester, like the fact that they are not far from their two sons. The proximity of doctors’ offices and the Meritus Medical Center across the street from the Robinwood campus is reassuring, they say, and the opportunity to be involved in activities and events at Diakon Senior Living is a plus.

“We had looked at the cottages before, but were not quite ready to leave our home in Thurmont,” says Brigitte. “This time, everything fell into place. We’ve been here now through all four seasons and everything is working so well.”

Bob and Judy House stand in the recreational area on the Robinwood Campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown. They say they are enjoying life at Robinwood so much they should have moved “a long time ago.”

Judy House says the Robinwood campus is the only place she and her husband, Bob, looked at. They have been so pleased with their cottage-home that Judy’s brother and sister-in-law decided to make the move also. The Houses' home is one of a number of new cottage-homes built by Diakon over the last six months.

“Our grandchildren and other family members come to visit and we have a lot of room, which we like,” Judy says. “We are still very active and we’re making new friends.”

“We should have done this a long time ago,” adds Bob, who is giving the custom-built cornhole game he built to Robinwood for use in the campus' recreational area, which includes a putting green and Bocce court.

The Houses say they made the move because they didn’t want their children to have to deal with such a transition later. Erin Younker, manager of marketing and sales at Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown, says she encounters similar situations often: Older adults looking at homes for themselves rather than having family members do it for them.

“People are planning ahead and some cottage-homes end up being pre-sold,” she says. “For example, four of our seven newest cottages are filled. We have land for future development and want to build more. Demand for cottages is growing.”

Younker believes the spacious layout of the cottages is a draw, as are the garages, which many senior communities do not offer. Extra touches such as granite countertops, high ceilings and walk-in showers are appealing as well, she says. Active older adults also appreciate the campus' fitness center, heated indoor pool, and activities at the Towne Center.

“This is a very active and vibrant community,” Younker says. “As people move in, new neighbors quickly become friends.”

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Youthful experiences help case worker guide at-risk teens toward lives of accountability and success

Siblings Michele and Michael Tafuri, who both work as case managers for Diakon Youth Services' Bridge Program in Delaware County, Pa., use their life experiences to help guide at-risk teens.

Michele Tafuri grew up in a small, Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Like hers, each surrounding neighborhood was identified by nationality, race, or religion.

“Throughout my middle school and early high school years, the surrounding neighborhoods seemed to toughen up in an effort to maintain their own and defend what was theirs. This meant that you could expect being noticed, if you were the wrong race or nationality in the wrong neighborhood,” Tafuri remembers, adding that her own father was shot and almost killed by a gang of teenagers just because he was white and walking down a street.

“Lines blurred, friendships were tested, and the only thing you could trust in was your family.”

Tafuri survived by relying on her brother, Michael, who like his sister is today a case manager for Diakon Youth Services' Bridge Program in Delaware County, Pa.

"I've been given the opportunity to help the girl I could have become.”

“I knew he always had my back and I would always believe in him. We kept each other safe and never let the other get into trouble alone,” she says. “We came from a hard-working family. We didn't have much, but what we did have was our pride and respect and no one was going to take that from us.”

It was that experience that helped prepare Tafuri for her role as a case manager with the Bridge Program.

“Growing up the way that I did provided me with the experience and street-smarts needed to empathize with the troubled teens I work with today,” she says. “I have the opportunity to contribute to positive change while giving back to the community.”

Through at-home and in-school visits, curfew checks and electronic monitoring, Tafuri teaches adolescent girls accountability, self-discipline, and respect, as well as about consequences and positive reinforcement.

Female youths in the Diakon Bridge Program work at a local shelter as part of efforts to install sense of responsibility and accountability.

Having learned the value of volunteerism while in high school, Tafuri also leads the teenagers in frequent group-volunteer projects, often at the local women’s shelter, as a way to complete their court-ordered community service. Projects range from cleaning and doing laundry to helping revitalize the Donation Center in the shelter’s basement.

“The girls have swept the floors and sorted through piles of clothes, used toys and trash bags and bins filled with blankets, bottles, and books,” she says. “One of the most impactful days spent at the shelter was when the girls were able to sit down and have a group discussion with a few of the teen mothers who had been living at the women's shelter.”

Each day, as Tafuri returns to work, she is driven by the changes she sees and the progress each girl makes.

“I see myself and my brother in the adolescents I work with every day. I've been given the opportunity to help the girl I could have become,” she says of her motivation for wanting to help young people succeed. “It's why I take pride in my job and in putting on my Diakon badge for work every day.”

"Michele and Michael exhibit tremendous passion as role models and colleagues," says Ron Davis, who oversees all of Diakon Youth Services' programs in southeastern Pennsylvania. "They are both genuine gifts to Diakon and to those we serve."

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