ANOTHER LINK IN THE CHAIN OF LIFE

by Selfhelp Resident, Les Mitnick

We change as our priorities and needs change. Speaking only for myself, I can emphatically state that in my twenties, thirties, and forties (and even my fifties!), I never gave much thought to what my needs would be in my seventies. However, I’ve always been a “planner”, and I was taught relatively early in life to make decisive decisions.

My decision to make my home here at Selfhelp was based on my personal “time clock”. I pondered the future while still living in the present. I had the good fortune of being able to give bi-monthly musical programs at Self Help since 2010 (while I was in my middle sixties) and was gratified by the enthusiasm of the residents. Moreover, I found the atmosphere here at Selfhelp to be extremely warm, cordial, and wonderfully evergreen and friendly. I found myself establishing a beautiful rapport with many of the residents, all of whom embraced me with enthusiasm.

As the years passed, I began to think of Selfhelp as a home for me when I felt the time would come. I had the opportunity to see a variety of apartments at Selfhelp, and soon realized that any number of them would suit my needs perfectly — and so I began to work towards the fruition of my plan to make my “big move” and to become a permanent resident here at Selfhelp.

Now that my moving experience is behind me, I am thrilled to say that I feel settled, secure, and strangely enough, I’ve not looked back. I enjoy the feeling of community here as well as the sense of “family”. I cherish the associations and friendships I’ve made here and I feel exhilarated by the “extras” offered as well — the theatrical films, the frequent live concerts and recitals, the lectures, etc. I’ve found that dining at a table with cordial people adds a most important component of life that few should live without: the act of socialization.

And so I’ve begun another journey in this odyssey which we can call life. I’ve always said that virtually everyone has sufficient life resources to write their autobiography. Plainly, residing here at the Selfhelp Home can augment that autobiography.

Life-Changing Care at The Selfhelp Home

Not only has resident Jeffrey Korman touched almost every part of The Selfhelp Home and its levels of care, but The Selfhelp Home has also touched him.

In 2017, at the age of 62, Korman suffered three strokes several months apart. During that frightening time, he was in and out of the hospital and rehab, sometimes having frustrating experiences with healthcare. After the third stroke, he was not in good shape. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t swallow. I was being tube fed, and I had no idea what was going on,” Korman says.

He needed good rehab care. So Korman’s sister in Boston set out to research properties and saw that U.S. News & World Report had ranked The Selfhelp Home as a top-performing rehab and skilled nursing facility.

Korman was disoriented when he entered Selfhelp. But even then, he could tell that it was a different kind of place, a caring place, he says.. Under the care of the sixth-floor skilled nursing and rehab team, he began to improve.

Being only 62, Korman was in good shape before the strokes. Young, and active, it was important for him to get back to functioning quickly.

“I say that I’m the first person to come in here horizontal and leave vertical,” he jokes.

Yet, it was hard. Even seemingly simple tasks like swallowing or maintaining his balance were tough. “All these things our body does are really complicated. Standing and swallowing seem so basic, and I couldn’t do either,” Korman says.

Depressed, he remembered what a friend told him: “Just when you’re depressed that you lost the ability to do something, be positive because you’re really close to finding your way through the door.”

After that mystical moment, Korman began to keep his balance for a second or two, and then longer. He became well enough to start doing physical, occupational and speech therapy. And, again, he felt the caring Selfhelp difference.

Talk to Korman and he’ll start rattling off the names of the people who helped him at various points along his path – Justin, Chorda, Eric, Paul, Jody, Emily, Bridget, Megan, Benna, Laura, Liza, Sofie, Bernard, Kalvin – and he’ll circle back several times to add the names of others. The staff helped him to regain his functioning after the series of strokes.

“At some point, I said that I didn’t want to be good for 62 or good for a stroke victim, so they pushed me,” he says. “I guess it might be routine for them, but to me it was extraordinary. Every single person knew what they were doing. All across the board, the sixth floor [skilled nursing] was good as it could be. I felt everybody cheering me on.”

After close to 2 months in skilled nursing, Korman was getting better and it was time for him to move on. When he suffered his three strokes, he was moving into an apartment with two of his adult children. But that was no longer an option, and he had nowhere to go, with no furnishings readily available.

So the staff involved in his care came up with an idea: The Selfhelp Home set up a furnished apartment specifically for Korman’s needs, with a hybrid of independent living and some transitional care.

Korman thrived and, now back in good shape, gave back to the community, using his technology background to consult on the building’s new wifi system and starting a Scrabble night on Tuesdays.

He took the opportunity to really appreciate Selfhelp’s unique culture. Korman was touched by the stories of fellow residents, especially the stories of Holocaust survivors. He soaked up their life experiences, learning from their philosophy of surviving and thriving. And he was the recipient of what he calls “the real loving care of the residents who saw me have an adventure getting to the dinner table when I was first here.”

Having the strokes – a “slap in the face about my mortality” — and meeting the other residents made Korman realize what he takes for granted in his everyday life.

“You would never have a stroke on purpose, but to have a stop at 62-63 years old and hear the story of 90-year-olds and what their life’s been, fleeing Austria and then going to South America and finding their way to Chicago,” he says. “You hear the stories of everybody here — what an education and perspective on life, our path and spirituality.”

While usually people increase their level of care at senior facilities (independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing), Korman was doing it in reverse, moving from skilled nursing down to independent living.

“I think I was like Frankenstein at the beginning, and now people are afraid because I almost knock them over,” he says.

But now at 63 years old, he wasn’t ready for retirement living – not yet. So in July he was given the all-clear to be on his own. Korman bought a condo in Evanston and made arrangements to leave Selfhelp and go back part-time to his former computer systems job.

Overall, Korman is grateful for the healing and support he received at The Selfhelp Home, both from the caring staff and from the loving residents.

“Like I said, who would’ve purposefully had this experience?” he says. “But my recovery, the support in my recovery and just living here has just changed my life. I’m changed for having been here, even if I had no health problem.”

“You would never have a stroke on purpose, but to have a stop at 62-63 years old and hear the story of 90-year-olds and what their life’s been, fleeing Austria and then going to South America and finding their way to Chicago,” he says. “You hear the stories of everybody here — what an education and perspective on life, our path and spirituality.”

While usually people increase their level of care at senior facilities (independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing), Korman was doing it in reverse, moving from skilled nursing down to independent living.

“I think I was like Frankenstein at the beginning, and now people are afraid because I almost knock them over,” he says.

But now at 63 years old, he wasn’t ready for retirement living – not yet. So in July he was given the all-clear to be on his own. Korman bought a condo in Evanston and made arrangements to leave Selfhelp and go back part-time to his former computer systems job.

Overall, Korman is grateful for the healing and support he received at The Selfhelp Home, both from the caring staff and from the loving residents.

“Like I said, who would’ve purposefully had this experience?” he says. “But my recovery, the support in my recovery and just living here has just changed my life. I’m changed for having been here, even if I had no health problem.”

 

 

Meet Resident Donald Davidson

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Donald is 80 years young and embraces each day with contagious optimism and an unquenchable passion for life.  He grew up on Chicago’s south side (82nd and Luella Avenue), attended Horace Mann grammar school and graduated as South Shore High School’s esteemed Valedictorian.  He credits his Russian-born father (Minsk) for his uncanny sense of humor, love of the arts and positive attitude.  He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters in Chemical Engineering.  He was inspired by the challenging world of computers and became the Director of the Computer Technology Department at Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, IL.  His successful 42- year career was rich with milestones and achievements.  Donald has enjoyed traveling the globe and maximized his free time to explore and develop his artistic talents.  He planned ahead and retired at the age of 65.

“Live for the moment and let the past go.”

Donald has a warm, extroverted personality and seeks the company of upbeat, bright, engaging and positive individuals.  He has developed many diverse interests and continues pursuing them with abandon.  His favorite hobbies are music, dancing and great books.  He discovered the world of folk dancing as a young man and became an active, involved participant.  After mastering the basics, he shared his skills and became a popular folk dancing instructor.  He’s particularly drawn to Eastern European music.  His CD collection is eclectic and showcases a variety of genres including Klezmer, Gypsy, Bulgarian, Yugoslavian, Jazz and more.  His social life has always been active and folk dancing became his favorite place for meeting and networking with fascinating people.  Reading a variety of great books has always been second nature to Donald.  He’s an avid reader and is in the process of compiling his updated book collection.  It includes a variety of rare collector’s items and numbers approximately 40,000 volumes.

Donald was introduced to the Selfhelp Home in 2012.  His beloved, late wife, Rita, was a patient in the rehabilitation program.  He was impressed with the unique history, compassionate staff and unsurpassed high quality standards.  When management inquired if he would consider moving into the Selfhelp Home, his immediate response was, “I simply wouldn’t consider living anyplace else!”

 Donald is an extremely positive, forward thinking individual.  He’s involved in various activities and is a loyal fan of the Sunday afternoon concerts and current event discussions.  He enjoys schmoozing and engaging in all kinds of conversations with his growing circle of friends.  Donald is close to his younger siblings and is very involved in the lives of his three children and grandchildren.  Donald strives to live each day with humor, joy and always sees the glass as more than half full. 

“Everything that has happened to me in my life has been a learning experience.”  Donald doesn’t dwell on past mistakes and concludes:  “I’ve lived a full life and have absolutely zero regrets.  I’m looking forward to each day of my new chapter.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Resident Finny Rosner

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Finny was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria.  She’s a tall, elegant ninety-two (92) years young.  Her memorable childhood home was filled with books, art, music and love.  As a young girl, she learned to speak French, in addition to her native German, and treasured her childhood years.  Her life took a dramatic turn for the worse when the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany occurred in March of 1938.

I’ll never forget March 12, 1938.  Hitler annexed Austria, and we Jews were thrown out of our homeland.  I was furious! 

 Finny moved to Chicago to live with relatives when she was thirteen (13) years old.  She mastered English, wore hand-me-down clothes and rebuilt her life.  She was drawn to inspiring young people and became a high school English teacher, first at Hyde Park High School, then at Near North Career Metro High School in the (former) Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

She enjoyed her work and encouraged many poor immigrant students to overcome language barriers. “If you can live in a country, you can learn the language.”   Finny married a gentleman from a cultured family and gave birth to three (3) wonderful children.  They’ve each been successful in their careers.  She values their integrity and close relationships with each other.  “My kids are the most decent human beings, they are good people and truly like each other.” 

 Finny is an energetic, optimistic individual who exudes both confidence and humility, with a delicious sense of humor.  “As I’ve lived my life, I’ve adapted and am grateful for the ability to let go of negative and destructive things.  Gratitude enhances my daily life.”

 She’s an avid reader and an involved book club participant.  She loves the theatre and was a regular subscriber to the Goodman, Northlight and Steppenwolf theatres for many years.

Smiling, she sums up her reflections, “The Selfhelp Home is a kind, comfortable place.  I appreciate the free choice and variety of activities.  The memory games keep my gray matter active and the Sunday concerts are the best.  I’m grateful for each and every day that I’m a member of this amazing community!”  

 

Meet Resident Shirley Greenberger

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

“I love my life, feel extremely lucky and have no regrets.” Shirley G.

Shirley is 95 years young and lights up any room with her energy, optimism and zest for life.  She was born on Grand Island, a small town near Omaha, Nebraska.  Her parents were born in Russia, survived tough times and cherished moving to the United States “When my parents arrived in the U.S., Hebrew Immigration Aid Society  was our family lifesaver, they fed and clothed us, taught us how to speak English and made us feel like family.”

 Although the family struggled financially during the depression, they were rich in their love for each other.  Shirley credits her early days for her “can do” outlook on life.  She was especially close to her oldest brother and several sisters.  She met her late husband on a blind date.  He was immediately smitten with her beauty and charm.  They married, raised four wonderful sons and moved to Los Angeles.  Her husband was a dedicated entrepreneur, owned two women’s retail stores and became very successful.  Shirley had a natural flair for fashion.  They worked hard, combined their talents and their business flourished.

Shirley is a gifted artist and has decorated her room with several of her exquisite paintings.  She’s an avid reader and surrounds herself with positive individuals who share her love of life.  Shirley’s looking forward to celebrating her upcoming 96th birthday.  “As my parents lives were forever changed by HIAS, moving into this extraordinary Selfhelp Home community has made all the difference!  I have no regrets about anything and embrace each new day!”

Meet Resident Adele Bernstein

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Meet Resident, Adele Bernstein

“If God gives you the years, you live.”

Adele’s devoted father, Oscar Shore, taught her to live by these enduring words.  Born in Philadelphia in 1914, she’s a proud 102 years young.  After losing her mother at the young age of 5, her father vowed to raise his only daughter with care, love and deeply rooted Jewish values.  With the help of doting grandparents and Sadye, an older cousin mentor, Adele became a very smart, independent woman.

Adele and her father moved to the west side of Chicago. She graduated from Marshall High School and found an executive secretarial job in a real estate office.  A friend introduced her to her future husband, Norman Bernstein, a fine man who sold dry goods. Adele stills recalls their first date with a twinkle in her eye. “We double dated, saw Bob Hope’s very first movie and met at Chicago’s Avalon Theatre (79th and Stony Island).”  They married in 1940, raised two wonderful children and has 6 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  Adele feels grateful for the fulfilling life she’s lived with her late husband and family.

Adele believes she’s experienced both bad and good luck in her life.  The bad luck was losing her mom at a tender, vulnerable age.  Her good luck was in having a father, husband, and family who embraced her.  She describes her thoughts, “My late husband, son, and daughter are my lucky dividends.”  Adele truly lives each day, participating in art and poetry classes.  She also enjoys meeting new people and has many visitors.  She expressed her life today as part of the Selfhelp Home community:  “I am fortunate to not live in an institution, but in a special place that truly feels like home.  The staff is very caring, and I’m so very lucky to live at the Selfhelp Home.”