Seniors & Aging

‘Our residents are not just dwelling. They are living.’

The entrance to the Solstice Senior Living facility on Tuesday May 22, 2018, in Bellingham, Wash. (Paul Conrad/ for The Bellingham Herald)
The entrance to the Solstice Senior Living facility on Tuesday May 22, 2018, in Bellingham, Wash. (Paul Conrad/ for The Bellingham Herald) for The Bellingham Herald

At 87, Agnes “Aggie” Remsen leaves no blank space on her social calendar. She fills her days with everything from bingo to bridge to beanbag baseball and beyond.

For the past 1 ½ years she has resided at Solstice Senior Living in Bellingham, 2818 Old Fairhaven Parkway. The campus, which houses 111 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, is near St. Joseph’s hospital, Bellis Fair mall and local attractions, such as the Whatcom Museum, Mount Baker Theatre and the Bellingham Railway Museum. Shuttle service is available Monday through Friday.

Remsen said she enjoys the sociability of living in the senior community.

“I have the opportunity to meet with people throughout the day and do different things,” she said. “I am currently in a memoir-writing group. My life has never been boring or dull.”

The evening before Remsen spoke to The Bellingham Herald, she dined on a meal that featured food from 12 different countries, including Guam and Japan. It was part of a cultural event in the community.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was just plain fun.”

Residents in this tight-knit community range from 63 to 101.

“This is not a place where you come to dwell in your senior years,” Executive Director Larry MacDonald said. “This is a place where you come to live vibrantly.”

Residents receive three meals per day, but coffee, tea, juice and light snacks, such as fruit, are available 24 hours a day. Chefs are trained nutritionists who can accommodate residents on gluten-free diets, diabetic diets and more. At mealtime, residents can choose from a menu of seven options.

“I would describe this community as a cruise ship that never sails,” MacDonald said. “We always stay docked.”

Every Wednesday is a field trip. Residents have traveled to the local mall, Chinatown, Seattle and beyond.

“It’s the human touch we offer that sets us apart from other facilities,” MacDonald said “Every employee is trained to have a servant’s heart.”

Residents fill their social calendars with dancing, exercise classes, choir practice and more. Outside, they can meander on the walking paths or sip tea amongst the flowers in the courtyard.

Keeping that cruise ship imagery in mind, residents live independently while having all the amenities of a luxury cruise ship. They include kitchenettes, weekly housekeeping, cable TV, landscaped gardens, fitness center and educational programs for continued lifelong learning. Also available are restaurant-style dining, media rooms, complimentary and scheduled transportation, private dining rooms, where residents can entertain and continue their family traditions, a beauty salon, library, game and activity rooms and on-site complimentary laundry facilities. It’s also pet friendly.

“Solstice Senior Living’s top priority is to deliver a meaningful life experience for our residents,” MacDonald said. “As you visit our community, you will see engaged residents, passionate associates and all the comforts of home.”

Throughout the conversation, MacDonald repeatedly used the word “vibrant” to describe Solstice Senior Living. To instill that sense of energy and enthusiasm in the residents, Solstice Senior Living relies on seven components to foster the well-being of its residents:

▪ Be inspired, gain a deeper sense of spirituality and feed the soul.

▪ Be well, intellectual stimulation, get moving and stay active.

▪ Be challenged, ignite competitive spirit, learn, grow and motivate

▪ Be adventurous, try something new every day, explore and experience the unique.

▪ Be family, cherish family connections, share and continue family traditions.

▪ Be social, embrace friendships, celebrate the moments, talk, laugh and listen.

▪ Be connected, engage in meaningful community involvement, share experiences and expertise.

“Our residents are not just dwelling,” MacDonald repeated. “They are living.”