Tag Archives: The Residence at Westport

Roundup: Art, Dogs, More

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Valentine’s Day is over. But a “Share the Love” art is exhibit is on display for the next 2 weeks, at The Residence at Westport. The display highlights 18 professional and emerging local artists.

This Friday (February 19), The Residence hosts “Cocktails and Curating.” It’s an interactive, on-site reception where artists will share their stories, inspirations and highlights live, and to guests via Zoom. Senior Center members are particularly welcome.

The project was developed by Lisa Stretton, founder of RealArtRealArtists, an online directory through which users search for original art for sale by professional artists.

“Morning Walk,” displayed at The Residence at Westport. Artist Lisa Stretton was inspired by Compo Beach.

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The Westport Book Shop wasted no time becoming part of the arts community.

The used book store on Jesup Green opened earlier this month. Already, their first art exhibit — in what they call the Drew Friedman Art Place — is on display.  The show features photographic prints of artworks by renowned local assemblage artist Nina Bentley.

The exhibit is open during business hours: Thursdays and Fridays 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

Miggs Burroughs is curating the Westport Book Shop exhibits. They’ll change monthly.

Nina Bentley, with photos of her art at the Westport Book Shop.

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Westport native Cathy Malkin moved back here in November, after 31 years in the Bay Area. Her sister Stefani Malkin Cohen now lives in New Rochelle.

Cathy is an animal communicator and animal Reiki practitioner. Stefani is a therapist, working with children and families.

Stefani developed a niche helping kids who are afraid of dogs (it works with adults too). That’s a real fear — and unlike spiders or snakes, it’s hard to avoid dogs.

“Overcoming Your Child’s Fear of Dogs” covers understanding dog behavior; how dogs communicate, and staying safe around dogs.

“We teach kids to look both ways before they cross the street, to not touch hot things and to stop, drop and roll in a fire,” Stefani says. “But parents rarely teach them how to interact safely and respectfully with dogs.”

Click here for more information, and to order Stefani’s book.

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The Westport Book Shop is serious about adhering to COVID limits on customers. Here’s the new guard:

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We missed a couple of great Valentine’s Day photos yesterday. So here’s to love — 24/7/365!

Saugatuck River (Photo/Lori Dodd)

Old Mill Beach (Photo/Les Dinkin)

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And finally … Happy Presidents Day!

Who knew that “Hail to the Chief” has words?

For all you history nerds (like me), here is the first time “Hail to the Chief” was played for every president from John F. Kennedy to Joe Biden …

… and the last, for every president funeral from Kennedy to George H.W. Bush:

Senior Center, Senior Residence Engage Older Westporters

The Senior Center has been closed since spring.

The Residence at Westport opened this summer.

Now the 2 — both, in their way, “homes” for older men and women — are working together, to end feelings of isolation forced by the pandemic.

With its Imperial Avenue doors shut, the Senior Center has moved many programs to Zoom, YouTube and Cablevision Channel 79.

Music performances, museum tours, art shows, workouts with Patty Kondub, book talks, discussions on emotional well-being — all are shared with the Residence. That’s the new assisted living community, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

The Senior Center is closed. But its programs continue.

Meanwhile, Residence residents made decorations, like Halloween pumpkins, to add to Senior Center home delivery programs. The Residence’s chef baked pies for Thanksgiving meals.

Senior Center director Sue Pfister has known The Residence executive director Michelle Piskin for years. Both women take holistic approaches, caring for the physical, emotional and social needs of the people they work with.

Pfister also reached out Heather Wood, activities director at The Residence, to make sure she knew everything the Senior Center offers, to all Westporters.

Whether in-person or online, the Senior Center is a superb resource for older citizens. The Residence is a great option for people wanting to downsize, yet still live in the area.

When the Senior Center reopens, the relationship between it and The Residence will continue — in-person, as well as in cyberspace.

When the Senior Center reopens, residents at The Residence will enjoy in-person events. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Flowers For The Front Lines

For most people, Valentine’s Day means buying a rose — a dozen, if you’re a big spender (or have a lot of making up to do) — for a loved one.

Michele Sinacore arranges and delivers those with ease.

But this week she’s in a crazy rush to deliver 1,500 roses, ordered by people for loved ones they’ve never met.

They’ll brighten the days of front line workers all around Fairfield County.

Michele — a Westport mom and former New York event producer — started Blossom + Stem Floral Design just over a year ago, at home. She’s succeeded during the pandemic with creativity, talent and persistence.

Yet even in the toughest times, she gives back to the community.

In June, Michele donated hundreds of boxed lunches (with flowers) to Yale New Haven Hospital. A former competitive triathlete and current avid runner who was diagnosed in 2019 with a very rare tumor, she’d been touched by the care she received their after intensive surgery.

Michele Sinacore (Photo/Tamira Wilcox)

That experience — and the grateful thanks for her gift — sparked an idea.

A longtime admirer of (and volunteer with) Al’s Angels, she approached founder Al DiGuido with an idea: asking residents to donate roses to local front liners.

Al went right to work. Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford Hospitals jumped at the idea of showing love to their staff.

Al’s network of donors came through too. In the first 10 minutes, 250 roses were promised. Within 72 hours, 600 flowers had been been donated.

Michele and Al added The Residence at Westport and Montefiore to their list of recipients. Soon, they’d sold 1,500 roses. People donated on behalf of their children, friends, even pets.

Local businesses like Performance Physical Therapy became supporters too.

On Monday, East Coast Whole Flowers delivered those 1,500 flowers to Michele’s garage. Teams of (masked and socially distanced) volunteers began pruning, water tubing and wrapping them in a temperature-friendly (cold) setting. They added messages of support, written by donors, to each rose.

A few of the 1,500 roses in Michele’s garage.

The next day, Michele made her first delivery: 65 flowers to The Residence. Employees were getting vaccinated — and, as an extra treat, given a rose.

Yesterday, Bridgeport and Montefiore Hospitals got 250 to 400 roses. They’ll hand them to staffs in their ICU, COVID, ER and children’s units.

Still ahead: Norwalk and Stamford Hospitals.

Michele Sinacore, surrounded by roses in her garage.

It’s Michele and Al’s way of spreading love and thanks.

Now all you need to do is order your own rose (or dozen) for your loved one, from Blossom + Stem. They deliver to our front liners — and to you.

Patty Gabal’s Moving Senior Moments

In your 20s, it’s easy to move. You call a friend, toss your few belongings in his truck, throw them on your new floor, and hand him a beer.

In your 30s and 40s it’s tougher — but manageable. Odds are you’re moving to a same size or bigger house. Your company may even foot the bill. You know the drill.

But when you’re older, making what may be your last move can be daunting. Your spouse may have died. You’re leaving a home you love for a smaller place. Most difficult: Look at all that stuff you’ve got! 

Figuring out what to keep and what goes can be paralyzing. Add in other hard questions — who gets what I’m giving away, and how does it get there? — and it’s no wonder some people simply give up and stay put.

They should call Patty Gabal.

Patty Gabal

She and her husband Jim have lived in the same Westport home for 23 years. They raised 3 kids there. But this is not a cobbler’s-children-have-no-shoes tale.

In 2005 Patty — who had been a registered nurse and an executive recruiter — heard about an emerging industry. “Senior move managers” were helping older folks downsize, and move into a new type of community: independent and assisted living.

A few dozen companies had formed the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers. They were helpful and kind — just the sort of people she’d have wanted to move her own parents.

She and a childhood friend, Paula Meighan of Larchmont, researched the field. They formed a company: Stardust Move Managers.

It was a natural “move” for Patty.

“I’m very organized,” she explains. “When I was a nurse, I learned to do things in order. Whenever I moved, I kept a notebook of things that needed to be done.”

To prepare for her new role she took classes, went to conventions, learned the industry’s code of ethics, and paid for insurance and workmen’s compensation.

Aargh! Look at this basement! Where to begin?! No problem. Patty was on it!

She and Paula filled a huge need few folks even knew existed. They’re full-service. too. Stardust — which employs 7 people, including Westporters Diane McCoy, Judy Raines and Lillian Krause (Paula now has her own business, in Westchester) — hires movers, supervises packing and unpacking, ships items that are given to children and others, and works with other managers if someone moves outside this area.

For items that don’t make the bring-or-give-to-kids’ list, Patty arranges donations to organizations like Homes with Hope, Neighbor to Neighbor and Goodwill.

Of course, not every senior wants to move. For those who stay in place, Patty can de-clutter to make a home more livable.

But a recent moving client is typical, Patty says. Julie Belaga was downsizing, from her Westport home to The Residence, our town’s new independent living facility.

The Residence at Westport is beautiful. But apartments are smaller than the average Westport home.

She felt overwhelmed by the task. Like many in her situation, she had no idea where to begin.

Patty helped her choose which furniture she wanted to keep. Patty got a Residence floor plan, measured each item, and figured out what could go where.

Julie’s children came from their homes across the country. They decided what they wanted. Those items stayed, and helped Julie’s realtor stage the home for showing.

Patty stickered every item: go, give to (child’s name); give away. She has strong relationships with moving companies; the packing process is quick and efficient.

Patty was at Julie’s new home for unloading. Her staff unpacked everything, hung all the clothes in the closet, made the bed, then got rid of the boxes.

When Julie walked in with her daughter, her eyes lit up. “It’s beautiful!” she said — like a recreation of her home.

Unpacking in a new kitchen.

In her 15 years as a senior move manager, Patty has realized “how much things mean to people.”

She appreciates the delicacy and impact of what she does. “People share their most intimate things with us. They do it because we’ve built trust.

“There’s no judgment. If someone is really attached to something — anything — we try to make it work.”

She also sees family dynamics at work. “You’d be surprised at how much goes into breaking up a home.” (There’s a book about this: Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?)

“But we’re a neutral party. We help them negotiate it. Children of adults love us. We help guide them all.”

Patty pauses. “And when we’re there, people act better.”

A new bedroom, ready to move into.

It is rewarding, she says. “to see seniors transition without all the physical work and decision-making. And to see them in one piece, not exhausted, able to start right out enjoying their new community.”

Another reward: listening.

“Seniors have been through a lot. They tell amazing stories,” says Patty.

“When I was starting out, I moved a lot of World War II veterans. They had some amazing collections, including art. Some of them were like museums.”

Of course, even museums deaccession their collections. If they’re smart, they’ll call Patty Gabal for help.

The Stardust Move Managers. Front row (from left): Sue Lapsien, Lillian Krause, Judy Raines, Liz Donovan. Back: Diane McCoy, Patty Gabal. Maura Connolly, Kelly Chase.

(Click here to contact Stardust Move Managers.)

The Residence: Westport’s Newest “Oldest” Gem

In 1973, the Planning & Zoning Commission offered a regulation to allow a senior living facility in town. It would have enabled older Westporters to stay close to friends, in the community they loved, after their children grew up and they wanted to downsize.

The RTM turned it down.

“We don’t need those old folks,” one member said. Nearly half a century, Julie Belaga — who chaired the P&Z back then — has not forgotten those words.

Julie Belaga

Belaga went on to serve in the Connecticut Legislature, run for governor, become New England director of the EPA, and earn an appointment by President Clinton to the Export-Import Bank.

She’s now 90 years old. A few months ago, she sold her Westport home. Her new residence is The Residence at Westport.

That’s our town’s only assisted living community. Located on the Post Road, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School and behind a new apartment building, it offers independent living, assisted living and memory care options.

It’s spacious, bright, warm and welcoming. Residents enjoy anytime dining (including a bistro and pub), salon, entertainment spaces, a fitness center, concierge service, even parking for electric vehicles.

It’s exactly what Belaga envisioned, as a 43-year-old in 1973. It only took 47 years to build.

Much has changed since the Nixon administration. Most “06880” readers have never heard of The Residence at Westport. It was presented, passed and built without a peep from anyone.

And when people learn about it — no matter how old or young — they love it.

Belaga — who is up on all the national and local news — nonetheless was one of many Westporters who did not know an assisted living community had come to her home town. After her husband Mike died, a realtor suggested she look at The Residence.

“My god!” Belaga thought when she walked in. “This is exactly what Westport needs.”

The Residence at Westport.

She and Mike moved from England to Berndale Road in 1965. They loved their house and neighborhood, but as they aged they needed a 1-level home. They found one on Newtown Turnpike. It had a waterfall and beautiful garden; they loved it too.

Yet as a widow, Belaga thought she would have to move to “someplace like Ridgefield.” Then she discovered The Residence.

She moved in 4 months ago, just after it opened. She’s been thrilled by the amenities, the great chefs, the “very accessible and kind staff” (they even hung all her pictures for her) — and unexpected delights, like being “where all the action is,” on the Post Road.

Friends live in nearby condo complexes. She still drives (“locally and not at night!” she says), and visits them easily.

Dining at The Residence.

Another joy: One of her neighbors is Ellie Dinitz. Her late husband Arthur served on the P&Z with Belaga.

One more surprise: “How did this happen without me knowing about it?” she asks.

“I was going to call (First Selectman) Jim Marpe and ask. That’s the last thing he needs. But I’m fascinated: How could this have been built without a brouhaha like in the ’70s?

“I love Westport, with all its quirks,” Belaga says. Speaking of both her town and her new home, she adds, “It is so satisfying to be part of a community that cares.”

Westport, she notes, is “enriched that people can make choices based on their needs, not on what others in town think they need.”

Meanwhile, Belaga continues to enrich all of us. The other day, she was asked to help on a project for the League of Conservation Voters. That’s fitting: Years ago, she helped start the organization.

“I live in a town I love. I have a great apartment. And my kids are grateful, because they don’t have to worry about me morning, noon and night,” Belaga says.

“How lucky can I be?”

(The Residence at Westport is at 1140 Post Road East. Click here for more details.)

 

Senior Housing Rises — Quietly — In Westport

Senior communities are fairly quiet. Older residents are not loud. They don’t drive much, or create a stir.

On the other hand, many of those seniors are quite active. They participate in group activities. They exercise. There’s plenty of life there.

Those characteristics can be applied to the current construction at 1141 Post Road East. There — on the former Kowalsky property, between the old Geiger’s site and the new 1177 Post Road East apartments — a new assisted living center is being built.

From the road, we can see something going on there. But it’s back near the woods. It’s quiet and low-key.

The facility is called The Residence at Westport. When it opens — the target date is next summer — it will include 96 studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments. It’s the first upscale community of its kind in town.

Artist’s rendering of the Residence at Westport.

The Residence features common rooms, a library, media room, “bistro” and dining room.

There are no set meal hours. Dining is any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Among the amenities: laundry and linen services, in-house maintenance, personal housekeeping. Pets are allowed.

The 3 levels of care are independent living, assisted living and “Reflections Memory Care,” for residents with dementia.

Apartments begin at $7,250 a month. The most expensive is $10,421.

The Residence at Westport is being developed by LCB Senior Living. They operate similar senior communities in Stamford and Darien, as well as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

A sales office is already operating, at 238 Post Road East. For more information, click here.