Mansfield residents are in for a treat on June 5, when the holds an open house celebration. The 55-plus community welcomes residents to enjoy good food and company at the mixer. Guests will come away from the open house with new friends, but also with an appreciation of the vibrancy and vitality of this close-knit community, whose lively residents defy the stereotypes of aging.
Resident and Executive Committee President Matt Proser summarized the residents’ retaliation against aging well, “What seniors can’t do is an issue. But the issue of what seniors can do is in a sense a more important issue.”
The seniors at Glen Ridge Cooperative can and are changing the traditions of aging. In fact, the community itself is one of a kind. Established in 1983, Glen Ridge is the first cooperative community in Connecticut. Members of cooperative communities are not only owners, but also stockholders in the non-profit organization that built the community and are largely self-governed.
The Executive Committee, Proser said, essentially runs Glen Ridge and, during its board meetings, makes financial decisions, provides debates over community issues and funds projects, amongst other duties. The committee can also make changes to the community’s Declaration and regulations, which requires a full-scale vote.
Despite the group’s considerable power, Proser said that the residents take care not to let politics keep them from enjoying their friendships, “It’s taken very seriously, but in the right spirit.”
There is no shortage of spirit and innovation at Glen Ridge. Coffee socials, movie nights, musical performances enjoyed with wine and cheese, barbecues and men’s nights are just a few of the many activities run by the residents. A real sense of friendship and humor is readily apparent, one of the prime examples being the warm tone of the community’s bi-monthly newspaper, the Glen Ridge Life & Times.
“I want it to be a community thing,” said editor Bev Korba of the newspaper’s creation. “I want it to be natural.”
Residents contribute recipes, film reviews and fiction to create the 26-page publication, even including first-hand accounts from the community’s feline residents.
“It looks a little bit like my grand-cat,” Proser said after glancing at the featured feline in the most recent newspaper. Korba went on to explain that residents’ cats are often pictured, since cats are the most popular and beloved type of pet in the community.
Korba notes, however, that the Glen Ridge family expands far beyond pets, and is also a network of friends that provides a sense of acceptance. “It’s a community of friends,” Korba said. “They’re very engaging and very warm and friendly to each other.”
Although Korba feels at home at Glen Ridge now, she was initially unenthusiastic about the community when she moved in, partially because of the stereotypes surrounding “senior” living.
“It’s seen as a place you go at the end of the road. That’s a fable,” she said.
Korba reluctantly moved into Glen Ridge two years ago, after her husband’s death. She said she felt isolated at first, but was soon drawn into the vibrant community by her new neighbors.
“Finally, I broke down, and then I came out of my shell,” Korba said, adding, “It changed my life in a good way.”
Glen Ridge administrator Robert Kremer agrees with Korba and said that the community’s friendships recall an earlier time when neighbors were important figures in a person’s life.
“A lot of towns in Connecticut don’t have that sense of community. They don’t have a real connection with their so-called neighbors,” Kremer said.
It’s in that spirit of neighborliness that the Glen Ridge residents invite Mansfield residents to the community of June 5. While many of the residents will attend to expand their social circle, Kremer hopes that the open house will make people aware of the community and its accomplished residents.
“We’re all teachers,” Korba said of her neighbors. “Even if we’re not truly trained, we have something to give.”
The Glen Ridge open house will take place on Sunday, June 5, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Glen Ridge community room. Those wanting more information or questions can call 860-429-2202.