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To make a house a home can oftentimes be a challenge for anyone, but for those moving into long-term care communities after living independently for decades, it can be a whole new world. Seniors who’ve experienced the transition and a designer who has aided in the process have come together to give their tips for making the unfamiliar environment feel more like a home.

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Liz Toombs, owner of PDR Interiors in Lexington, Kentucky, helped 90-year-old Margaret Jones move out of her condominium complex into Legacy Reserve at Fritz Farm in Lexington in 2018. Margaret and her family knew it was time to make the transition when it became harder for her to go up and down the building’s concrete steps and walk the long path from the carport to the entrance. “I realized at that point of my life, I couldn’t keep living there,” Margaret says. “It got to the point where it was harder and harder.” So, her daughter, Peggy Littrell, helped her move to the  long-term care community off of Man O’ War Boulevard.

Peggy and Liz had the large job of making the new environment feel like home to Margaret. The challenge, Liz says, was downsizing from the permanent home to a smaller area. “It’s not the easiest thing in this world to do,” Margaret says about moving. “Being realistic makes it easier.” 

Liz helped Peggy and Margaret choose what items would be best in Margaret’s new space. “We chose the items with sentimental value,” Liz says, adding that she asked Margaret which items made her happy — “the ones that sparked joy and good memories.” The other items that didn’t mean as much, Margaret gave to relatives or sold. “It’s not as hard giving up the items when they’re staying in the family,” Margaret says.  

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Virginia’s Treyton Oak Towers apartment feels comfortable to her because of the personal touches she brought from her original home, such as her Tiffany desk lamp and collectibles.

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Margaret wanted to “start fresh” in her new space,  so Liz bought new items but made sure to add artwork and photos that were important to Margaret. “Photos tend to be the most personal items in homes,” Liz says. “They’re easy to relocate, assuming there is wall space.” Liz got creative with Margaret’s space, adding photos on a gallery wall in the hallway and above Margaret’s closet to maximize the use of space, according to Liz. “The pictures are near and dear to my heart,” Margaret says.

Margaret says she “gave up a lot of independence” moving into a facility, but she wouldn’t go back to independent living. She doesn’t have to grocery shop or cook and is able to enjoy her days doing a variety of physical activities like swimming in the on-site pool and going to social functions and on field trips. “I’m glad that I did it,”  Margaret says about her move. 

Another senior who was happy about her move into a long-term care facility is Virginia Strohecker, 93, who now lives at Treyton Oak Towers in Louisville. As a girl, Virginia grew up in Barren County with her mother and father who owned a country store. When she reached adulthood, Virginia made quite a name for herself as secretary for many legislators in Kentucky. 

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Interior designer Liz Toombs took the framed artwork from above Margaret’s kitchen cabinets and repurposed them in Margaret’s new, downsized space. 

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Virginia and her late husband Edwin originally met in Louisville as adolescents, but spent most of their married life in Murray and Park, Kentucky. It wasn’t until 2010 that the couple, in their 80s, decided to sell their 2-acre farmhouse to move back to Louisville and into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit at Treyton Oak

The couple brought everything they could to their new home, including old family pieces like a three-corner cupboard they had to literally cut in two and put back together, antique furniture they bought from auctions, intricate collectibles, and even a stained glass window from their old home. 

Edwin has since died, and Virginia lives in the apartment by herself. She feels safe because it is equipped with emergency buttons and is close to hospitals if anything would ever happen to her. Virginia feels at home in her unit with her Tiffany lamps, crystal pieces, and collectibles. She says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. 

P.S. Give your bed a makeover with these tips.

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