Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Friday, June 24, 2005

At Centre Crest's open house, one could really feel at home

From the outside, Centre Crest, on East Howard Street, looks like any well-maintained apartment building. Only ramps, handrails and rocking chairs at the entrance give any clue that this is a residence for mostly elderly people who require nursing care.

I pass Centre Crest every day, glancing up past the terraces bordered by mountain stone to the red-brick roofline, often wondering what goes on inside. A recent Sunday afternoon, when the Centre Crest Auxiliary held an open house, seemed like a good time to find out.

The crowd around the refreshment table was about three deep and included folks in wheelchairs, a friendly dog and many of the members of the auxiliary, whose philosophy is "to provide a warm, comforting home environment for the residents."

Accepting an iced tea from Sharon Eminhizer, auxiliary president, I clipped on a "Visitor" tag and looked around, not quite sure what to expect, but thinking this would be a good time to look up friends for whom Centre Crest is home.

I passed a cage of exotic birds and a tank of tropical fish. I saw dining rooms where tables were covered with turquoise cloths and further brightened by flower arrangements.

In an upstairs hallway, I glanced into the room of a friend who was waiting to be taken down to dinner and saw what I thought was a stuffed cat on a chair. Taking a closer look, I saw it was a real cat, snow white, and as much at home at Centre Crest as any of the other residents.

The nightstand of one friend's room held her collection of dolls and stuffed animals. An entire wall in another friend's room was covered with family pictures, a gallery she could enjoy when going to sleep and waking up.

Years ago, when I was contemplating a move, a friend said to me, "Home is wherever you decide to make it."

I thought about this on my brief tour of Centre Crest, recognizing the efforts of staff and volunteers to provide not just the look of home but also the feeling of family and comfort that comes from encouraging residents to invest in their surroundings. Whether that means watering a plant or feeding the fish or just arranging their favorite items, the payoff comes in the form of increased alertness and less loneliness.

Unlike the pictures in home magazines that seem so designed and impersonal it's hard to imagine anyone actually living there, Centre Crest is a real home for real people.