Last December is when Bob Ericson, a 72-year-old from LaGrange Park, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He started having mobility problems, and his wife, Marilyn, 70, began looking at their life through a different lens.
“Bob is not that far along with his Parkinson’s, so he can still do a lot of things. But there are other things we still need help with,” she said. “Cantata usually sends out little newsletters, and my first instance of their help was when I came here for instructions on how to use my iPhone, and my iPad. What happened is that high school age kids would come in here after school and help us with all the ins and outs of that stuff.”
When the seniors purchased a new computer, Cantata, was her first call.
“We hired their computer person to come to our house to set up our computer because the switch to Windows 10 on my PC really blew my mind,” Marilyn said. “At this point, I am still able to care for Bob, so we still live in our home. But we do use a lot of their outreach services [including respite care at Cantata] while I was gone for five days.”
Five years ago, Violet Ratkovich, 90, of Brookfield says her husband fell seriously ill, and if he had lived another year, the couple would have marked their 67th wedding anniversary. Since then she has chosen to stay in her tri-level home, with lifestyle assists from Cantata because “it is all too early and too soon for me,” said the widow. “And, everything is OK so far,” she said, adding that the socialization she gets from being “part of the Breakfast Club, where every other month we get together with other seniors and have a nice breakfast together,” is helping her navigate this stage of her life.
“If it were not for Cantata, I do not think I would still be living in my house. I use their fitness program because I have had one hip replaced, and the other one is kind of gone.”
Having access to fix-it pros such as Karen Malinowski of Cantata’s Handy Mender service has been helpful to Ratkovich as the handy woman says “I do anything from carpentry, painting and light plumbing and electrical to replacing toilets, installing grab bars, and cleaning dryer vents.”
Having used the handy man service over 50 times, Ratkovich said having it has been a godsend for her, and recently “they cleaned my gutters,” she said.
“As people age, everyone is at a different stage in their lives, with different needs,” says Nancy Vlasak, customer advocate at Cantata Adult Life services. “But again, being able to have that realization that you are in a time of your life where you need a little bit of extra help is a very good thing.”
Still, Harold Verdak, 93, of Riverside, says he is celebrating his liberation from being a homeowner, now having lived for the last two years in a one bedroom apartment in the nonprofit’s senior living community.
“I did not want to shovel snow anymore. I didn’t want to worry about a flooded basement, a leaky attic. I don’t have those worries now,” he said, “My apartment is where I can go and read my magazines and books. I am relaxing and enjoying my lack of responsibility.”
Meanwhile, for the Ericsons, they still live independently with options.
“Honestly, we have a 33-year-old son who thinks we are going to live until we are 110,” says Marilyn.