Nera Adams lives in the sunny warmth of Fresno, Calif., but inside her home hang 26 long knit scarves.
It’s not that Adams is overly worried about a winter chill. It’s that she’s concerned for those who will face cold days and nights on the street, sleeping in their cars and under bridges.
The scarves are her handiwork and her outreach to the needy beyond her comfortable home. And they’re 26 examples of the productivity and generosity of the group she leads at The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens, known as “Busy Hands.”
Over the years, the women of Busy Hands have created a long and still-unfolding tapestry of concern. They make caps for preemie babies, scarves and Afghans for the homeless, and dresses out of t-shirts and scrap fabric that they send to girls on a South Dakota Indian reservation.
“There are groups that are out there in need and we can supply that need," says the 76-year-old Adams. "We’ll give back as long as we can.”
The group of eight to 10 residents, and a few visitors from outside the campus, range in age from their 70s to nearly 100. They gather twice a month in a large room in the community’s Hawthorn Lodge, where they sit and sew, knit and crochet.
Auxiliary members work at home and send in items. Older members who find the work has become too hard on their eyes or hands still come and enjoy a social hour as the women talk and help the needy, one stitch at a time.
Serving others is also good for the group, Adams says.
“It’s nice to know you can do something. It doesn’t matter what your age is. If you have the physical capability, there is always something to be done,” she says.
Elsie Weeks, 91, agrees.
“We’re helping people, and right now everybody needs help,” she says. “And you love to keep the hands busy.”
Weeks, who welcomed Adams into group nearly a decade ago, said producing things that keep others warm keeps her well engaged.
“You have to do something after you retire. You can’t say ‘I’m bored,’” says Weeks, who was a cook for 16 years at The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens before retiring there. “It’s good for the body and good for the mind. You should be active as much as you can.”
Steve Case, the community’s director of lifestyle enrichment, says one of the remarkable things about the group is that it touches all residents – from those in residential living to those who need skilled nursing.
Participation extends beyond knitting, crocheting and working a sewing machine. Adams says residents who are not members help buy supplies.
“Some will walk up to me and hand me money and say it’s for yarn,” she says. “They are able to participate that way and we are very appreciative.”
Residents who would like to join but don’t know how to sew, knit or crochet are offered friendly instruction.
“One of us will take them in hand and show them the beginning stitches and they go from there. They are not beginners for long,” Adams says.
It’s an introduction to a new skill that fits the spirit of the group and the community, Adams says.
“We’re not a nursing home. We’re not a old-folks home,” she says. “Our theme is others retire, we reinvent.”
Founded in 1949, ABHOW is widely known for its pioneering leadership in senior housing and health care. The company serves more than 5,000 residents in 37 retirement communities in California, Arizona, Nevada and Washington.
To learn more about ABHOW visit www.abhow.com.
This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of ABHOW Words.