Jo Swann and her dog Cassie
Story and images originally published in Taos News
Next door to the Taos Public Library and a few blocks away from the Farmers Market, Taos Retirement Village is “one of the hidden gems of Taos,” says its general manager and administrator Brian Chew.
The Village is designed for people 55 years of age or more and offers several levels of care, from independent apartments and private casitas to assisted living and skilled nursing.
“We take the headaches of home ownerships away from our residents and give them the opportunity to enjoy a carefree, fulfilled life,” said Chew.
The facility employs qualified staff to help people through all the stages of aging.
“We have access to 24-hour nursing staff and all the medical care that our residents need, when they need it,” said Chew. “We also have an in-house therapy department and can create individualized plans for everyone. But above all, we want to help them achieve and maintain an independent, healthy lifestyle.”
Chew is originally from Massachusetts. He has lived in Taos for 17 years and has extensive experience in senior care.
“I also feel a personal connection with this place because my father-in-law lived in one of the units here, in the late 90’s,” he said. “I’ve always liked Taos Retirement Village and I treat our residents the way I would treat my own relatives.”
Chew remarks that the Village is a microcosm of Taos with its numerous residents of diverse backgrounds, cultures and ages.
“They are all the way from 101 years old, like Jenny Vincent, down to their early sixties,” he said. “Many of them travel for several weeks and come back excited to participate in our Life Enrichment Program. Here, we believe that retirement is meant to be enjoyed.”
A pet-friendly community
Pets are welcome in the facility. Several residents have cats, dogs and birds.
“We wouldn’t tell anyone that they couldn’t come here without their significant other,” said Jennifer Spillar, the business office manager. “So why should we separate them from their pets, that are also part of the family?”
Texas-native Jo Swann and her dog Cassie have been living here since last November.
“I came for a visit in September and liked the Village very much, so Cassie and I decided to give it a try,” she said. “I love the fact that everybody has accepted her. She has other dog friends and they all play together.”
Other residents plant their own gardens or grow flowers in their backyards.
“It’s all about making them feel at home,” said Spillar. “We offer them comfort and security, plus the freedom to engage in the activities that they prefer. There are many options here and we also arrange transportation if they want to shop in town, go to the beauty parlor or visit their friends.”
The Life Enrichment Program
Among the available options are all the activities offered through the Life Enrichment Program. They include yoga, tai chi with Master Teacher Trisha Yu, Feldenkrais and massage.
“Residents can also meet with program director Bonnie Golden for coffee, comments, questions and feedback,” said Spillar. “That happens the first Thursday of every month and we welcome their input.”
There is a writing group that also meets monthly and an active Book Club.
A creative community
The Village Bistro and Center for the Arts houses an art gallery that exhibits paintings and sculptures made by the residents.
“Some of them have been artists all their lives while others have taken to their medium well in their seventies or even later,” said director of marketing and sales Katrina Bryant. “We just assembled a new art studio for them.”
There is a library with over 4000 books.
“Again, some of them have been written by our residents,” Bryant said. “We have eleven published authors here. This is a very creative community.”
The large theater space provides a venue for plays, concerts and community events.
The Village Bistro
The Village Bistro offers breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by Chef Ronnie Saunders.
“Chef Ronnie has a vast repertoire of foods from all around the world,” said Bryant. “He has worked in Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, South America, Europe and Australia, among other places. We are lucky to have him here.”
The Bistro has dine-in, take out or delivery options and Chef Saunders caters to residents who have specific dietary needs.
“Most of the ingredients he uses are organic and local and he makes several specials every week,” said Bryant.
A resident’s perspective
Blanche and Tony Scalora have lived in the Village for three and a half months.
“I like being in a community with people our own age, where everybody is extremely friendly,” she said. “We are really enjoying it.”
Scalora keeps active with the Life Enrichment Program. She started her own sewing business when she was 70 years old and she is 83 now.
“But I am one of the babies here,” she said, laughing. “There are many residents who are in their nineties and very spunky as well.”
Taos Retirement Village is located at 414 Camino de la Placita.
Blanche Scalora at lunch