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Building community after retirement

A group of elder people sits around a table working on art projects while smiling and eating lollipops.
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Social isolation is one concern for Americans after they retire. One Richmond business is providing a different way to keep older Virginians active and connected.

Social isolation is one concern for Americans after they retire. The AARP says one in five of those 65 and older are socially isolated. One Richmond business is providing a space to keep older Virginians active and connected.

Diane Yane spent her career caring for older adults. She worked in retirement homes, creating activities and giving love to those who were in her care.

In 2022, she launched her own small business in the Bon Air section of Richmond catering to retirees, who may be experiencing social isolation and loneliness in their homes. Elder Pep Day Club and Spa is a membership-based service that provides a space for retirees to come during the day, meet people and stay active.


DIANE YANE: We had our very first member. She was local. She was fully independent. She was fully cognizant. She got a day club membership, and she had spent the day here with myself and my staff. And at the end of the day when she goes to leave, we encouraged her to please tell her friends about the Day Club and, you know, to return with her friends next time. And her response to us was, "Well, you are my only friend. I don't have any friends." And I think that that's more common than we think.

I worked as an activities director at several retirement facilities, I started in assisted living and then went to veterans nursing home. And then after that, I went into business for myself as a private pay caregiver.

I just feel like they are kind of like an endangered species that have and hold and know this sacred history that we're losing, and that we'll never see again, I always say that the greatest generation of men live in nursing homes.

When I created Elder Pep, I did that with the intention of creating a day club for fully independent, older adults. Elder Pep is a wonderful space for them because this is an environment where they're accepted and they're around people that, you know, still love them for who they are.

BUDDY HENSLEY: I mean, look at it. It's bright. It's cheery. You know, I don't hang out in bars anymore. I quit doing that about 30 years ago. And they do all kinds of stuff, everything from messing with a puzzle or doing art classes, crafts, and different things.

BONNIE BARTLEY: You want to keep yourself active. If you don't have a church, this can kind of take a place like that. And a lot of churches are such a big part of community activities now, and if you don't have a church, this kind of takes place at that, just interacting with other people.

DIANE YANE: It's really the family members oftentimes see the need for their loved ones to get out of the house and remain social, because if you're not doing that and you're at home and say, for example, you're just watching TV all day, it's easy to fall into depression, self-isolation, and somewhat rapid cognitive decline.

If you see your loved one, you know, no longer wanting to leave the house to go to the grocery store, they've stopped gardening, they've stopped working in the yard, they've stopped socializing with their neighbors, I think that's kind of a telltale sign that you need to be proactive in keeping mom and dad social and active and getting them out of the house.

It took me far too long to realize that these older adults needed more than just one-on-one interaction and companionship. They really should be in an environment where they are engaging in stimulating physical and mental activities while socializing with their peers. So, I just had this epiphany, why not open up a senior day club where they still receive that, you know, one-on-one personal attention and care from staff but they're in an environment that still feels like home, because essentially, that's where they want to be. But they are surrounded by other people their age, and they're building and maintaining new friendships after the age of 65.


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