Two Years ago, Norma Martin and her husband were living on acreage in Roseburg, Oregon with two dogs, two cats, and a parrot. In their early 70s, they decided it was time to find living arrangements more tailored to their golden years. It was important to the Martins to keep their pets with them, and live in a community that shared their love of animals.
Norma’s husband was a registered nurse with a Master’s in Geriatric Care, so as the Martins toured potential facilities, they knew what to look for. When touring Rose Villa, Norma says, “My husband drove through the facility, and when I asked him what he thought, he gave me two thumbs up.” They moved in shortly after and Norma boasted about how welcoming the community was for her pets.
"We chose Rose Villa because they are a nonprofit, single-site entity that is resident driven,” says Norma. “We actually know the CEO, not just her name."
Today, the entire family lives in a cottage nestled in the Rose Villa Senior Living Community, where the Martins and their pets enjoy all the amenities of their former home, save the acreage and country setting. The Martins chose Rose Villa for its state-of-the-art healthcare services, and its far from corporate makeup. The community operates with few rules, and is highly inclusive, seeking resident input in matters of development, policies and other matters affecting them. Along with their pets, the Martins were made to feel right at home.
Taking its pet-friendly philosophy to another level, this year Rose Villa has built a dog park for its residents. Preparing for the project, Rose Villa sought input from the residents — pro and con — and enlisted Norma Martin to head things up as captain. Well suited to task, Norma had enjoyed a career as a contractor in the building industry.
The group held brainstorming events, and as a community decided what they wanted the dog park to be (and not to be). Setting out to build it, Norma’s background and the support of Vassar Byrd, CEO of Rose Villa, gave the endeavor a good chance at success. "We wanted to make the dog park a joint project between the staff and residents," says Byrd.
The park was built with a double-gated entrance for safety, and was surrounded by rose bushes, creating a park-like sanctuary. Generously-spaced mature trees offer shade in sun, protection in inclement weather, and beauty. Access to the park was made easy for residents with a compressed gravel path, stable enough for carts and wheelchairs. A poop bag dispenser and garbage receptacle make picking up poop quick and easy. Norma says the park will truly be complete when they are able to get water to the site so residents won’t have to carry it in.
The park provides a social setting for not only resident humans, but resident dogs. Many schedule playdates throughout the week, making sure Gina, Max, Jessie, Annie, Buster, Nubbin and Finlay all have a chance to meet and greet in the best way dogs know how. With over 20 dogs ranging in size from a 3 lb Chihuahua to an 80 lb Golden Retriever, the park caters to every need, both human and canine.
Rose Villa’s apartment homes offer pet-friendly housing as well. When Norma and her husband moved in from their country setting, they knew their family would have adjustments to make. Rose Villa staff and Norma designed and built a fence, ensuring the Martin’s feline escape artist Suki wouldn’t get out. The Martins cottage has front and spacious back yards, making home life for the 4-legged Martin creatures comfortable, beautiful and safe.
When a Martin pet needs vet care, they rely on a membership service that provides medical care, transport and food. Rose Villa also will transport pets to appointments and residents shopping for pet supplies. Rose Villa staff does everything in its power to ensure residents can care for their pets by offering every advantage, from transportation to end of life plans.
In fact residents must have a plan for their pets should they outlive them, and Norma pointed out that while she does have plans, she intends to outlive even a few more rounds of pets. It was agreed that she has 35+ more years to offer, and loving cats and dogs during those years is her intent.
Rose Villa will soon add 76 more homes, and Norma, Chair of the Residents Association Council, is excited. Plans include creating an improved view of the river for many residents, and most importantly, the new units will make way for new friends for Finlay and Nubbin. While both Martin dogs are older, they welcome every chance to meet new dogs and schedule more playdates.
Rose Villa highlights the term “community” by bringing residents together, sharing a strong love for their pets. When a pet passes, the entire community grieves together, even when the resident is slightly less sociable.
Senior communities are increasingly recognizing and accommodating the importance of the human/animal connection, and it’s thanks to people like Norma Martin, and places like Rose Villa, that seniors both young and older are able to live better lives in their communities.
Kristen Regan is a busy professional and rockstar in animal welfare. She loves a good beer and an old dog, rollin' in her '92 VW VR6 Corrado, and her fur family: Chuvian, Lou, Finn, Bom Dilly, Big N' Tasty, and Mufaletta.