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Part I: Are seniors interested in congregate living?

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Part I: Are seniors interested in congregate living?

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series on senior housing featured in Gray Matters.

There’s a saying made popular by the movie “Field of Dreams” that goes, “If you build it, they will come.”

Does this expression hold true to congregate housing for local seniors?

Based on feedback of residents in Ashland, Crawford and Richland counties, it seems so.

Allie Watson posed this question via Open Source:

We decided to conduct a survey at local congregate meal locations in Ontario, Ashland and Galion to find out.

Here’s what people had to say (some responses have been edited for length and clarity).


Sandra Kinnan, 79, of Ontario

“I have a house and it’s really too big for me. I would be interested if I ever decided to sell.”

Roger Walton, 60, of Ashland

“Yeah, I’d be interested because I live by myself. I like to socialize and just being with other people." He added that he likes the idea of a community kitchen, noting, "I like to cook.”

Alice Johnson, 65, of Mansfield

She responded favorably to the idea, sharing that she currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Mansfield. She said she would especially enjoy a gathering area, adding, “If you get tired looking at them, you can just go to your room.”

 Penny VanMeter, 67, of Galion

“I live with my son. If I ever had to move that would be a good thing. I like socializing.”

Twila Davis, 67, of Mansfield

“I would — if I didn’t have anything to do and if my husband were deceased.”

Kent Comstock, 60, of Ashland

“I don’t think I’d have a problem with it; I’m just lucky I don’t have to. I’m really lucky because my daughter and son-in-law just bought a house where I have my own room and bathroom, so I’m just really lucky.”

Ruth Lunsford, 75, of Galion

“No. I’ve been in my house for 45 years.”

Audrey (last name redacted at her request), 67, Ontario

“Yes. I bought a house here (in Ontario) and I wish I would have went to a condo or one of these places where there’s more interaction. That’s why I started coming here (to congregate meals) because I had no one to talk to.”

Richard Cromley, 88, of Galion

“Not really.” He said he prefers living in his house.

Carol Valentine, 85, of Mansfield

“Yes, I would be.”

Melissa (last name redacted at her request), 65, of Ashland

She’s on board with the idea so long as the space is pet-friendly and each apartment has its own kitchen. She added that would enjoy the social aspect and would like to see activities offered like knitting groups or trips — “something hands-on that we can do.”

Dennis Downing, 63, of Galion

“I wouldn’t mind that because I have just a single apartment.”

Tom (last name redacted at his request), 62, of Mansfield

“I would rather live in my own house. I own my home. I bought it when I moved (to Mansfield) in 2001. I have really good neighbors. I have neuropathy in my feet and hands and I have a really hard time getting around. In the front of my house there’s a steep hill and it’s really hard to mow. My neighbor owns a landscaping company and he sent his guys over. I was out there trying to weed-whack and he sent two of his men over and they cut the lawn.”

Richelle Richards, 69, of Galion

“I kind of live in a place like that (Galion East). We have our own apartments, an exercise room and a community building that also has laundry and a kitchen. It’s very quiet there. The only thing is I’m on the third floor, but I continue to stay on the third floor just because it gives me exercise.”

Greg Woodall, 63, and Cheryl Woodall, 61, of Shelby

While not opposed to the idea, it's not something Greg said he's interested in presently. He and his wife, Cheryl, are in the process of moving into a condo. Cheryl said she'd like to have her own kitchen. They both agreed the socialization that the space would provide would be beneficial, noting, "That's why we come here (to the congregate meals)."

Dwight Shaw, 89, of Galion

He currently owns a house and said if he were to move he would prefer living with family. 

Sue Harrod, 68, of Ashland

“I want to be able to cook what I want to cook. I don’t want someone saying this is what you’re going to eat.” She said if the apartments had their own kitchens, she would be interested, adding, “Because I could eat by myself or eat with a group.” She likes the idea of having a gathering area, sharing, “You have time with them, you have time without them. I mean it’s not like you are made to go. It’s your choice.”


Several others shared that they, too, would enjoy having their own kitchen and would want a pet-friendly environment. Other appealing amenities that were mentioned include central air, first-floor living arrangement, nearby parking, personal washer/dryer, regular maintenance (repairs, yard work, etc.) and a pool. 

Note: Richland Source wants to hear from you. Please submit any questions you have about aging or caregiving in the table below. 

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.

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