When Lynnette Olson embarked on a cruise trip to Belgium and the Netherlands from her home in Duluth, Minnesota in 2015, she never dreamed that would be the start of a Life Lived Forward at Willow Valley Communities in Lancaster, PA for her—and her two dogs.

While on the cruise, Lynnette happened to meet about 40 Willow Valley Communities’ residents and team members. She spent some time getting to know the group and learning about Willow Valley Communities. “Everyone was so friendly and nice,” she recalled. “I had been considering a move to a senior living community, so I decided to come out to visit.

Lynnette, who is widowed, was living in a 1,100 square-foot home with a guest cottage in Duluth with her two dogs, Tony, a 11-year-old Papillon, and Lily, a 10-year-old Japanese Chin. One day while carrying laundry downstairs, Tony ran into her and she tripped down the stairs. She wasn’t hurt, but the experience got her thinking. “I don’t have children, I don’t talk to my friends every day, and if anything happens to me I don’t have any immediate family who would care for me.”

Lynnette was intrigued by Lifecare at Willow Valley Communities (Lifecare promises that if there is ever a need for an increased level of supportive care, residents’ monthly fees are not increased because of the increased care.) Lynnette said she didn’t want to wait until she was desperate, and she wanted to move sooner in order to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities Willow Valley Communities offers. “I want to be in control of my own life. I want to make my own decisions,” she states.

In 2016 Lynnette selected a 625 square-foot apartment at Willow Valley Communities. This meant that Lynnette—along with Tony and Lily—needed to “rightsize” their belongings and their lifestyle. Lynnette adopted the mindset of “Swedish Death Cleaning.” Swedish Death Cleaning is not about actual cleaning; rather, it is about a permanent removal of items and clutter. It is a form of organization that makes everyday life run more smoothly because of less clutter. Lynnette has always believed that you “grow into” your home, filling it up with belongings, as she had done. Lynnette questioned why this happens. “Why do you need so much room to parade around in? That has never made any sense to me.” Lynnette took charge, got rid of belongings she no longer needed, and made her move to Willow Valley Communities.

Tony and Lily also had to change their mindset, but this was not difficult even though they were used to a large yard with lots of room. Willow Valley Communities is a very pet-friendly senior living community—with two large dog parks (one on each campus), picturesque pathways, conveniently located waste receptacles, and homemade doggie treats for sale at the Marketplace Cafe. Now, Tony and Lily enjoy their daily walks to the dog park to meet friends. Lynnette has also enjoyed being welcomed by the community of pet parents at Willow Valley Communities who are always up for a play date or available to help with pet sitting, when needed. “There’s a difference between accepting pets and really wanting them here,” says Lynnette. “And Willow Valley Communities really works at including them.”

“I couldn’t be happier,” says Lynnette. “This is my life— my life with my dogs—and I love it.”

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