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Resident Spotlights

101-Year-Old Living Her Best Life at Oak Trace

Her life is even fuller now. And that’s saying quite a bit.

Rose Pepe is “an indomitable spirit. The thing that characterizes Rose is that she’s so full of love and is the kindest and most loving person,” said her niece, Lisa Wiggin of Chicago. ”She always focuses on what’s good, and she just puts out good energy and love.”

At 101 years old, Rose is a much-beloved go-getter. She’s been so her entire life. Widowed and thus the single mother of two teenagers when she was 38, Rose found herself supporting her family. After retirement, she said, she joined a health club and became a trainer, helping others in her age group, learn how to work out effectively. In her spare time, she became a ballroom dancer. “I danced with a lot of guys and my dance card was always full,” she recalled.

Just over a year ago, with the support of her niece and of her daughter Joanne Santoro, Rose made the decision to move to assisted living at Oak Trace senior living community in Downers Grove. There, she quickly earned the unofficial title of Mayor of Oak Trace, befriending residents and staff. The move was perfect for her, providing assistance when and as she needs it while promoting her fierce independence.

“Rose is extremely social. She still sees her old friends and neighbors, and she’s made many new friends,” said Lisa. “She’s got a full life with friends and loves the staff. Additionally, her family comes and visits and dines with her regularly.”

Rose was one of a few residents invited to participate in the Disney Showcase written and produced by resident George Hlava earlier this year. “I told jokes,” said Rose, admitting that they were good jokes but needed to be cleaned up a bit for the performance.

Rose’s move has “been a resounding success,” said Lisa. “Every time I talk to her, she tells me how happy she is to be living there.”

Lisa said one of the most significant changes resulting from Rose’s move to Oak Trace is her relationship with her daughter. “They’ve always been close, but there had been a bit of a role reversal, with Joanne worried about her mom so much. That created a little bit of tension because the worries were in the way. Joanne is relieved to know that her mom has people around her and assistance at all times. Now they can just focus on enjoying each other and it is a beautiful thing to see,” said Lisa. “It’s gratifying to see that at 101, Rose is living her best life.”

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