Where some people see a glass half empty and others view it as half full, she’s likely to see it as being positively overflowing.
Early in 2020, Amanda (Mandy) Stewart fell on black ice resulting in multiple broken bones requiring eight weeks in rehab. While most would feel that was a horrible experience, she said, “I don’t regret the day I fell at all. The chapter turned out okay.” The chapter, she explained, was her decision to move to a retirement community. Mandy has been a resident of Oak Trace senior living community in Downers Grove since March 2020.
While Mandy was recovering from her fall, her son encouraged her to consider making a move in order to be able to better pursue her interests and be among friends. “He visited 11 communities and picked out two he thought fit me. He liked that Oak Trace is a Life Plan community offering all levels of care. When we came to visit, and he pulled off of Fairview Avenue to turn in, I said, ‘I don’t need to see the inside or talk to anyone. It has sidewalks, a pond, and a bird sanctuary. I’ll love it here.” And her prediction proved true.
Mandy spends a lot of time on the beautiful grounds that initially drew her to Oak Trace. “I walk several miles every day,” she said. And while she’s walking, she is mentally planning for another passion of hers, creating.
Where most people see loose bark, tree limbs and disposable items, she sees materials with which to create. And she’s always planning her next project. This creativity dates back to her days before living at Oak Trace when she was a resident of Hinsdale and a little bit of a dumpster diver. “All the contractors in the area knew me. They’d find me in their dumpsters looking for pieces to use to make artwork,” she said. For instance, someone took down a ceiling fan and Mandy used the blades to make dragonfly wings. When gifted with discarded windows, she’d paint them decoratively. Eventually, she said, the contractors would call her to let her know they’d be tearing down a building that would yield countless precious resources for her.
A Woodshop That’s Heavenly
At Oak Trace, she needn’t search as hard for materials. “The first time I walked into the woodshop, my heart was racing. I couldn’t believe it. Many people have small woodshops in their homes, but this is like heaven,” she said. The residents’ enormous woodshop is a treasure trove not only of equipment and tools but also lumber and other materials that have been purchased, found, or donated. Mandy, who knows how to work all the equipment and tools, spends a lot of time in the woodshop, creating decorative, whimsical items out of repurposed materials.
Mandy also spends time in the newly renovated art studio, drawing and painting. She said she is entirely self-taught and is a perfectionist.
Mandy also enjoys Oak Trace’s planned group activities and outings and has made many great friends. And she adores the staff. “I love, love, love, the staff here. They go above and beyond the call of duty for us,” she said.
Mandy, who is 73, said she often hears people say they’re not going to move into a senior living community until they reach their 80s or 90s. “I tell them I was like that too but thank goodness I changed my thinking. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do everything I do here.”