Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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From Chaucer to Motorcycles: Lessons from a Lifelong Teacher – Atria Senior Living Blog

From Chaucer to Motorcycles: Lessons from a Lifelong Teacher


Posted on April 28, 2017 by Sarah Warner


Photo courtesy of the Della Craighead Appreciation Society Facebook Group.

“I don’t think I ever had a student that I didn’t care for deeply. They became like my children.”

For Della Craighead, a resident of Atria Center City in Philadelphia, the scores of young people she taught in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, were not just her students. They were – and still are – her family.

As much as the 99-year-old retired high school English teacher loves her students, they love her back. Her former pupils have created The Della Craighead Appreciation Society on Facebook to honor their beloved teacher, posting photos from her teaching days and sharing stories of how she brought out the best in them and fostered their curiosity.

They also express gratitude for the lessons she taught them – not only about literature and grammar, but about keeping an open mind and finding their own voice through writing. They thank her for inspiring them to become teachers, writers and lifelong learners.

When they are not praising Della on social media, they are coming to see her at Atria. One recent visitor is a librarian at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Others bring their children and grandchildren to meet their beloved teacher.

Della does not recall a time in her life when she did not want to be an educator. She got her first teaching job after graduating from college at age 19. After taking a hiatus to raise her five children, she returned to the classroom in 1960 to teach American literature, English literature, grammar and composition. Her favorite lesson was teaching students to memorize Chaucer in Old English.

“My one desire was to get them to write and read well,” she said.

Della still counts reading among her favorite activities, attributing her love of books and learning to her grandfather. Whenever he visited her family, he’d hide a book under his coat. If she could read him the last book that he had given her, she would get the new book.

“He was an incredible man,” she said. “I give him and God credit for everything.”

Della continually sets new goals for herself. In 2015, she went on her first motorcycle ride. She is now learning French and practices her French vocabulary with her occupational therapist. She also maintains connections with young people, working on art projects and playing games with Atria’s First Grade Buddies, a group of local schoolchildren who visit the community twice a month.

And just as her grandfather was so instrumental in her upbringing, she continues to set a good example and pass along wisdom to future generations of her family. Della’s daughter Marion recalls one such moment after Della’s motorcycle ride. Her great-granddaughter Kate was on hand to watch and asked her what it was like. Much to the girl’s surprise, Della replied that it was even better than getting a new house or car.

“How many little girls are able to learn from their great-grandmothers that experiences are more important than possessions?” Marion said. “That’s the most important lesson of all.”


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Meet the Love of Your Life Again – Atria Senior Living Blog

Meet the Love of Your Life Again


Posted on February 10, 2017 by Kacey Roby


You met the love of your life the day you were born – it’s you!

Making positive connections with others is essential to a good quality of life, yet the relationship that requires top priority is the relationship you have with yourself. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know the drill: Place the oxygen mask on yourself before helping your fellow passengers. Loving yourself is the foundation to having a positive relationship with others. (more…)


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5 Gifts Your Mom Will Tell Her Friends About – Atria Blog

5 Gifts Your Mom Will Tell Her Friends About


Posted on December 8, 2016 by Kacey Roby


I find myself worrying about my mom in much the same way I imagine she worried about me when I went off to college. She retired years ago but stays active volunteering and serving on boards. Mom isn’t ready for senior living just yet, but that doesn’t keep me from making sure she’s eating right, exercising, regularly engaging with friends and not clicking on email scams. Meanwhile, I’m balancing work, appointments, wedding planning, volunteering, social events, dog walking, workouts and kids’ ballgames. Time is scarce. (more…)


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Arlene | A Real Show Stopper - Atria West 86 Resident

Arlene | A Real Showstopper


Posted on May 31, 2016 by Julie Smead


It’s no surprise others describe Arlene K. as theatrical, independent and cultured; she likes to express herself by creating beaded jewelry and acting and singing in original skits and revues as part of the “Showstoppers” performance group. (more…)


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Art | Still Growing – Atria on the Hudson Resident

Art | Still Growing


Posted on March 31, 2016 by Julie Smead


Art O. didn’t discover his talent for painting until later in life, when he took a class at Atria on the Hudson. He had always assumed his wife and daughter were the only creative ones of the family. Today, the retired pharmacist now paints in the style of his favorite artist, Norman Rockwell, and several of Art’s acrylic paintings of birds and animals are prominently displayed in his community’s library. (more…)


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Give the Gift of Time This Valentines Day – Atria Senior Living Blog

Give the Gift of Time This Valentine’s Day


Posted on February 9, 2016 by Angela Weisser


You want a heartfelt Valentine’s Day gift to be thoughtful – something to let that special someone know just how much you value their place in your life. But the stores are full of flowers, chocolates and other things they don’t really need and might not want. So after years of giving stuff, what else is there to offer? (more…)


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