The joy of The Verandah lifestyle is catching. Just ask Rosalie Marie "Poddy" Leveque Champeaux.

"When I met with the Verandah's community director the first time, I came in with an energy level of about 30 percent," Champeaux said. "In that single meeting, my energy level shot up to over 90 percent."

On a tour, Champeaux "bumped" into 12 friends she grew up with and has known all her life.

One of the best things about The Verandah, according to Community Director Ginger Patton, is the opportunity to live among friends and peers and eliminating the social isolation experienced by some seniors. Patton notes the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of being in the company of like-minded people, experiencing a sense of connection, feeling safe and secure and the reassurance of being surrounded by people who care.

"I see this every day among The Verandah residents," Patton said.

Life at The Verandah is maintenance and worry free, giving seniors more time to enjoy life. Residents have access to transportation, housekeeping, exciting adventures and engaging social opportunities. Chef-prepared meals in a restaurant-style setting are provided three times a day, which means no more cooking or dishes to clean.

Each apartment comes equipped with a system that allows residents to punch a button when they get up in the morning to let the concierge know they're alert and well. If they haven't pushed the button by a certain time, staff provides a courtesy check.

"If you need help, we're here for you," Patton said. "It's like living in a close-knit old-fashioned community where everyone respects each other's privacy, but is also quick to check on someone when it is needed."

The monthly cost of The Verandah is all-inclusive and can come as a nice surprise, especially to those who may be paying more, and getting less out of life staying where they are.

Champeaux must have hit her 100 percent energy mark. During the interview she is full of vitality. Her complexion glows. She changes the subject when the conversation turns to her numerous accomplishments and dedication to the children and residents of Southwest Louisiana.

Her favorite subject is family. Family photos cover the walls and other surfaces of her well-decorated apartment full of keepsakes, including children's artwork, antique rugs and sketches by her late husband, Architect Joe Champeaux.

"When we traveled, I photographed and he sketched," she said.

She enjoys The Verandah's movies. She had stopped going after her husband died. At the presentation, "Lost Lake Charles," Champeaux said she learned things about the city she didn't know, and her ancestors have been here since the 1800s. She also enjoys The Verandah swimming pool. Her first dip was with her grandchildren. They stay overnight sometimes.

Her three daughters were very supportive of her decision to move. It was a significant transition for someone who had lived in the same house since she was six months old. If Champeaux has any regrets, it is that she did not do it sooner.

Organizing and packing belongings can be a daunting task at any time. The Verandah partners with local professional organizers and movers to help facilitate the transition and reduce stress.

"You need to make the decision to come here to The Verandah while you can, while your mind is still good and you can enjoy the benefits of this lifestyle," Champeaux said.

The Duttons

Col. Charles J. Dutton, USAF, Ret. and his wife Lt. Marcia Feldes Dutton, USN, Ret. are no strangers to transition. Yet, they wonder why they waited so long to join the resort-like senior independent living community.

She is a Lake Charles native and McNeese graduate. He hails from North Carolina. Home furnishings reflect the couple's travels. Keepsakes include a tapestry passed down for three generations and a screen from India, but it is Marcia Dutton's paintings and sculptures that really catch the eye.

The Duttons were considering retirement in San Antonio, but the community did not have an apartment with a large enough room to accommodate the Duttons' largest antique rug. The Verandah did, and that's not all. The Dutton's apartment has two large his and her closets.

"There is room for everything we wanted to keep in this apartment," Marcia Dutton said.

The Duttons' wit and warmness make them ideal hosts and conversationalists. However, they are not as extroverted as Champeaux, and they enjoy having time to themselves. Marcia is only now considering joining one of the many group activities available to her at The Verandah, a book discussion group. Charles prefers to stay in and read.

"You come and go as you please here at The Verandah," Patton said. "There is no pressure to join or to participate, but we do try to have a variety of activities, crafts, learning opportunities, church services, games, events and other get-togethers to appeal to everyone's interests."

"If you're thinking about moving to The Verandah, come now," Marcia Dutton said. Her husband nodded in agreement. "You'll regret it if you don't."

To find out more about The Verandah's independent living for seniors 55 and older, call (337) 313-0162 to schedule a visit.

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