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Edith Gillette, Golda Meir House

A photo of the Edith Gillette

The first day Edith Gillette moved into Golda Meir House in Newton six years ago she knew immediately she had found home.

After living alone for two years in her former Framingham home following the death of Mel, her husband of 63 years, Edith felt a sense of happiness and companionship at Golda Meir House, something she had not experienced since the passing of her husband.

“The first day here, people said I looked new and introduced themselves and welcomed me,” she said. “That gave me such a wonderful beginning. It’s like being part of a big family. I’m thankful to be here when I wake up every day.”

Golda Meir House is a 199-unit supportive living community for seniors with varying income levels owned and operated by the non-profit Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE). MassHousing provided $37.8 million in construction and permanent financing as part of JCHE’s refinancing and extensive renovation of the property, which also includes the extension of affordability for the 176 affordable apartments there.

Among the major improvements underway at Golda Meir House is the creation of a ground floor village center, improved accessibility and extensive upgrades to all of the apartments. A number of green and energy efficient features are part of the renovations.

For more than 50 years, JCHE has offered innovative housing where older adults of all backgrounds can thrive independently within a supportive environment.

For Edith, who recently turned 94, it is hard to keep up with all Golda Meir House has to offer. She participates in exercise classes and book clubs and attends frequent lectures on a range of topics from professionals and members of academia who regularly visit. There are musical performances and a library on the first floor that keeps her constantly reading and by extension she says, keeps her mind sharp.

When she first moved in she learned more about how to use a computer in the computer center and soon wrote her life memoir for her daughter and son, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, all of whom live nearby and visit frequently.

“There is always something to do here,” she said. “I had such a tough time after my husband passed away and when I got accepted here I felt it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It’s great for my kids to know I am busy and active.”

And while Edith is thrilled with her spacious, welcoming fifth-floor apartment overlooking a garden and all the amenities and services available to her, it is the other residents and staff at Golda Meir House who supply Edith with the most enjoyment.

“I am so grateful that I know just about everyone here and I’ve gotten to know the staff quite well. We have an exceptional staff,” she said.

Her familiarity with everyone partly resulted from staff’s encouragement for Edith to volunteer at the building’s front desk two hours a week shortly after she moved in and her eventual membership with the tenants’ organization. Working at the desk from 3-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Edith was amazed to realize how diverse the residents are at Golda Meir House.

“I’ve met people here I wouldn’t have met in a million years,” she said. “I’ve met people who went through the Holocaust. I’ve met people who came from other countries. I’ve met people from many backgrounds and professions. I’ve been so enriched.” Edith worked for a number of years at Brandeis University where she was, among other things, the executive assistant to the Board of Trustees and special assistant to the President.

Edith said “there is comfort in being able to discuss shared problems and experiences” with the friends who surround her at Golda Meir House, something she was unable to do when living alone. Edith joked that at 94 she is slowing down a bit as evidenced by her now using a cane, but she said the secret to mental and physical health as an older adult is activity. “Keeping the body moving is so important.”

“Edith’s experience at JCHE’s Golda Meir House epitomizes what JCHE is trying to achieve with its unique combination of affordability and supportive services and activities,” noted JCHE CEO Amy Schectman. “Like all of our campuses, Golda Meir House is not just a building, it’s a community where Edith and her friends can thrive and age with the dignity they deserve.”