Elderly men create own ‘retirement home’ in Bloomington

File Photo (Marcel Oosterwijk/Flickr)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Peer into the kitchen window of David Lyman’s Bloomington home at dinner time, and you will find three retired gentlemen and a teenage boy sitting together at the table.

Lyman, 68, and Tom Glastras, 90, co-own the house they share with Carlos Cortina, 76, and Lyman’s 15-year-old grandson, Sylas Carrithers.

Lyman acknowledged that the living arrangement might seem “a bit unusual.” But he also said, “It’s like any other family.”

To run the household smoothly, everyone plays a part.

Glastras is the first to rise in the morning. He wakes up at 6 a.m. and takes Cuddles, the dog, for a walk.

During an interview with The Herald-Times in their home on a bright and brisk day, Cuddles lounged in the middle of the floor as dust floated above her in the afternoon sun. She is not one to stray far from her owners.

Aside from three cats and one dog, Sylas is the household’s youngest member by 53 years. He is a typical teenager, which Cortina confirmed when he said, “He’s tough to wake up.”

Sylas spends much of his time with his mother, Sophie Lyman, who lives in town, but David Lyman drives Sylas to school on weekday mornings. Since he is retired, he has time do that, and the arrangement helps everyone out.

But that is not to say that Lyman does not have commitments. Once a week, he volunteers at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, which provides food to local families in need. He has been on the organization’s board for six years. He also helps out at WFHB radio station.

Cortina does the grocery shopping and the lion’s share of the cooking.

“The evening meal has become a kind of family affair,” he said.

Cortina has been in Bloomington since April. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he had been living in Florida for 25 years.

Lyman owns a condominium in Fort Lauderdale, and he met Cortina through mutual friends and a shared interest in bridge. Cortina was even a member of the Panamanian International Bridge Team; he played in two International Bridge Olympiads.

When Cortina suffered congestive heart failure this past spring, his doctor told him it was no longer safe to live on his own. Lyman and Glastras discussed it and decided to offer Cortina a place in their Bloomington home. Cortina had already been visiting for two to three weeks each year.

“I’m very happy here,” he said.

Lyman added, “We learn a lot from each other, because we have different backgrounds.”

Lyman used to work with Indiana University’s international and applied linguistics programs. He said he knows a little bit of a lot of languages.

The house decorations reflect this. Around the perimeter of the living and dining rooms, knick-knacks from various countries line the shelves. Lyman explained the purpose of a handmade Ma Meri carving; he bought it during a 1987 trip to Malaysia, and it guards the house from bad spirits.

On the walls, there are four paintings by Bloomington artist Mark Ratzlaff. The local cityscapes feel like fitting decor for people who know and love this college town.

Glastras speaks with the authority of a Bloomington historian. He has witnessed decades of change within the city and university.

“You’d have to be ancient to know where Rogers Center is,” he said.

That was where he lived when he studied piano as an IU undergraduate. Although the location is still occupied by student housing, Rogers Center has since been developed into the Union Street Center.

More than four decades ago, Lyman studied anthropology at the university. He met Glastras, who had become head of IU’s reference department, in the library — which was still Franklin Hall back then.

At the time, the two men also happened to own adjacent properties in the country. They became fast friends.

“We had one rototiller and shared it — that sort of thing,” Lyman said.

Twelve years ago, when they both moved into town, they decided to become roommates.

During the interview, Glastras sat in a chair facing the living room’s picture window. There were birds outside at the feeders, and a cat named Bonnie patiently watched from the driveway.

“Bonnie is a ‘he,’ actually,” Lyman said with a laugh.

Beyond the driveway, an old Toyota truck was parked in front of the yard.

“As long as it still functions, I’m using it,” Glastras said.

He used to fill up the truck’s bed with aluminum cans he found throughout the neighborhood. He still makes the trip out to JB’s Salvage & Recycling, but for safety reasons, he usually takes the car instead.

Lyman and Cortina, a former engineer for Shell Oil Co., once calculated how much money Glastras earned from recycling. At 55 cents per pound of aluminum, and higher compensation for copper wire, Glastras can make about $1,000 over a six-month span.

On the couch, Cortina and Lyman sat at opposite ends. Lyman had his legs crossed. The newspaper crossword puzzle, on a black clipboard, rested in his lap.

“The three of us do it together every morning,” Lyman said as he held up the clipboard.

With their combined knowledge, they are always able to complete the puzzle.

Their home is warm and cozy thanks to large windows and a wood stove. It is refreshing to see an alternative household composition; without it, Cortina would likely reside in an assisted-living facility. There are many retirement homes with respectable reputations, but none of the options are inexpensive. In their shared home, the three men split the necessary expenses and responsibilities of household upkeep.

“Sometimes there’s tension,” Lyman.

Cortina chimed in. “But we work it out.”

Like any family, there are miscommunications and disagreements that require compromise. But the companionship overshadows any of the living arrangement’s difficulties.

“We look out for each other,” Lyman said. Speaking about his grandson, he added, “It’s good for him to have male role models.”

The two older men nodded in agreement.

“Who was it who said, ‘It takes a village’?” Cortina asked.


Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com


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