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China trip

When friends at Monarch Landing senior living community heard that fellow resident Jan Park was planning a trip to China, interest in the April 17-26 journey through Beijing, Shanghai and other cities spread like wildfire. While Jan’s husband Wing did not accompany her, eight other residents were able to join her on a trip across the world they probably wouldn’t have taken had they not had each other.

“The great benefit of being at Monarch Landing is that I’m able to do things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Wing’s parents are from China, and I’ve always wanted to go,” said Park, whose interest in the country was also sparked by an exhibit of the terra cotta warriors at Chicago’s Field Museum.

For resident Kathy Casper, going to China was not necessarily on her “bucket list.” But the widowed 81-year-old seized the opportunity to see another culture within the camaraderie of the Monarch Landing group. So did Drew Piraino, whose wife is a resident of the adjoining Springs at Monarch Landing health and rehab center. “My friends encouraged me to get out and enjoy myself,” he said.

While the trip to the Far East was not under the auspices of the Monarch Landing travel club, several of the residents who went have also sojourned with the active group. Along with 24 others who have already signed up, Casper is also planning to go to Greece with the club in the fall, as is resident Carl Roback. Roback went to China and has begun to travel again after many years of caring for his late wife.

“I never thought I’d get to China,” said Park, 61. “It was wonderful to be able to see a different culture, and the history is just amazing. Living at Monarch Landing, even if Wing doesn’t go with me, I can still travel the world with friends.”

According to Casper, who recently had hip replacement surgery, “It was a rigorous trip; they kept us on the move!” Indeed, the seniors walked as many as nine miles a day through various cities and sites, including the Great Wall of China. “I’ve never been as far as China,” said Casper, who traveled to places like Israel, Russia and Europe with her husband before he passed away 14 years ago.

For Piraino, knowing his wife was safe and well-cared for at The Springs while he was in China was priceless peace of mind. “I’ve been traveling much more since I moved to Monarch Landing,” said the 74-year-old who went with the travel club to Spain and Portugal last October and is also planning to go to Greece.

Said Casper, “I knew this was the active, independent lifestyle I wanted, and I have it at Monarch Landing.” Park agrees: “Wing and I looked at other communities, but nothing compared to Monarch Landing. The camaraderie and friendships we’ve developed here are just wonderful.”

Globetrotting residents will have even more opportunity to bond in faraway lands, as not only are they going to Greece this year, they also have their sights on a 36-day cruise to Australia and New Zealand next spring!