Being older, and alone, in Sonoma County

  • Ron Recchinioni lives in the Summerfileld Health Care Center in Santa Rosa, but feels isolated in the assisted living facility where most of the residents have dementia.

One early February day, as mid-morning light fell into the bedroom through a slatted window shade, Ron Recchioni's dementia-plagued roommate was, as is so often the case, asleep.

The stray sounds of TV shows and voices in the hall were behind him, and Recchioni, 75, blind, and in a wheelchair, said he feels very alone.

"He's a really nice guy; ex-teacher," he said of his roommate in the east Santa Rosa assisted-living home, "But he can't remember anything except 40, 50years ago."

Managers have told him that most of the facility's residents have dementia of some sort, said Recchioni, a former real estate agent who moved to Sonoma County from Millbrae in 2001.

"It's like 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'" he said, referring to the landmark 1975 film about a mental hospital. "I can't have a conversation. I feel isolated here mentally."

His daughter, he said, busy with work and family, last visited in the fall.

"I miss her terribly," he said. "She's one of my favorites. She tries her best."

Recchioni, who has a strong voice, a face of prominent features and a furrowed brow, relies for social interaction mostly on a friend's weekly visit and dinner with another several times a month.

"I think that keeps my mind," he said.

But those occasions aside, he has found himself in many ways alone.

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