Sisterhood for seniors

Once a week, a beautician makes her way to the Heritage Home for Women for her regular appointments with residents.

While some residents have their hair styled, others enjoy tea, snacks and fine meals in the home's dining room.

Still others participate in the walking club, whose members stroll each day on the home's bucolic grounds.

The Heritage Home for Women is not a spa, but it is not an old ladies home, either.

Take Wilma Sollman for example.

A longtime resident of Schenectady and a former public health nurse, Sollman came to the Union Street residence last year, and she loves it.

"I like the way they treat the people here," said Sollman. "The people are very sincere, and we're getting such good care. And other places don't have the activities that this place has."

At 80, Sollman is the average age of the Heritage Home's 36 residents. Each has her own dormitory-style private bedroom. The women share a bathroom, but don't seem to mind.

If anything, sharing the bathroom, eating meals together and playing bingo together on the weekends provides a community atmosphere that is missing in some other elder care facilities.

"Most of our residents come here having heard word-of-mouth of the home," said Kathy Fernandez, the home's administrator. "And most of the ladies are from the city of Schenectady."

The Heritage Home has deep roots in the city's history.

According to Fernandez, the home's roots date to 1868, just three years after the end of the Civil War. Then located on Green Street in the heart of the Stockade District, the home was known as the Haven of Rest, a place for friendless, needy and aged women.

In 1901, the name of the facility changed to The Old Ladies Home and in 1905, the trustees moved to their new building at 1519 Union St. The original facility accommodated 43 women, along with quarters for the staff.

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