Bruce – On Living Independently

April 21, 2021
Bruce standing in his kitchen at Irby Ranch

‘Being able to make my own choice’ is a common theme I hear frequently from residents at Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch. As Caitee Valdez, the Residential Programs Coordinator and I plan programs and activities for residents, we think about how empowering it is for each person to make their own choice. I believe that it’s a deep and meaningful part of being human. I’m incredibly lucky to witness residents being empowered with choice on a daily basis. Bruce, who I interviewed for the April Irby Ranch Resident Spotlight, shared with me how being able to make his own choices is part of the joy of living at Irby Ranch.

Bruce smiling with a slice of birthday cake.Bruce has a smile that lights up any room he steps into. He combines his thoughtful and caring nature with a natural talent for being social, which he says is one of his strengths. He looks out for the well-being of others and has even been known to remind me to take my work breaks! Bruce enjoys talking to and meeting new people, and has made many new friends at Irby Ranch.

On Living Independently

Bruce has been living independently since February 2020. When I asked him what it means to live independently, he replied that it means he can help others! His reply resonated with me as I believe that being helpful and giving back to others is something that all humans crave. Bruce also said that living independently means being respectful and receiving respect from people. I love the nuance and deep meaning in that statement. We’re always taught to be respectful to others, but I think receiving respect from people has a deep impact on a person’s self-worth.

For Bruce, living independently also means he can get a job, choose his own routine, and cook when and what he wants. He loves to cook! Bruce has several tips for others who are wanting to live independently:

  • Get a tour of the place you want to live before you make a decision – and look at everything.
  • Be nice to people.
  • Clean up your room and apartment or there are consequences. (He didn’t elaborate on what those consequences would be!)
  • Be sure to get along with your roommates and people in your community.

On Living at Irby Ranch

Bruce’s sister, Debi was the person who told him about Irby Ranch. Bruce absolutely LOVES his sister, who is an important person in his life. He says that he really liked the Irby Ranch community from the first time he saw it. When Bruce found out that his application to live at Irby Ranch had been chosen in the lottery, he was overwhelmed. “I was so happy that I started crying,” he said. The video below captures the absolute joy of that moment.

Bruce likes living at Irby Ranch. He likes his apartment and the space. “Everything – I like it a lot,” he exclaimed with a big smile! He’s been living full-time at Irby Ranch since November 2020. He said that it was hard to move his stuff into his new apartment as there was “so much” of it. I think we can all relate! Bruce is also very grateful to his sister for all of her help, especially with the lease paperwork he needed to complete. “Thank God Debi was there to help,” he said.

At Irby Ranch, Bruce said, “people treat me nicely.” Bruce has made “many” new friends since moving into Irby Ranch and enjoys walking around the “nice and safe” property. Bruce also enjoys the independence of being able to set up his own Wi-Fi and teach himself how to use Zoom so that he can participate in the virtual programs and activities at Irby Ranch. His living room has a great view and he is able to see other houses and what’s happening in the neighborhood. Bruce loves to sing and frequently sings karaoke in his apartment!

Bruce standing next to his sister at the Sunflower Hill Garden

Bruce loves to garden and hopes to start a mini-garden at Irby Ranch. He’s a volunteer at the Sunflower Hill Garden and loves growing “pumpkins, watermelon, strawberries, jalapeno peppers, and cantaloupes.” Bruce enjoys being creative in drawing (using oil paints and oil pastels), crafting, crocheting, and making bracelets and necklaces. He loves animals, especially cats and iguanas, but hates snakes! Bruce has participated in Special Olympics for many years, playing basketball, hockey, volleyball, football, and bocce ball. He has many nieces and nephews who live far away, and wishes he could spend more time with them.

On the Pandemic

Like many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult on Bruce. It’s “too much stress,” he said when I asked him how he felt. “So much bad news everywhere.” He doesn’t like having to wear a mask all of the time, but wears one anyway and finds it frustrating when others don’t follow the rules. He looks forward to the time when he can hang out with people in-person and not have to stay in his apartment all day. He said that moving into Irby Ranch was “the good thing” that happened this year.

Bruce holding a baby
Bruce holding his nephew.
Bruce with a plate of biscuits he made
Bruce with a plate of his homemade biscuits.
Bruce holding a winter squash at the Sunflower Hill Garden
Bruce harvesting squash at the Sunflower Hill Garden.
Bruce playing golf
Bruce playing golf.
Bruce dressed in a tuxedo
Bruce in front of Ferris wheel at Disneyland
Bruce at Disneyland. 
Bruce at starting line of running race for Special Olympics
Bruce competing at Special Olympics.
Bruce with 49ers jacket, sitting on chair
Bruce with his mom in Hawaii. Ocean in background.
Bruce and his mom in Hawaii.
Bruce with his mom
Bruce and his mom.

Plans for 2021

Now that Bruce is fully vaccinated, he has big plans for 2021! He plans to get outside to go for walks, use the gym, make lots of friends, and use the sports court at Irby Ranch to play basketball, volleyball, and bocce ball. He is also hoping to get more involved with programs and activities at Irby Ranch, like teaching a class on jewelry making or baking, and helping with tech and DJ tasks during in-person activities. Bruce also hopes to go on a cruise to Hawaii with his friends. He’s been there before and loved it! Ultimately, Bruce said he wants to “help people.” While that may be on his ‘to-do’ list for 2021, I think he can easily check it off now!


Story by: Pratimajit Kaur, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch Residential Programs Manager
Contributing Writer: Rachel Clark, Sunflower Hill Communications Manager

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