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The Presbergs

Enter their first-floor custom apartment at Valley Manor, and the first things you’ll notice are the beautiful paintings adorning the walls, many of which are flowers. They’re all Helen Presberg’s works of art—a passion for her, now that she’s retired. “Helen loves to paint but she doesn’t sell her work,” says her husband, Dr. Saul Presberg, a retired ophthalmologist. “She gives most of her paintings away to family members.”

He frequently compliments his wife’s pastime. Helen, who is more reticent about her work, doesn’t brag about her painting. To her, it’s a meditative process and one that she likes to practice alone. For Saul, mindfulness meditation is something he does most mornings. While Helen tends to enjoy poetry and reading, Saul typically likes to get out and meet up with people.

In fact, they both admit that they have rather opposite schedules. He’s an early-morning and early-to-bed person, while Helen likes to stay up late and sleep in. “We see each other every week or so,” jokes Saul. Helen chimes in, “We get along perfectly, until we don’t get along!” and they both laugh. The couple has been married for 61 years and easily finish each other’s sentences.

The Presbergs met while in college, married and moved to Chicago where Saul attended medical school. They’ve moved many times during their life together, from Texas to Florida and back to Rochester, where they raised their family, and are happy to call their new apartment at Valley Manor “home.” They chose Valley Manor after visiting several communities in the area. “We felt we’d fit in better here,” says Saul. “Valley Manor is right in the thick of things. It’s more convenient because you can walk to so many places, so there’s less driving. And we wanted to live with a diverse group of people.”

The couple didn’t begin looking at senior living communities until Saul retired from practice, in 2018. Helen had already retired after teaching science for many years at the Hillel Community Day School in Rochester. “We realized that one of us will predecease the other,” says Helen, “and neither of us wanted to be in a big house on the lake when that happens. We also felt it would be helpful to our kids to downsize to a smaller place.”

Their family and their Jewish faith are important to them. The Presbergs raised four sons, all of whom are married and have children. Tragically, they lost one of their 15 grandchildren, Zachary, in September 2019 in a car accident. “Until that happened, I felt like the luckiest person in the world when it came to family,” says Helen. “We gathered at our son’s house in Atlanta that Thanksgiving because we all wanted to be together.” The couple agrees that their fellow residents have been sympathetic to their loss. “Everyone here has had losses and understands. There’s an incredible group of people here,” says Saul.

Now their respective schedules are busier than ever. Saul and Helen both like to exercise on the indoor treadmill, or walk outside when the weather is warmer. Each week they drive to the JCC for gentle yoga classes, and both attend Temple Beth El, a short walk from their apartment. Helen took a poetry workshop at Valley Manor and recently attended the Sociology of Aging class at St. John Fisher College, part of an intergenerational partnership with ESLC, which Saul also plans to take. He attends the exercise classes at Valley Manor, reads and listens to music while keeping up with friends and family. Last fall he helped care for a friend who was in hospice. “He hasn’t given up caregiving even though he’s given up practicing medicine,” says Helen.

The couple appreciates their differences while they agree on what’s important. Saul and Helen are both vegans—the only vegans currently residing at Valley Manor. That means the chef makes them plant-based dinners each night—and Helen says she’s enjoying not cooking. They frequently travel to see their sons and grandchildren, which Saul says is another plus to living at Valley Manor. “It’s really helpful to have the mail picked up and things looked after when we’re away. This city is blessed with many reputable senior living communities and we felt Valley Manor was just a delightful, upbeat place to live. After we looked at other places, we decided it suited us the best.”

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