Optima® Voices: Interview With Christine Kleronomos, Resident Leasing Manager at Optima Signature®

Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Christine Kleronomos, Resident Leasing Manager at Optima Signature®, whose role highlights her deep connection to both Optima® and the broader community.

Christine explains, “I stepped into a position as a Leasing Consultant at Optima Signature® in the spring of 2022, after returning to Chicago after 10 years in Los Angeles, working property management. I grew up in real estate working weekends at a young age out of my family’s real estate office in Logan Square, property management was always very familiar to me.  I was initially attracted to the position at Optima Signature® because the business is family-owned, and that resonated with me. I appreciate how they literally build their communities from the ground up, which is quite different from other property management companies. Optima® is focused on long-term ownership, controlling everything from development to beautiful architecture to property management.”

Christine goes on, “In July 2022, only a few months after arriving at Optima Signature®, I had the opportunity to transition into the role of Resident Leasing Manager. For me, the position blends my industry knowledge with my passion for community engagement and helping nurture an atmosphere that is welcoming and vibrant. Between the incredible amenities in the building, the Montessori school on the premises, the dog-friendly environment, and our tight-knit staff, we have created a familial setting for our residents that is unique among high-rises in Chicago.”

Christine’s efforts and the inclusive environment of Optima® have fostered strong community ties and high resident retention, with many choosing to stay long-term due to the enriching lifestyle and extensive amenities Optima Signature® offers. “The amenities really drive our traffic and keep residents here,” Christine says, highlighting the impact of the wellness areas and communal spaces on the seventh and eighth floors on the decision-making of potential and current residents. “Honestly, there’s no other community around that offers residents a basketball court, golf simulator, full gym, indoor and outdoor pools — AND great spaces for kids — especially during the cold weather months in Chicago. It’s such a great lifestyle and way to give people healthy balance.”

When asked about which Optima® values align most with her own, Christine immediately answers, “Inclusiveness. It’s so unusual to be in a company where management listens and responds. I’m so grateful that my observations, opinions, and suggestions are a welcome part of our leasing calls, for example, and that changes happen because of my input and that of my colleagues. It makes me feel accountable and connected to my work, my team, and our residents.”

She continues, “Because of the great communication and rapport among us, I also get to learn and grow as change happens. That’s important to me. I also have the opportunity to get to know our residents, which also makes the job so satisfying.”

Christine concludes with a reflection on her pride in being part of the Optima Signature® team, emphasizing the joy and fulfillment she derives from her work. “What I do every day doesn’t feel like work at all,” she shares, “because I get to be part of an amazing group of professionals who really care — and know how to get things done!”


Experiencing Memory and Humanity: The Illinois Holocaust Museum

At Optima®, our commitment to enriching lives extends beyond the luxurious confines of our communities to embrace the profound cultural institutions that surround them. One such place of deep historical significance and human connectivity is the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, located in the suburb of Skokie, just a stone’s throw from our communities in and near Chicago. This museum stands as a bastion of remembrance and education, encouraging visitors to reflect on the past’s harsh realities to foster a more compassionate and understanding future.

A Journey of Remembrance and Learning
Founded with the mission to remember the lives of those lost in the Holocaust and to teach current and future generations about the dangers of hatred, the Illinois Holocaust Museum was born out of a community of survivors. Their stories, and the preservation of their memories, are at the heart of the museum’s expansive narrative, providing an emotionally powerful experience that resonates deeply with visitors from all walks of life.

From the moment one steps into the museum, the architecture speaks volumes. Designed to evoke the emotional arc of despair to hope, the building itself takes visitors on a transformative journey. The museum’s stark, angular entrances lead into a space that softens into curving walls and gradually ascending pathways, symbolizing the ascent from darkness into light—a powerful architectural metaphor for resilience and renewal.

Exhibits That Educate and Inspire
The museum’s permanent exhibition, “The Holocaust,” is meticulously curated, featuring over 500 artifacts and numerous testimonies from survivors. Through immersive displays and innovative technology, visitors encounter a comprehensive narrative of the Holocaust, from pre-war life through the ghettos and concentration camps, to liberation and the lives survivors built post-war. This exhibition not only educates but also connects deeply with the universal themes of human rights and dignity.

Another significant aspect of the museum is the “Take a Stand Center.” This recent addition utilizes groundbreaking technology to create interactive, holographic testimonies from survivors, allowing visitors to engage with history in a profoundly personal way. This center is complemented by the “Make a Difference! The Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition,” which encourages younger visitors to learn about the power of their actions and the impact they can have on their world, aligning with Optima’s vision of empowering community members of all ages.

Community Engagement and Global Impact
Beyond its exhibits, the Illinois Holocaust Museum stands as a leader in community engagement and education. The museum organizes a myriad of programs, from guest lectures and survivor talks to teacher education that reaches beyond the local community to impact global audiences. These programs are designed to combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference, echoing Optima®’s ethos of community betterment and inclusivity.

For residents of Optima®, the proximity to such an institution offers a unique opportunity to engage with history, reflect on human behaviors, and understand the impact of actions rooted in discrimination and intolerance. It’s a poignant reminder of the past and a hopeful gaze towards a future where such atrocities can be prevented through education and understanding.

Beyond its role as an historical archive, the Illinois Holocaust Museum is a living institution that challenges visitors to reflect on moral questions and their roles within society. It’s this spirit of introspection and community improvement that resonates with Optima®’s values. As we continue to support and promote institutions like the Illinois Holocaust Museum, we reinforce our commitment to building communities that are informed, compassionate, and resilient.

For anyone looking to deepen their understanding of history and humanity, a visit to the Illinois Holocaust Museum is not just recommended; it’s a must. It’s an experience that promises to move, educate, and inspire, fostering a community knowledgeable about the past and dedicated to shaping a more just and humane future.

The Illinois Holocaust Museum is located at 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, IL 60077. To learn more, visit their website here.

Savor the Flavor of Arizona: 2024 Spring Restaurant Week

At Optima®, we’re not only about creating extraordinary living spaces; we’re about embracing and enriching the community experience. That’s why we are excited to announce the return of the Arizona Restaurant Week (ARW) this spring, offering our residents and neighbors a fabulous opportunity to delve into the rich culinary landscape of Arizona. Scheduled from May 17 through May 26, 2024, this bi-annual event invites food lovers to explore an array of dining options that highlight the creativity and diversity of local chefs.

A Culinary Journey Across Arizona
Arizona Restaurant Week is organized by the Arizona Restaurant Association, a body committed to supporting and advocating for the state’s vibrant hospitality industry. This spring, the event promises an enriching exploration of flavors, with more than 150 restaurants participating statewide. From high-end dining establishments to quaint chef-driven eateries, the variety ensures that every palate and preference is catered to, making this a perfect culinary adventure for everyone.

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Each participating restaurant will offer a special ARW menu, distinct from their regular offerings. These menus are crafted to showcase the chefs’ culinary prowess and feature innovative dishes that incorporate hyper-seasonal and trending ingredients. Diners will have the unique opportunity to sample new dishes at a fraction of the usual cost, with three-course prix-fixe menus priced at $33, $44, or $55 per person. Some venues will also pair these exquisite meals with specially crafted cocktails or fine wines, enhancing the dining experience further.

Photo by Crystal Jo on Unsplash

Dine on a Deal
What makes the Arizona Restaurant Week truly special is the chance to indulge in a dining experience that might typically be beyond one’s everyday dining budget. Restaurants like Buck & Rider and the new Faro & Brag in The Westin Kierland are just a few names in the impressive lineup. These establishments, known for their exceptional culinary offerings, will open their doors to seasoned foodies and casual diners alike, providing memorable meals without the hefty price tag.

This year, the event is sponsored by Tito’s, which means participants can look forward to an exclusive Tito’s Spring ARW cocktail at many venues. Each restaurant is encouraged to infuse their unique twist into these cocktails, promising a refreshingly diverse drinking experience to complement the meals.

Engage with Your Culinary Community
For residents of Optima® communities, particularly those near vibrant culinary hubs like Scottsdale, Arizona Restaurant Week is more than just about food; it’s an invitation to engage with the broader community. It’s a celebration of Arizona’s culinary innovation and a testament to the lively food scene that residents can enjoy all year round. Optima®’s ideal locations provide easy access to many of these dining venues, making it convenient for residents to participate in the festivities.

As Optima® continues to support and participate in local events like the Arizona Restaurant Week, we reaffirm our commitment to building communities and enhancing lifestyles. We encourage our residents to dive into this culinary adventure, exploring new tastes and experiences that deepen their appreciation for Arizona’s dynamic food culture. Whether it’s a night out at a new restaurant or a return visit to an old favorite, Arizona Restaurant Week 2024 is the perfect time to celebrate the flavors that make our community a wonderful place to live and dine.

For more information on Arizona 2024 Spring Restaurant Week, visit arizonarestaurantweek.com.

Exploring the Health Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation

At Optima®, we understand that wellness extends beyond physical fitness and into the realms of mental and emotional health. That’s why we encourage exploring practices like mindfulness and meditation, which offer profound benefits for overall well-being. In this post, we delve into how mindfulness and meditation can enhance your life, supported by the tranquil environments and community culture found in Optima® communities.

The Foundations of Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment. Meditation, often used as a tool to achieve mindfulness, involves techniques like focusing on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness. Together, these practices can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and a more harmonious way of interacting with the world, providing these powerful health benefits:

Stress Reduction: One of the best-known benefits of mindfulness and meditation is stress reduction. Regular practice helps decrease anxiety by enhancing your body’s stress response, which can lead to a more relaxed state of mind and a reduction in stress-related symptoms.

Enhanced Emotional Health: These practices can lead to improvements in emotional health by fostering an overall sense of well-being. Meditation, in particular, has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. At Optima®, the serene settings and dedicated quiet spaces provide an ideal backdrop for residents to engage in these practices, enhancing emotional wellness.

Improved Focus and Concentration: Mindfulness meditation helps improve your attention span by increasing the strength and endurance of your attention. For those working from home or tackling complex tasks, this can translate to better focus and higher productivity.

Better Sleep: Regular meditators often experience improved sleep patterns. By calming the mind and body before bedtime, mindfulness and meditation can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy a more restful night’s sleep.

Pain Management: Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can reduce the perception of pain in the brain. This can be particularly beneficial for those dealing with chronic pain, providing a natural and effective coping mechanism.

Yoga studio at 7190 Optima Kierland®

Optima communities are designed with spaces that encourage quiet reflection and communal engagement, making them perfect for practicing mindfulness and meditation. Our tranquil gardens, rooftop decks, and well-appointed indoor spaces offer peaceful escapes from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

We also offer classes that teach residents how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into their daily routines. These programs are tailored to all levels, whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the basics or an experienced practitioner seeking to deepen your practice.

The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are profound and lasting. Regular practice can transform your approach to life, fostering a sense of peace and well-being that permeates everything you do. At Optima®, we’re proud to support our residents in exploring these practices as part of our commitment to creating  environments that lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.


Exploring the Rhythms of the World: The Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale

At Optima®, we celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures and the arts that surround our vibrant communities. One such cultural gem that resonates with our values of innovation, diversity, and community engagement is the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Scottsdale. MIM stands as a testament to the universal language of music, offering a unique journey through the musical traditions of over 200 countries.

Founded by Bob Ulrich, the former CEO of Target Corporation, MIM was conceived from a desire to create a museum unlike any other — a place that would showcase the instruments played daily by people around the world, not just historic or classical pieces from the West. This vision materialized into a world-class museum that houses over 7,500 instruments, each telling its own story of cultural heritage, craftsmanship, and the universal expressiveness of music.

Instruments from Northwest China
Instruments from Northwest China. Credit: ksblacc99, Flickr Creative Commons, Public Domain Mark 1.0 Universal

MIM’s exhibits are designed to be visually captivating and so much more; they are immersive experiences that engage all senses. As you stroll through the galleries, you’re invited to see the instruments, hear their sounds, and watch them being played in their cultural context. This sensory journey highlights the profound way music influences our emotions and connects us across different cultures and histories.

Architectural Harmony
The architecture of MIM itself mirrors the diversity and harmony of the instruments it houses. Designed by Rich Varda and the team at Varda Architecture, the building is a masterful blend of space, texture, and light, crafted to enhance the visitor experience and complement the musical exhibits. From the sandstone walls that echo the Southwest’s topography to the “piano key” patterns adorning the windows, every element is infused with musical symbolism. The central corridor, named El Río, with its meandering path, and the rotunda with an inlaid world map, invite visitors to embark on a global musical voyage.

Elvis' Boots
Elvis’ Boots. Credit: ksblacc99, Flickr Creative Commons, Public Domain Mark 1.0 Universal

Beyond its architectural beauty and extensive collection, MIM is committed to education and community engagement. It’s not just about preserving musical heritage; MIM aims to enrich our understanding of the world by demonstrating how music is a vital part of human life everywhere. Through dynamic programming and live performances, MIM offers a platform where guests can experience music’s evolving nature and its capacity to bring people together.

A Community of Harmony
For residents of Optima®’s Scottsdale communities, MIM represents an opportunity to explore and appreciate global cultures through the lens of music. It’s a place where parents can take their children to learn about the world’s diversity, where friends can gather to enjoy live performances, and where everyone can feel a connection to the global community. The museum’s mission to make music accessible and enjoyable aligns perfectly with Optima®’s commitment to creating spaces where life can be enjoyed to the fullest.

As MIM continues to grow and evolve, it remains an inspired vision for cultural enrichment and education, reflecting the innovative spirit that characterizes both the museum and the communities at Optima®. Whether you’re a seasoned musician, a curious explorer, or someone seeking a new understanding of the world, MIM offers a rich, engaging experience that resonates with the soulful rhythm of our shared human experience.

MIM is located at 4745 E. Mayo Boulevard in Phoenix. It is open daily, 9:00am – 5:00pm. Visit their website to learn more about their current exhibitions and programs.


Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, Interview with Arielle Band, “Lunch With Friends” Founder at Optima Lakeview®

Welcome to Inside Optima®: Resident Stories, a series that takes you behind the scenes of life in Optima’s dynamic communities. Through intimate conversations with our residents, we’re exploring the diverse experiences, unique lifestyles, and vibrant cultures that flourish within Optima’s architecturally stunning buildings. Join us as we discover what makes living in an Optima® community not just a choice of residence, but a way of life. In this conversation, we sat down with Arielle Band, resident and founder of “Lunch with Friends” at Optima Lakeview®.

How long have you been a resident at Optima Lakeview® and what got you there?
My teenage daughter and I moved to Chicago from Maryland in July 2023. Optima Lakeview® was the only building we visited because we fell in love with it right from the start. The layouts were great for us, the feeling of walking into the atrium flooded with light is amazing and all the amenities are fantastic. — including the gym, the pool, the pickleball court, and the community spaces. Honestly, the building kind of spoke to us. It was a little above our budget, but we were willing to make the stretch because the lifestyle it gives us makes all the difference. I was familiar with the Lakeview neighborhood prior to moving which helped us settle in, along with the fact that my daughter’s school is a short distance from Optima Lakeview®. And once we got here, Maike, the property manager, immediately began to introduce us to folks, making us feel welcomed and comfortable.

Can you tell us how “Lunch with Friends” came to be?
The Optima Lakeview® property team makes a lot of effort to help build and engage the community, and it’s fantastic the way they host regular events that give all of us opportunities to meet each other and create connections. It’s an enormous help for the many of us who are new to Chicago — and particularly those of us who also work from home and find it more challenging to build new relationships because our colleagues are all scattered around the world.

After a few months, I found that some of the social events like wine nights were getting so popular and drawing bigger crowds that it became a little harder to meet new people. So it occurred to me that it would be fantastic to create a subgroup of residents who are around the building during the day, working. I figured, ‘I am in my apartment all day every day and there are plenty of others at Optima Lakeview® doing the same thing. Why don’t we get together once a month, grab lunch, and get to know each other a little bit?’

I first brought the idea to Nick, who was the former leasing manager, and he took it to Maike. And Maike helped make things happen from there. He promotes the gatherings via our building app and with signage in prominent places, and arranges for catering.

Pretty simple! That’s how “Lunch with Friends” began — launched in January 2024.

What does a typical gathering look like for your group?
We meet in the Residents’ Club at lunchtime, and there are typically 20-30 of us. We use the long communal table that seats 12 and the smaller tables for 4 to 6 people, so the gathering is comfortable and intimate. People filter in, grab food, find a seat and get to chat with people they haven’t met before, or others they’ve met but don’t see often. It’s so great how you very naturally wind up having some first conversations with neighbors or deepening relationships you’ve already started.

Can you share a memorable experience or conversation from one of your gatherings?
Back in February, one of the residents who came to lunch is an airline pilot, who is at home on days that he isn’t flying. The rest of us were so curious about what it’s like to be a pilot that we clustered around him to ask questions and hear about his experiences. By the end of that lunch, we had all decided we wanted to change careers and become pilots!

At another lunch, I met a neighbor who had just moved to the building and they moved to Optima Lakeview® because there had been a fire in her home. She too has children, and so I was able to tell her about some of the great amenities and activities for kids in the building and neighborhood.  Really, the conversations are just natural and organic, and run the gamut from our work lives to our personal lives.

Exploring the Health Benefits of Indoor Cycling

At Optima®, we are committed to promoting a lifestyle that not only embraces luxury and design but also prioritizes wellness and active living. One of the cornerstones of achieving this vibrant, healthy lifestyle is indoor cycling, an activity available at many of our communities through state-of-the-art fitness centers. Indoor cycling isn’t just a fleeting fitness trend; it’s a comprehensive workout with extensive health benefits that align perfectly with the dynamic and health-conscious lives of Optima® residents.

Cardiovascular Improvement
Indoor cycling is a high-intensity, low-impact exercise making it suitable for people of all fitness levels. Regular sessions on a stationary bike can significantly boost cardiovascular health. It raises the heart rate, pumps oxygenated blood more efficiently, and decreases the risk of coronary artery diseases. Optim®a residents can enjoy these sessions in a community setting, making heart health a collective goal.

Enhanced Muscle Endurance and Strength
While cycling primarily targets the lower body, it is also beneficial for strengthening core and lower back muscles. The resistance feature of indoor bikes helps in building muscle endurance. Over time, participants notice enhanced strength in their calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Additionally, maintaining proper posture on the bike also engages the abdominal muscles, promoting core stability and strength which is essential for overall body balance and functionality.

Indoor cycling at 7160 Optima Kierland®

Weight Management
Indoor cycling can burn anywhere from 400 to 800 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of the workout and the rider’s body weight. This makes it an excellent option for Optima® residents looking to manage or lose weight. Consistent participation in cycling classes can help maintain a healthy metabolism and aid in body fat reduction, contributing to better weight management over time.

Low Impact on Joints
For those concerned about joint health, especially in the knees and ankles, indoor cycling provides a robust workout with minimal risk. The low-impact nature of cycling makes it a safer exercise, reducing the strain and wear on joints compared to high-impact exercises like running. This is particularly beneficial for aging residents or those with joint concerns, allowing them to stay active without exacerbating injuries.

Stress Reduction and Mental Health Benefits
Exercise is a known stress reliever, and indoor cycling is no exception. The rhythmic pedal movements can help clear the mind, much like a meditative practice. Endorphins released during vigorous exercise are natural mood lifters. Optima®’s serene and beautifully designed fitness spaces further enhance this experience, making each cycling session a mental escape as much as a physical workout.

Convenience and Community
One of the best parts about indoor cycling at Optima® is the convenience it offers. Residents don’t need to worry about weather conditions or traffic; they can simply head to the community fitness center. Furthermore, cycling classes can foster a sense of community among residents, as they encourage each other and share in the journey of health and wellness together. This social aspect of indoor cycling can lead to increased motivation and a more enjoyable fitness experience.

As we continue to innovate and enhance the living experiences at Optima®, indoor cycling remains a key component of our wellness initiatives. Whether you’re a beginner just testing the waters or an avid cyclist looking to maintain your regimen, the cycling studios at Optima® are designed to meet your needs. We invite all our residents to explore the benefits of this invigorating exercise, embrace a healthier lifestyle, and enjoy the journey towards personal wellness within our thriving community.

Indoor cycling is more than just pedaling; it’s a path to better health, a chance to unwind, and a way to connect with your neighbors. At Optima®, we’re proud to support each resident’s health journey, providing the tools and opportunities to thrive physically and mentally.


Women in Architecture: Ethel Mary Charles

In our ongoing “Women in Architecture” series, we turn our focus to Ethel Mary Charles, a pioneering figure whose name holds a special place in the annals of architectural history. As the first woman to gain admission to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1898, Charles carved a path for future generations of women in a profession that was, at the time, an exclusively male domain. Her journey, marked by determination and resilience, showcases the kind of groundbreaking spirit that we celebrate at Optima®, where innovation and inclusion are part of our core beliefs.

Born in 1871 in Hertfordshire, England, Ethel Mary Charles and her sister Bessie Ada Charles were exposed to architecture at a young age, thanks to their builder father. Despite societal norms that relegated women to the domestic sphere, Charles’ ambition led her to pursue a career in architecture. She and her sister embarked on studies at the Architectural Association in London, though Ethel was the only one to pursue a professional qualification at RIBA.

The journey was fraught with challenges. Ethel faced resistance at every turn, from being barred entry to architectural schools to encountering opposition from male peers at RIBA. Nevertheless, her persistence paid off when she passed her exams and became the first woman member of RIBA, a landmark achievement that opened doors for women in the field.

Composition design for a country parsonage for the Building News Design Club, perspective, plans, section, and elevations, 1895. RIBA Collections, PB260/19(2). RIBA32808

Ethel Mary Charles’s professional journey was emblematic of the broader struggle for women’s rights and acceptance in the workforce. Working primarily on small projects, including cottages and village halls, she left an indelible mark on the landscape of rural England. Her designs, characterized by their thoughtful attention to detail and harmonious integration with their surroundings, reflect a deep understanding of and respect for the natural environment—a principle that resonates with Optima®’s commitment to sustainability and architectural excellence.

Charles’s work on laborers’ cottages in Essex stands as a testament to her skill and her dedication to serving the community. These projects not only showcased her architectural prowess but also her commitment to improving living conditions for the working class.

Ethel Mary Charles’ legacy extends far beyond her architectural contributions. By breaking through the gender barriers of her time, she laid the groundwork for future generations of women in architecture. Her membership in RIBA paved the way for other women, signaling a gradual but significant shift in the profession’s attitudes towards gender inclusivity.

Her story is one of inspiration and courage, highlighting the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity. Charles’s legacy is celebrated not only for her architectural achievements but for her role in challenging and changing the status quo.

At Optima®, we draw inspiration from visionaries like Ethel Mary Charles, whose pioneering spirit aligns with our own values of innovation, excellence, and inclusivity. Just as Charles navigated the challenges of her time with grace and determination, we strive to push the boundaries of design and architecture, creating spaces that inspire and uplift.

Her legacy reminds us of the importance of paving the way for future talents, irrespective of gender, and fostering an environment where everyone has the opportunity to excel. Ethel Mary Charles’s story is a beacon of progress, encouraging us all to pursue our passions with unwavering conviction.

Exploring the Health Benefits of Strength Training

At Optima®, we’re continually exploring ways to enhance the well-being of our residents, encouraging practices that foster a healthy lifestyle. Among the myriad activities available within our communities, strength training stands out for its significant benefits, both physical and mental, contributing to a healthier, more vibrant lifestyle, aligning perfectly with our commitment to holistic living. So whether you’re a seasoned weightlifter or just starting out, there’s never been a better time to embrace the power of strength training for a healthier, happier you.

Strength training, also known as resistance training, involves exercises designed to improve muscle strength and endurance. By using weights, resistance bands, or your body weight, strength training activities work to gradually increase the resistance muscles face, promoting muscle growth and strength over time. It’s a versatile form of exercise, accessible to individuals at any fitness level, making it a staple in our state-of-the-art fitness centers across Optima® communities.

To experience the greatest physical benefits from strength training, it’s best to establish a consistent
routine, working out at least two times per week. With this regular, consistent approach, you can expect:

Increased muscle mass and strength: Regular strength training naturally leads to increased muscle mass and strength, which can significantly enhance daily life functionality. From carrying groceries to climbing stairs, stronger muscles make everyday activities easier and less taxing.

Fitness Center at Optima Lakeview®
Fitness Center at Optima Lakeview®

Enhanced bone health: Strength training is pivotal in maintaining bone density and combating osteoporosis. The pressure exerted on bones during these exercises triggers bone-forming cells, leading to stronger, denser bones.

Boosted metabolic rate: Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. Thus, increasing muscle mass through strength training can boost your metabolic rate, aiding in weight management and reducing the risk of obesity.

Improved posture and balance: As muscles strengthen, particularly those in the core, posture and balance see noticeable improvements. This can lead to a reduction in back pain and a lower risk of falls, particularly important as we age.

Enhanced flexibility and mobility: Contrary to the myth that strength training makes one bulky and stiff, it actually improves flexibility and joint range of motion when performed correctly.

At the same time, strength training brings significant mental health benefits, including:

Stress relief: Strength training is a powerful stress-buster. The focus required during a session can serve as a form of mindfulness, diverting attention away from daily worries and reducing stress levels.

Boosted confidence and self-esteem: Achieving goals in strength training, whether lifting a heavier weight or completing more repetitions, can significantly boost confidence and self-esteem. This sense of accomplishment often transcends the gym, impacting other areas of life positively.

Improved cognitive function: Regular physical activity, including strength training, has been shown to enhance cognitive function, potentially lowering the risk of cognitive decline as we age.

At Optima®, we understand the value of community in maintaining a consistent fitness routine. Our fitness centers are spaces where residents come together, sharing goals, and supporting each other’s wellness journeys. Strength training sessions, whether individually, with a personal trainer, or in a group class, foster a sense of camaraderie and collective achievement. We’re proud to offer the facilities and the environment that encourage and support our residents in integrating strength training into their lifestyles, ensuring they reap all the benefits it has to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned weightlifter or just starting out, there’s never been a better time to embrace the power of strength training for a healthier, happier you.


Exploring Artist Ellison Keomaka’s Soulful Journey

At Optima® communities, we believe in fostering a vibrant culture that encourages creativity and engagement. It is with great pleasure that we highlight the diverse talents within our communities, especially when it comes to special events that bring everyone together. Recently, we had the unique opportunity to host an extraordinary exhibition with Ellison Keomaka, a celebrated local artist and the hand behind the commissioned installations across Optima® buildings.

Tell us a little bit about the exhibition idea with it. Was it who organized it? Did you make original work for the exhibition or was it more of a curation of existing  paintings? Was there a theme?
At the end of 2023, some life events shifted my perspective. I had an overwhelming sense of clarity about what I wanted to create next — paintings for myself. Telling the story of the warrior spirit and the beauty of life through flowers began at the start of the year. The next 60 days held surprising discoveries for me that became the body of work titled “Hanakotoba.”

Ellison Keomaka Exhibition Text
Exhibition narrative

For the first time in my career, I created a body of work that wasn’t based on commissions or the collector’s aesthetic. These were stories that meant something to me personally. Celebrating life’s gifts and our impermanence, these paintings connect with the viewer, as well.

I chose the show title “Hanakotoba,” which translates to “flower words” in Japanese, as the visual palette to tell the stories of my life. Through the use of floral patterns, colors, and textures, I was able to express moments and people that have impacted me greatly.

The collection was diverse yet cohesive, with stories represented in many different forms and colors. In just 60 days, 38 paintings and 1 sculpture came together to become the exhibition.

Scene from the exhibition opening
Scene from the exhibition opening

Can you describe the physical setting for the exhibition?
I paid special attention to the physical setting for the exhibition and chose the Residents’ Lounge at 7190 Optima Kierland®. The space is open and airy, which made it a perfect venue for the paintings. The exhibit was curated with the architecture in mind, focusing on every detail, including the custom fabricated easels for intentional and refined presentation of the work.

The stands made the paintings appear as though they were floating in space, which contributed to the sensation of being in a lush garden. Additionally, I installed panels with texts that shared personal quotes and the stories behind the works. The storytelling aspect made the show unique.

To transform the space for residents, I created an entry point with two large banners to offer a sense of arrival to the show.

How did the people attending engage with the work?
The event took place from 6:00 to 9:00 pm and attracted more than 200 people. Half of the attendees were Optima Kierland® residents, while the rest were collectors of my work and close friends.

As I walked through the show, I was moved by the overwhelming response of appreciation for the artwork. I was touched by the presence of many people who have been instrumental in my career success and those who are close friends. The artwork resonated with the attendees, and many of the pieces found new homes with their stories and intentions.

The show also featured curated music for the event, which a close friend created and performed live. It was the final piece that brought the show together and created an unforgettable experience.

Ellison working in his studio
Ellison working in his studio

What was most meaningful to you about the exhibition?
Creating work that is bold, takes risks, and shares my values was a challenging experience. Although the behind the scenes of the show was not visible, the process behind it was a battle, both internally and externally. Each painting had to be perfect due to the tight timeline, and striking the right balance between creative expression and excellence was a delicate dance. Bringing together all the elements to create a seamless and engaging experience was also challenging, but it all coalesced thanks to the help of some amazing people.

Despite the challenges, there was a beauty to the process that I found only by persevering and courageously moving forward.

So what’s next?
The show marks a new beginning and a transformation in my work. The process and the way I create have once again evolved. I am excited for this new chapter of expression in my work.

There are several amazing upcoming projects that include the new Optima McDowell Mountain™. The buildings will feature brand new styles of work using inspirations from the surrounding nature. There will also be limited edition releases of work from the show and some exciting new exhibits to be announced. I am just grateful for each opportunity I’m given to create.


person name goes here

Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL

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