Starting Anew
Active seniors embrace bold, new beginnings at the region’s choice continuing care communities
by Jennifer Updike

The American lifestyle in 2014 has become one of instant gratification. In other words, if we can imagine it, we can—and should—have it. Such promise should not change just because we’re getting older.

Due to advances in medicine, active participation in fitness regimens, healthy diets and overall health-conscious life choices, Americans are living longer and better than ever before. The crush of baby boomers seeking ways to maintain the freedom and possibility of their youth has spiked the demand for all types of business that cater to their needs. As a result, the region’s many continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and allied service providers have evolved to offer amenities, programs and facilities that will keep seniors as active, engaged and independent as possible. So says Dottie Mallon, vice president of marketing and public relations for White Horse Village.

At White Horse Village, the 96-acre campus in Newtown Square is adjacent to Ridley Creek State Park. These amenities include more technology, more options for living quarters and better wellness/exercise facilities with more professional staffing with more varied programs, such as yoga, Tai Chi and Zumba. Improvements also extend to the kitchen, offering a wider range of food choices and dining options, including more upscale foods, as well as gluten-free, vegetarian and low-sodium options.  

“This generation of boomers—and beyond—consists of more educated, savvy shoppers who are not only looking for an active, maintenance-free lifestyle but are also planning for their longevity,” says Nicole Michael, corporate director of sales and marketing for Lititz-based Moravian Manors Inc., whose properties include Moravian Manor and Warwick Woodlands. “There’s a younger vibe, a new mentality that wants it all. They want to make sure the community they choose enhances their efforts to plan ahead for the unforeseen, while embracing a vital, active lifestyle now.”

Also high on the list is the familiar adage of “location, location, location,” Michael suggests. She believes Moravian Manor and its up-and-coming sister community, Warwick Woodlands, are prime examples of how retirement living is being reinvented. The new Owl’s Nest Restaurant and Sippery being planned for Warwick Woodlands, for example, reflects today’s penchant for wine bars and casual eateries where boomers can enjoy gathering and socializing with friends. Even so, residents no longer want to be limited to the many opportunities offered on campus.

“In our case, the charming town of Lititz, right at our residents’ doorsteps, adds an array of services and activities, such as one-of-a-kind shops, pubs, a park and a full calendar of festivities,” Michael says. “Our location in the heart of Lititz affords our residents many opportunities they would not otherwise have if we were located in the middle of a cornfield. It’s hard not to fall in love with ‘America’s Coolest Small Town’ [as voted by Budget Trave l in 2013], and people who move here often comment that it’s one of the best decisions they’ve ever made.”

Senior living communities such as these are investing significant sums to offer new on-site resources, as well as create new experiences designed to enhance residents’ lives. From fully equipped fitness centers and pools, to technology-rich community centers and onsite restaurants, the options are abundant. Beyond the bricks-and-mortar changes, however, many communities are investing in programs rooted in fun and education.

Whether residents seek to volunteer, learn something new through a college-level class or visit local destinations, such as historic sites in Center City, the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown or a nearby moviehouse, today’s senior living communities are proving that it is never too late to cultivate a hidden talent, indulge in a new hobby or otherwise have a transformative new experience.

“Residents—and, more specifically, prospective residents—are looking for options in dining venues, upgraded interior finishes, fitness centers, spa, theater, Wi-Fi service, relevant cultural and educations programs, vocational opportunities and superior customer service,” says Janet L. Thompson, director of marketing and resident relations for Waverly Heights Ltd., a senior living community based in Gladwyne. “Prospective residents express their desires and needs via focus groups or one-on-one visits, which can translate to the community’s short- and long-range plans.”

In addition to resident feedback, Thompson says her organization draws from several other sources when plotting out future programs, additions and amenities. These sources include visits to other communities, state and national conferences, and media focused on senior trends and senior housing.

The allure of leading retirement communities is apparent, yet some active seniors tend to delay their decision to make the transition to a CCRC. Delaying such a decision, however, could ultimately backfire, especially for community with a long wait list. For some, however, the decision is beyond their immediate control, at least without some degree of risk.

“The recent poor real estate market has delayed housing sales that most seniors depend upon for funds to pay CCRC entry fees,” says Mallon. Other factors include a reluctance to leave one’s home and give up their current lifestyle, leaving friends and neighbors. What they don’t realize, according to Mallon, is that they can continue to participate in their outside activities and obligations, and they even continue to work while living at a retirement community.

Others see themselves as healthy and not in need of what Mallon calls “life care,” including options for residents with Alzheimer’s or potentially debilitating physical ailments, such as injuries sustained in the aftermath of a fall. For others still, it’s simply a matter of timing.

“Making a move is something they know they need to do; however, recognizing the right time to do it is the challenge,” says Michael. “Some people wait too long until there is a significant change in health to make the move and, unfortunately, realize at that point that they’ve waited too long.”  

Once the decision has been made to change addresses, Thompson advises a number of considerations, ranging from the obvious, such as the community’s location, services, amenities, programs and costs, to the obscure. Less obvious considerations would include the financial condition and strength of the community; the opportunity residents have to provide input into the operation and governance of the community, including membership on the board of trustees; the results of the community’s resident satisfaction surveys; state and federal surveys of the skilled nursing center and/or personal care facilities, if applicable; and employee turnover rates.

Considerations aside, it is easier than ever for seniors to embrace an active, social and enriching lifestyle at a new “somewhere.” Of course, beginning a new chapter starts long before the day a resident moves into his or her new home. First, important conversations—with spouses, adult children and others advisers who can help make important decisions that might include downsizing from the home in which a prospective resident has raised his or her family—must take place. Such transparency will not only create a clearer picture moving forward but also give a senior’s children the confidence of knowing that Mom and/or Dad will enjoy an active and independent lifestyle and be in good hands going forward.

With all the necessary I’s dotted and T’s crossed, seniors can then focus on more important things: doing what they love, with friends new and old, in a place they are happy to call home. In other words, it’s never too late to start anew.

Life Goes On
The Philadelphia area boasts a number of exceptional senior living communities and allied service providers who specialize in helping seniors live as actively and independently as possible.  

Retirement Communities
Moravian Manor
717-626-0214 |

Pine Run Retirement Community
800-992-8992 |

Warwick Woodlands
717-625-6000 |

Waverly Heights
610-645-8600 |

White Horse Village
Newtown Square
610-558-5000 |

Other Service Providers
Bayada Home Health Care
Philadelphia area
888-422-9232 |

Gummer Elder Law
215-345-5858 |

Main Line Audiology Consultants P.C.
Multiple area locations
888-344-0818 |

Visiting Angels
215-345-9600 |