Taking Care
At Pennswood Village, the focus is on community service and eco-minded living
by Karen Appold

As Pennswood Village of Newtown celebrates its 30th anniversary, it reflects on the perseverance of its founders, its Quaker heritage, its award-winning accomplishments
and its future goals—most notably its green initiatives.

Pennswood, home to 450 senior residents and employer of 425, is a nationally recognized continuing care retirement community that provides exceptional services for seniors.

It was the vision of seven Quaker men and women in the Newtown area who were committed to developing a Quaker directed retirement community for those aged 65 years and older of all faiths. “It is a quintessential example of how a small committed group of people can bring a dream to reality,” says Nancy Spears, executive director. “They started without any money or land.”

The group felt a need to create a retirement community where seniors could live full and rich lives. “They worked hard to do what it took—they did marketing, oversaw construction and even swept the floors,” Spears continues. “When they were short of money, they even put their own houses up for collateral.”

Just like their founders, residents at Pennswood find fulfillment in giving back to their community. Last year they volunteered a total of 16,000 hours in the Newtown community and 50,000 hours within Pennswood. For instance, outside of Pennswood they volunteered in the Meals on Wheels program and at St. Mary Hospital, the Red Cross and the League of Women Voters. At Pennswood, they run social programs, present plays, sponsor lectures, arrange art shows for emerging artists and deliver mail. “This is a caring community, where residents, employees and board members of the non-profit organization all care about each other,” Spears says.

Pennswood also affords its residents the opportunity to experience a multi-generational type of life. Residents fund an employee scholarship program to help students go to college. “We recognize that education is a gift that lasts a lifetime,” Spears says. “Our Quaker values guide us,” Spears continues. “We believe the spirit of God resides in each of us. We believe in equality among all persons, and we welcome diversity.”

Adds Spears, “Aging is inevitable, but we can help people cope with what happens over time. They don’t have to be alone. They can enjoy the privacy of their own home, but when they step out there is an endless supply of new friends and social activities which contribute to a rich sense of well-being.” A guiding principal of Pennswood is to be good stewards of resources and the natural environment. An example of this is an award winning private-public partnership in which 13 acres of land was dedicated to a regional storm water management system. This helps to protect the community’s neighbors from flooding and provides open space.

Spears cites countless other green initiatives, such as a geothermal heating/cooling system; using green products for housekeeping, purchasing Energy Star rated appliances; and membership in the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.

“We try to contribute to the environment in every decision we make,” Spears says. Food is bought locally and 1,000 meals a day are cooked from scratch.

Everything is recycled, including using recycled car tires for sidewalks.

But that’s not all. Some residents tend their own gardens and donate vegetables to the common good. Pennswood’s commitment to quality doesn’t go unnoticed. Of the approximately 2,500 retirement communities in the United States, it is just one of several hundred to be accredited. “Industry standards are our minimums, not our maximums,” Spears says.

“Life here is dynamic and interesting because the people who live here are a true community,” Spears says. “Our residents stay engaged in life. The fact is, no matter how old someone is, he or she can contribute to others’ lives. We believe in life long learning, exercise and contributing. There is vitality here.”

Spears concludes by saying, “Don’t assume you know what life is like at Pennswood. We are happy to have people visit and stay over—take a test drive, if you will.”

Karen Appold is a freelance writer in Royersford. (WriteNowServices.com)