‘A Great Place to Live’
At St. Martha Villa for Independent and Retirement Living in Downingtown, seniors discover a warm, inviting community designed to enrich their lives—mentally, physically and spiritually
by Bill Donahue

Years ago, the process of moving from one’s longtime family home to a senior-living facility was often difficult, sometimes even traumatic. Thankfully, the times and facilities have changed for the better. Although such a move still comes with its share of emotional adjustment, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) such as St. Martha Villa for Independent and Retirement Living in Downingtown are making the transition a much simpler one.

St. Martha Villa, after all, is an uncommon place. Here, residents discover a warm community staffed by caring individuals devoted to maintaining, if not enriching, their long-term physical, mental and spiritual well-being, according to Donna Gates, R.N., BSN, administrator and director of health services for St. Martha Villa.

“This is a great place to live,” she says. “We have the ability to have a CCRC in a combined campus, and we’re one of the few CCRCs in Chester County that is Catholic driven. … I like to look at our home as if it were a cruise ship, in that people come here for three things: There is our chef-prepared meals three times a day; recreation, because there’s always something fun going on here; and our Catholic tradition, as many of our residents are Catholic and devout.”

At the heart of St. Martha Villa is its commitment to excellence in providing a continuum of care. Across all departments, the staff prides itself on delivering a positive experience for residents and their families.  Such efforts have led to St. Martha Villa earning a 98 percent customer-satisfaction rate on internal surveys, according to Erin Warren, the organization’s vice president of business development.

“St. Martha Villa is a unique facility with a strong sense of community,” says Warren. “When you walk in the door, you know you are in a good place. Our facility is beautifully decorated, well maintained and designed to be very comfortable. It’s a really beautiful community.”

Spirituality and pastoral care have been integral parts of the experience at St. Martha Villa since its founding in 1989. Mass is celebrated daily in a beautiful onsite chapel, and those unable to attend can participate via closed-circuit television. Other spiritual programs include daily rosary and scripture readings, as well as “Tea with Deacons” on Mondays. Also, residents are welcome to attend Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is adjacent to the campus; St. Martha Villa buses residents to the church every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday morning.

“A lot of people come to us because we are Catholic, but we have residents of all backgrounds,” adds Kristie Ladley, director of community outreach and admissions for St. Martha Villa. “The environment is warm, loving and kind, and the staff is down to earth and very friendly. It’s a unique atmosphere that you can feel as soon as you walk through the door.”

This should come as no surprise considering St. Martha Villa’s beginnings. The community belonged to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia until November 2014, when the archdiocese sold its six senior-living campuses to New York-based Center Management Group. Now run by the Catholic Health Group, a division of Center Management Group, St. Martha Villa and its sister facilities in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have been designated “Stewards of the Catholic Tradition in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.” Throughout its network of facilities, Catholic Health Group provides short-term subacute care featuring a wide range of physical, occupational and speech therapy, in addition to adult daycare programs, independent living, personal care and memory support care, as well as long-term care.

‘Full of Life’
Of course, residents of St. Martha Villa benefit from an active community designed to nourish much more than spirituality alone. Some St. Martha Villa residents rejuvenate simply by strolling the beautiful grounds, which include a network of walking trails and landscaped gardens—even a putting green. Other activities include individualized wellness programs, educational seminars and scheduled entertainment, among other amenities.

“People want to see a community that is engaging and active—a place full of life, a place with a heartbeat—and that’s what they find here,” says Ladley, who previously worked as the facility’s director of recreation. “We cater to a lot of different interest groups and offer many fun activities. In the summer and spring, we do a garden club, tending a full garden of vegetables. We also have trivia groups, a bridge group and a poker club twice a week. It’s a very active community, with a full activities calendar that includes quite a few trips, whether it’s for leisure or something as simple as taking a trip to the grocery store.”

Truly a CCRC, St. Martha Villa strives to deliver the highest level of care to address every resident’s needs. Whether a resident lives independently in a studio or one- or two-bedroom apartment, requires personal nursing care or is in need of individualized memory-support care to address the specialized needs associated with dementia, St. Martha Villa boasts a highly trained and caring staff whose goal is to help residents enjoy the most active and engaged life possible. In addition, St. Martha Villa can easily make adjustments in care to accommodate any changes to a resident’s health status.

“The goal of this campus is to help each resident function in their own individual homes,” says Gates. “If a resident’s condition deteriorates, we have the option of offering skilled nursing care at St. Martha Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, which is right next door. On a short-term basis, any resident can go to the Center, receive the rehabilitation they need and then matriculate back into their apartment at the Villa.”

Above all, St. Martha Villa is a place rooted in community and compassion. It’s where seniors from various backgrounds come to meet new friends, to enjoy new experiences and to continue their pursuit of vibrant lives rooted in meaning and spirituality. 

“This is an organization that is very much into meeting the needs of residents and their families,” says Warren. “In this financial environment, we’ve had no rate increases over the last year, which we did as a way to offer a ‘thank you’ to residents. I think that speaks volumes about who we are as an organization.

“We want to provide for residents and reassure their families that their loved ones are in a safe, caring environment, and you can see that in the interactions between our residents and our staff,” she continues.  “Once they come in, our residents find they truly love it here. … We welcome everyone to come in, take a tour and see the difference for themselves.”

St. Martha Villa for Independent and Retirement Living
490 Manor Ave.
Downingtown, PA 19355
www.stmrehab.org | www.chg.org

Photograph by Jody Robinson