Still Growing
Seniors pursue an eventful, purpose-driven life on the campuses of the region’s resort-style communities offering continuing care
by Theodora Malison

Retirement might sound much like music to the ears of those who are 55 and older. For others, however, the thought is enough to induce panic because of the daunting questions that lie ahead. What if medical issues arise? What if independence is lost? Is a senior’s desired lifestyle affordable over the long term? These questions often stir up worry for seniors currently living in the comfort of their own home, making the decision to make the move a little more perplexing. Luckily, for those who live in the Greater Philadelphia Area, some of the best in senior living is, quite literally, just around the corner.

One of the biggest advantages to moving to a resort-style retirement community, such as one of the many communities under the umbrella of Acts Retirement-Life Communities—Acts has locations in Ambler, Blue Bell, Media and West Point, to name a few—is the ability to maintain one’s independence while easing the responsibilities of maintaining one’s home. 

“There are many advantages to living in a retirement community like Acts,” says Michael Smith, corporate communications director for Acts. “There are no concerns over home maintenance, meal preparation and all of the day-to-day tasks that can be tiring. When people move here, it only takes a short period of time before they get accustomed to the lifestyle and reap the benefits from our community.”

Now more than ever, seniors are able to take their future into their own hands, according to Kristen Lamanna, marketing director for Riddle Village in Media.

“You’re never going to have to rely on a family member or child to plan for your future,” she says, adding that this is a looming concern for many looking to retire. “When you move to a continuing care or lifecare community, you have a certain level of protection—meaning if, down the line, your health changes, you can continue to stay under the same roof. And you’re never going to have to worry about someone deciding where you’re going, what you’re doing. You speak for yourself from the beginning.”

Because these retirement life communities allow seniors to remain independent and have a voice within the community, clubs and activities are often formed by, and run by, residents. Smith notes a few groups created by residents at Acts—one in particular, The Old Spokes, a group of bicycle enthusiasts who have been featured on the “Today” TV show.

“This group of residents absolutely loves to bike everywhere, and they gather on a regular occasion to bike throughout the area,” he adds. “We have residents that enjoy biking and enjoy being outdoors. Some residents move in and they haven’t biked in years, so they join this club and begin riding their bike again.”

Other clubs and groups usually offered within these communities include book clubs, musical clubs, travel clubs, investment clubs, and even, in the case of White Horse Village in Newtown Square, a technology club, which allows residents to work with students from Pennsylvania State University Brandywine to learn the latest in technology.

“We’re big on technology here,” says Dottie Mallon, vice president of marketing at White Horse Village. “The computer users group has about 100 residents as members and the students do weekly education on different applications.”

Mallon mentions many of the members are retired computer experts who can help residents troubleshoot their computers, if needed. She suggests the enrichment programs serve as lifelong learning and engagement for residents, ultimately improving their quality of life.

“It’s not just growing with the mind, but it’s a sense of physically growing as well,” she says. “There’s a strong focus on wellness and exercise. Whether they’re participating in a fitness class or learning how to band butterflies for the butterfly migration, there’s so much at their fingertips for them to do.”  

Mallon mentions the close affiliation White Horse Village has with the nearby Tyler Arboretum, in addition to the community’s harvesters’ garden during the spring, summer and early months of fall. Residents who work in the garden raise the produce used in the kitchen and grow flowers which are sold as fundraising for cultural programs and activities at White Horse Village.

Cultural and entertainment opportunities are plentiful—and of paramount importance—to the vitality of each community. Similar to White Horse Village, Riddle Village maintains a close relationship with many outreach and service programs within the area, including Operation Warm, which donates new winter coats for children. The calendar of events changes each month, tailored to residents’ interests and likings.

“Programs and entertainment [are] offered every day,” Lamanna notes. “We have musicians that come in, comedians, various presentations from professors at local universities or authors that come in to discuss a book. With recent renovations, we now have a courtyard in addition to our lounge, so residents can go outside and play shuffleboard or bocce ball, or have a cocktail on the outdoor patio before going to a show.”

Lamanna also says residents have numerous travel opportunities in and outside the Pennsylvania area, which she believes is culturally and socially beneficial to their well-being.

“Because we have our own transportation department, residents can go to the shore, or on any one of our trips we host,” she says. “All residents know the trips ahead of schedule.”

Another major benefit which Smith, Lamanna and Mallon all agree on is the socialization factor retirement life and continuing care communities provide. Smith advises against seniors “aging in place” due to its isolative nature.

“For the majority of seniors, it’s not a good lifestyle for them, nor is it a good decision,” he says. “Isolation can lead to a host of problems down the road. They need help with transportation, health care, etc. Not to mention, the burden this can put on family members can be rather large. The biggest advantage is the lifestyle experience that seniors want and ultimately the services they need—all while protecting their finances from the high cost of care.”

Adds Mallon: “Being in an all-inclusive community, residents get to experience amenities that they wouldn’t else otherwise experience if living alone. You might start off independent, but as you age, you are comforted knowing you’re surrounded by support on all angles. Statistics show this can add an average of five years to your life.”

The biggest piece of advice Lamanna has for those on the fence? Don’t wait.

“Oftentimes residents say to me they wished they had moved in sooner,” she says. “Sometimes people wait till there’s a health problem to move in, but then realize they waited too long and don’t get to necessarily enjoy all the lifestyle has to offer. We encourage those on the fence to make the move and enjoy all the community has to offer. You’ll be happy you did.”