Friday, 31 October 2014 03:16

Senior Communities: Getting Better All The Time

Written by  Ed Malet

Ever wondered how our seniors spend their retirement?


Senior CommunitiesSenior communities and facilities in the Brandywine Valley have grown dramatically in the last few years. But what are seniors doing there? We decided to look at some of the newest additions and developments.

It turns out, area seniors are luxuriating in pools, playing exotic sports and games, gardening, woodworking and soothing their muscles and bones.

Warm Waters

Pools and spas are a major focus of improvements and additions at area communities. Kendal-Crosslands in Kennett Square, for one, just finished its salt-water indoor pool. Salt water has several advantages: it feels soft and soothing, it has no odor, and doesn’t cause the itch, green hair and red eye of chlorinated pools.

Kendal’s group exercise classes in the pool are probably the biggest draw, says Michele Berardi, Director of Community Outreach. Classes include water walking, aerobics and balance, plus one-on-one exercise sessions and swimming lessons. For the more active, there’s a water volleyball team that plays once a week.

A warm water therapy pool is the highlight of Brandywine Senior Living at Longwood in Kennett Square. Residents there use it for exercise, according to Executive Director Paola Fusaro. The pool provides relaxation, arthritis relief, and help with weight loss, blood pressure and muscle toning. Therapeutic pools are especially effective in rehabilitation when people suffer injuries or require post-surgical healing. And the warm water is a great help with aching, aging joints. Brandywine’s “Escapades Producer”—that’s how they refer to their activities director—is a Certified Lifeguard and Aquatics Therapies Instructor for as many as three residents per session.

There’s a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse that’s just opened in Lancaster for Willow Valley Communities. Outside, they built a zero-entry pool, meaning no steps: the entry is gradual, like your favorite beach. They also have outdoor tennis courts. 

Inside, a six-lane bowling alley, pickleball courts (a cross between badminton, tennis and ping pong), a golf simulator and more are available to keep residents moving and happy. Needless to say, the facilities are in demand. Plus friends and family are welcome to use all of the amenities, too. Kim Daly Nobbs, the Chief Marketing Officer, notes that Willow Valley is constantly finding ways to inspire “intergenerational engagement.” The aim of the community, says Nobbs, is to “nurture vibrancy.”

The warm water feature at Barclay Friends in West Chester is a bit different, where for nearly two years, they’ve been engaged in an ongoing renovation. Open, airy European showers have been added in each apartment, and warm, bubbling spas have also been installed on each floor, improving the lifestyle of more than 90 residents and guests. In addition, the redesign of the common dining area provides an intimate setting for sharing meals. Faith Woodward, the Marketing Director, says that it’s a plus that each dining room overlooks a garden, one of which continues to produce potatoes, radishes and other crops for the Chester County Food Bank.

Gardens Green

Not every improvement that adds to the quality of life is a multi-million dollar project. Riddle Village, for example, has been cultivating its gardens on a shoestring. Nearly 20 years ago, it built twelve 4’x8’ raised plots in what resident Anita Hudson refers to as “a little dimple.” This year, residents have grown tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini and a variety of herbs, mainly to give away to family and friends, and to use themselves. “Who doesn’t want a fresh tomato?” Around the perimeter of the vegetable garden, Ms. Hudson has planted ferns; on the hill, daffodils. The area is serene with a stream gurgling in the background and birdhouses dotting the landscape.

Day trips to the restaurants, parks and orchards in North Wilmington are what’s in store for residents, family and friends at Foulk Manor South. It has a vegetable garden, too, says Melissa Casperson, Community Relations Director. Not to mention walking paths around the community. Just what the doctor ordered!

And the vegetable gardens at Harrison House in Coatesville provide a bounty of fresh produce, reports Chief Operating Officer Harrison Saunders. Tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers: they go straight to the kitchen! Harrison House is also considering repurposing a former mechanical space to add a new amenity. Once the site of the boiler, generator and pumping systems for the Coatesville Hospital, the space is now on the drawing board as a pool and spa. Maybe it will be finished next year!

On the Move

New sports facilities are an attractive investment of time and effort for seniors. Dottie Mallon, the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at White Horse Village in Newtown Square, says bocce ball—think a cross between bowling and shuffleboard—is the newest sport to gain a following. Just ask the members of its Bocce Brigade! Located by a meadow, the bocce ball court is by the horseshoe pit and playground. The next phase is education—teaching the uninitiated how to play the game. Members of the Norristown Bocce League have been invited to give demonstrations.

To keep fit at Exton Senior Living, there’s new exercise equipment, including a treadmill and stationary bicycle. Residents there can choose the indoor equipment to keep moving, or they may prefer one of the lovely walking paths through the grounds. Afterward, perhaps a peaceful nap on the updated porch?

You’ll find a new game room and two large dining rooms at Jenner’s Pond in West Grove. And, as a resident, you get a lifetime membership at the local YMCA—right across the street. Treadmills, free-weights, ellipticals, oh my! About 85 residents have taken advantage of this perk.

The Devon Senior Living recently renovated an underused storage area into a state-of-the-art physical and occupational therapy center. And, adjacent to this area, still under construction, is a new entertainment space specifically designed for singers and entertainers. Even more features are in the planning stages, including a county store, offering greeting cards, hygiene products, magazines and the like.

Senior Communities

Wood Shop

There’s always a lively group at Tel Hai Retirement’s Wood Craft Shop. The Tel Hai community has been awed by the Shop’s work—whether carving birds, creating art pieces or making furniture and wooden toys. The Shop’s 30 members also do a variety of repairs and refinishing for their neighbors. One member completed a beautiful large dollhouse.

Rod Muthard, five-year resident and foreman of the shop, says his favorite project has been refinishing the chapel chairs. But creativity is his trademark. He’s also worked with Amish children on simple wooden crafts and creates pens of common and exotic woods.

Relaxation … with Rhythm

One of the best additions at the Friends Home in Kennett may be the wrap-around porch, a multi-purpose, multi-season room. Portions of the porch date to the original structure (circa 1840), and it’s been repurposed several times. Rocking chairs still offer comfort, while sunsets are not the only entertainment. Residents, families and friends enjoy everything from big band to patriotic music provided by guest musicians with modern sound systems. Glenn Miller anyone?