A Booming Community–Homewood at Willow Ponds
By Christy Brudin
Friends prepare for a museum outing. A woman heads off to work. Students file into the fitness center.
Homewood at Willow Ponds, an active adult community in Frederick, Md., is booming—primarily because it provides Boomers with exactly what they want—a maintenance-free, activity-‑ filled lifestyle with the promise of future care if it is needed. Homewood Retirement Centers includes five communities in Maryland and Pennsylvania and has a long history of o offering enriching lifestyles at reasonable costs.
With construction still underway and new active adults moving in every day, the boom at Homewood at Willow Ponds, shows no signs of slowing. No one knows this better than two of the community’s founding couples—John and Gail Slezak and Sharron and Bill Smith.
Less Shoveling, More Relaxing
Both natives of Pennsylvania, John and Gail Slezak didn’t meet until they became music teachers with the Frederick County School System. Gail taught vocal music for 3 years in Frederick County, and John did a 3-year stint as a bandsman in the Army before teaching instrumental music for Frederick County Public Schools. The musical couple has now been together for more than 43 years.
John and Gail spent most of their married life in Frederick, Md., in a house on a half-acre property. As the years passed, they realized they were spending the bulk of their free time maintaining the house and property—and while some of the chores were enjoyable, others became more of a burden.
“I was quite a gardener, and I enjoyed it very much, but after 40 years, I was getting tired of pulling weeds and digging holes, so I was so glad to move here and have that all done for us,” noted Gail, who is now focusing on more manageable projects, including barrel tomatoes and seasonal flower pots. Gail also still teaches part time.
“We moved in on December 18th, and we were so fortunate to avoid the terrible winter and all the work that comes with it,” John added. “One of my greatest pleasures was drinking a cup of coffee while looking out the front window and watching them clear our driveway.”
Now, instead of shoveling, the Slezaks are enjoying delicious meals and exciting activities. As residents of Homewood at Willow Ponds, they live in a one-level patio home but still enjoy access to all of the amenities available at Homewood at Crumland Farms, a full service retirement care community located across the street, including dining options, various levels of health care, a fitness center, entertainment programs and an array of activities. They are also enjoying traveling both internationally and domestically, while never having to worry about the upkeep of their home.
More Traveling, Less Worrying
Bill and Sharron Smith grew up in different parts of Kentucky. After graduating from college, they were both working for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio, when their paths crossed. The couple was married shortly thereafter, and they decided to further their education together. Both Bill and Sharron went on to attain doctorates from the University of Kentucky.
After moving to the Washington, D.C. region for job opportunities in 1972, the Smiths never left. They settled in Urbana, Md., nearly 30 years ago. The couple raised a son and a daughter and never considered moving into an active adult community. That is, until their friends moved to Homewood and raved about the community.
“We also loved the idea of having someone else take care of all the home maintenance, and we were excited about all the activities and social interactions,” Bill explained. “Having friends living here really gave us a wonderful preview of what life here would entail.” The couple decided to make the move in December and joined the Slezaks as some of the first residents.
While the Smiths’ son lives nearby in Rockville, Md., their daughter lives in Seattle, Wash., so the couple spends part of every year in a condominium in Seattle. Moving to Homewood has allowed them to maintain their bi-coastal lifestyle without worrying about property maintenance.
“Living here gives us so much flexibility,” Bill said. “We can go to Seattle and know that someone is going to look after our place while we’re away.” Beyond visiting their daughter, the couple also enjoys traveling to various other destinations, and they always love being able to close the door behind them and never look back.
In addition to decreasing their own worries, the Smiths have also provided peace of mind for their children. “Our kids are very happy that we’ve made all the decisions that come with downsizing and moving and saved them the trouble,” noted Sharron.
No Entry Fees, Countless Opportunities
Both the Slezaks and the Smiths had just one piece of advice for other Boomers—“Don’t wait too long.” Gail explained, “So many people say that they just can’t bring themselves to move, but John and I wanted to do this while we were still active and could come here and enjoy life.”
According to the staff at Homewood at Willow Ponds, their peers are listening. “The average age of our incoming residents is very young. Twenty percent of them are in their 60s, and 70 percent of them are age 75 or under,” explained Karen Main, Associate Director of Marketing for Homewood.
Both couples were able to transition to retirement living at such young ages partly because of the unique payment options that Homewood offers. Unlike many senior living options, the community does not require an upfront entry fee of several hundred thousand dollars. Instead, it others simple and affordable monthly fee plans.
This monthly fee affords residents priority access to traditional retirement community care options, including independent living, assisted living and nursing or rehabilitation care, should they be needed. Residents at the new active adult property also have full access to all the amenities at the adjoining full service retirement community.
However, as Homewood at Willow Ponds continues to grow, so will the list of world-class facilities. “Our active adult residents will gain even more amenities during our next phase of construction,” noted Cheryl Wright, Director of Marketing at Homewood. “These options include a bistro, a bar and lounge, a large dining room, a full health club and fitness center, and a salt water swimming pool—all the contemporary amenities that Boomers are looking for.”
The next phase of construction will be The Lodge, a new building featuring stunning amenities and two-bedroom apartments. Future phases will offer additional patio homes.
Both the Slezaks and the Smiths are taking full advantage of the maintenance-free living and enriching activities that come with their new home. They are proud to be among the community’s founding couples and are looking forward to a future filled with personal and community growth. As both couples know firsthand, Homewood at Willow Ponds is offering what Boomers want—and, as a result, the community is booming.
Published: July 2014