A Celebration to Remember in a Retirement Community
Forty years ago, on a wet and dreary day in early November, the first moving vans pulled into the campus of Foulkeways at Gwynedd, arriving at what would become the model for many subsequent Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. The day was rainy and dismal; rain turned to sleet and two days later, the drizzle and sleet turned into a full-fledged winter snowstorm. These first, hardy residents were greeted by building equipment and materials lying about, piles of dirt and bare, muddy paths. It was not a pretty picture! During those early days in ’67, residents walked over mud and snow on wooden planks, similar to the pictures you’ve seen of frontier towns — the only things missing from the Foulkeways ‘picture’ were horse drawn wagons! Yes, Foulkeways’ first ‘pioneers’ came in moving vans rather than in wagon trains, but it didn’t take much imagination to picture the wild, Wild West, as the first handful of residents began unpacking their belongings. The story of Foulkeways Continuing Care Retirement Community in Gwynedd does not begin on move-in day, however. Rather, it started on November 25, 1945, when Charles O. Beaumont bequeathed property in Lower Gwynedd to Gwynedd Meeting Society of Friends to honor the wishes of his late wife, May Foulke Beaumont. In January of 1946 a committee was appointed to begin to evaluate the ‘situation’ and ‘set priorities for action.’ Twenty-one years later, the first residents arrived to begin life in this brand new, ‘innovative’ community. The term ‘continuing care’ had never been used before and the unique concept of opening a community where independent living, ‘intermediate stages of living under supervision’ and skilled nursing care were all available as needed, was unparalleled. Foulkeways planned to move in fifteen residents a day beginning on November 10, 1967, and to continue to do so for ten days in a row. After the initial “push,” move-in dates would continue steadily for the next 13 months. It is noted in documents from that time that “the spirit of the residents was excellent despite the confusion.” That same optimistic ‘spirit’ continues to identify the Foulkeways resident of today!
By December, 1968, Foulkeways’ total population numbered 260 residents, occupying 42 studio apartments, 112 one-bedroom apartments and 63 two-bedroom apartments. The dirt had been hauled away. The walkways had been poured, and both residents and landscapers had transformed a bleak construction-site campus into the start of what has become the Foulkeways of today..110 beautiful, tranquil, suburban acres, criss-crossed with hiking and walking trails, and enhanced with meadows and gardens and picnic groves that grow more striking with every passing year. Foulkeways’ 60-foot long, climate-controlled indoor pool, home to year-round water exercise classes, water volleyball and lap swimming, fitness center with full time geriatric-specialist trainer, two-story library with computer center and video section , woodworking shop, beauty salon and physical therapy center were added over the years to create the community that exists today. By 2007, Foulkeways boasted 29 studio apartments, 41 one-bedroom and 59 one-bedroom expanded apartments, 20 one-bedroom plus den and 76 two-bedroom apartments, 28 two-bedroom plus den plus full basement and garage apartments and 11 cottages.
Foulkeways at Gwynedd has been celebrating its 40th Anniversary in a year long celebration planned by Foulkeways administrators, staff, residents and board members. A kick-off celebration began on January 10, 2007 with special events planned monthly thereafter, leading to the 40th Anniversary Dinner held on November 10, 2007. This year long celebration paid tribute not only to the original 260 residents but to their modern day successors as well. Events included a quilt show, a juried art show, an American Red Cross blood drive, a fashion show, canine agility competition, Foulkeways Gardens Tours, a pet parade, an antique auto show and an original musical, entitled ‘In The Spirit’ written, directed and performed by Foulkeways residents.
Over the years, ‘Setting Standards of Excellence in Retirement Living’ has become synonymous with the name Foulkeways and Foulkeways continues to lead the industry in innovative health care, environmental issues, recycling and volunteerism efforts. Today’s residents number 423 with 344 occupying independent living apartments, town homes and cottages. Thirty-four residents live in Gwynedd House, Foulkeways’ Skilled Nursing residence, and 55 live in Abington House, Foulkeways Assisted Living and dementia residence. Volunteerism and fiscal responsibility continue to be matters of great importance to the administrators, residents and Board members at Foulkeways, just as they were in 1967.
Foulkeways at Gwynedd was the first Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Pennsylvania and the first Quaker CCRC in the country when it welcomed its first residents. It was built on strong Quaker values and traditions of honesty and integrity, respect for simplicity and quality and an abiding belief in the unique worth of every human being – standards that have sustained the tests of time and will continue to guide the community into the future.
Today there are over 110 resident-administered ‘committees’ thriving on the Foulkeways campus. Resident members create, monitor and contribute to community decisions concerning issues as diverse as the environment, recycling, fire safety, performing arts, library management, movie selections and screenings, cost savings and everything in between. Residents come to Foulkeways expecting to participate fully in, “The Second Half of Their Life,” just as they did on that rainy day in November of 1967. Today’s residents, however, have the added benefits gleaned from the generations of past residents and their families, the original founders, and past and present administrators, staff and Board members.