Across the Bridge, A World Apart
Charlotte Couzantino was amazed when a clerk in a Seaford department store personally led her to her destination, making certain she found exactly what she was looking for. “I couldn’t believe it,” Charlotte remembers. “I asked for directions, and the next thing you know I am being escorted! When was the last time you’ve seen that kind of service?” It was then that Charlotte confirmed what she had known all along: A bridge was not all that separated Seaford from her previous home in Bowie, Maryland.
“It’s a different world over here,” she explained, relaxing in her apartment at the Manor House, a continuing care retirement community in this historic southern Delaware town. “The peacefulness and friendliness here is something I just hadn’t found anywhere else.” Charlotte moved to the Manor House in 2002, cementing connections to the Delmarva Peninsula that were forged in childhood. A native of Baltimore, Charlotte spent summer weekends with her extended family at Rehoboth Beach, starting at age 10. It was a tradition that strengthened with each year, and continues today.
A graduate of the University of Maryland, Charlotte moved from College Park to Bowie in 1976 and spent her working life as an elementary school teacher and later, principal. Working with children was a career and a passion, but she had many avocations as well. None were stronger, though, than her beloved beach life: swimming the surf, hiking the shore and collecting shells, evenings on the boardwalk. So every year, she faithfully returned to the shifting sands and refreshing breezes of Rehoboth, missing just one year in the past 60. “I just loved coming here, it was part of me,” she reflected. “So I kept coming back.”
As her work life wound down, Charlotte’s taste for adventure multiplied. The year she missed going to the beach was for a very good reason: she and her husband were adventuring across country on the back of a 1200 CC Harley Davidson motorcycle. Perched in the passenger seat of this rumbling machine, Charlotte toured the length of California’s breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway, roared through the Badlands, crested the peaks of the Rockies and meandered along the back roads of America. After this incredible adventure, Charlotte decided to connect her passion for riding and her love of the beach; she and her husband began biking the nooks and crannies of the Delmarva Peninsula, venturing far beyond the oceanfront. It was a joyful time of discovery and an exhilarating way to travel.
Following her husband’s death, Charlotte was determined to move to a retirement community. While only 68, she knew that the time had come to move out of the family home. Seemingly constant maintenance had made homeownership feel more like a burden than a joy. In her search for a retirement community, Charlotte put her teaching skills to work, making lists of the things she absolutely had to have. Continuing care was important. And so was living close to the beach. She toured at least ten communities, but she kept finding her way back to Manor House.
Opened in 1966 by PUMH (Peninsula United Methodist Homes), the Manor House has undergone a steady transformation to keep pace with the changing needs and preferences of today’s retirees. As a continuing care retirement community, the Manor House features residential living cottages and apartments, assisted living apartments, a skilled nursing center, and a dedicated Alzheimer’s unit, the first in southern Delaware. A full menu of services and amenities are available, including meals, maintenance, security, an on-campus fitness center, pool and Towne Center. Programs, trips, social and cultural activities crowd the calendar. Located along the tranquil banks of the Nanticoke River in Seaford, the Manor House embodies a long-standing Delmarva tradition of friendliness and hospitality. “This community is unique in its friendliness and warmth,” Charlotte said. “I made several visits before I moved in, and I always felt like part of the family.”
Voted one of the best small towns in America, Seaford boasts a rich colonial and Native American history, and deeply held agrarian traditions. The unique culture of the Nanticoke River region was further shaped when the DuPont Company opened a nylon plant here in 1938. While this presence has diminished considerably over the years, Seaford has adapted to maintain a thriving, diverse economy. Migrating retirees from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the western shore of Maryland have relocated here to take advantage of the superb quality of life. And many high tech firms have made this part of the Peninsula their home, taking advantage of a favorable tax structure, proximity to multiple markets, and the many benefits of small-town life. Conveniently located midway between the beaches of the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay, Seaford residents enjoy easy access to larger cultural and recreational venues while remaining removed from the stress and congestion these developed areas engender. “There are no traffic issues here,” Charlotte remarks, “I can always find a place to park, and never have to stand in a long line. It’s quite different than what I was used to.”
While the benefits of the Manor House location appeal to Charlotte, the peace of mind that she has found in a continuing care retirement community matters even more. “In May of 2003, I had a heart attack in my apartment,” Charlotte said. “I honestly believe that if it hadn’t been for the prompt attention I received from the Manor House staff and the hospital next door, I wouldn’t be here today.” While none of us like to admit that we may one day have a health crisis, the security of having quality care on-site removes the burden of worry should these issues arise.
Thankfully, Charlotte has made a full recovery, and continues to be active in the fitness programs at the Manor House’s Wesley Wellness Center. She swims, uses the center’s cardiovascular exercise equipment, participates in yoga classes and enjoys therapeutic massage. Like most residents at Manor House, Charlotte is committed to her intellectual fitness as well. She is a member of the Poetry Club, a collegial group that meets regularly to write, read and critique prose. As a Resident Council member, she works closely with the Manor House administrative team to manage issues related to operations and activities. Concerts, lectures and a host of social activities keep Charlotte’s calendar full, but she still manages to find time for the simple pleasures, like delivering mail within the community, taking a riverside stroll, or surfing the Internet.
In the spring and fall of every year, Charlotte returns to her beloved Rehoboth Beach, sustaining a tradition long and fondly held. Curled up with a good book, a cool drink and an eye on the glorious Atlantic horizon, she is reflective. “I have such a wonderful lifestyle now. Some people thought I was too young to move to Manor House, but all I can say is, I just couldn’t be happier. What a perfect place to retire!”