Finding a New Community Spirit: Continuing Care Communities
Take away the mosquito netting and the tall, iron bunk buds. Add a magnificent dining room and spacious apartments. Keep the friendly staff and the excited participants. Transforming the summer camp of youth into the retirement community of today is just that simple, according to Judy Borie, a lifelong Girl Scout and current continuing care retirement community (CCRC) resident.
“Many parallels exist between life in a retirement community and life at a summer camp,” says Mrs. Borie. She continues, “Obviously, retirement communities are far more luxurious, but the community spirit is the same. There is a sense of camaraderie and unity. Everyone is here because they want to enjoy retirement, and we are generally cheerful, happy campers.”
Mrs. Borie knows well how to be a happy camper and how to keep campers happy. As the Executive Director of the Girl Scouts in Philadelphia, she served a troop base of over 20,000 local girls. She managed a full-time staff and an army of volunteers numbering over 6,000. Mrs. Borie credits her success in the position to experience gained through the Girl Scouts: “I had a background in girl scouting from my childhood. I rose up through the ranks and learned most of my management skills working as a camp director.”
In 1977, Mrs. Borie moved from Chicago to Philadelphia in order to fill the Executive Director position. Having worked in the academic and corporate worlds in the 60s and 70s, she was fully aware of the limitations that were placed on professional women. This did not stop her from wanting “to make decisions, to have real authority,” she says. Her pursuit for professional challenges led her back to where she began. She recalls, “I thought, ‘Where can a woman be in charge?’ Then, I thought, ‘Why did I ever leave the Girl Scouts?'”
Her move to Philadelphia provided the career opportunity she had been looking for, but it also led to an unforeseen benefit. She met her husband, Mac, after moving to the city. Mac was a Marketing Director with Quaker Oats Company. He built an exceptional sales force and spent a lot of time traveling. The two hit it off quickly.
After retiring, the couple began to consider a move to a retirement community. They were motivated by a desire to plan ahead. Mrs. Borie explains, “I was the medical power of attorney for a friend who contracted pulmonary fibrosis very suddenly. During the 14 months that I spent trying to find care for her, I received a crash course in all things elder care. I learned just how difficult it is to find quality care, especially once you are very ill.” Shortly thereafter, Judy and Mac discussed their own retirement plans, and he agreed that he did not want to leave the future to chance. For Mr. Borie ensuring that he was never a burden to his three children was imperative.
When they began their search, the Bories were looking for a place that was pet-friendly and had easy access to the city via public transportation. Because of her frequent visits to Girl Scout volunteers living in local retirement communities, Mrs. Borie already had a community in mind. Cathedral Village, a CCRC in Philadelphia, is on a bus line connecting it to downtown, welcomes dogs, and has an active, diverse resident population.
“I had already seen enough of Cathedral Village to know that we would fit in, and the location was perfect,” recalls Mrs. Borie. The Bories placed their name on the community’s waiting list. They were planning to spend the next several years in their family home, but when they learned of the community’s plans to build new townhouses, they faced an immediate choice.
Initially, Mrs. Borie was hesitant about moving right away. She explains, “I was only 68; I thought I was much too young to move.” However, as they reviewed the plans for the new homes, they became more interested. They also considered the fact that Mr. Borie had recently had bypass surgery. “We actually sat down and wrote a list of pros and cons. I quickly ran out of cons,” Mrs. Borie says.
Moving day offered a poignant glimpse of their new lifestyle. After unloading their boxes in the pouring rain, the Bories were attempting to settle in. Mrs. Borie decided to take their dog, Dusty, out for a walk. She remembers, “It was raining so hard, and Dusty, who didn’t understand this move, was frantically pulling me everywhere. I was trying to keep her on the walkways when she pulled me into a concrete pillar. I broke my glasses, and my face immediately started swelling.”
Mrs. Borie was not injured, but she was very bruised. What might sound like a horrible moving day provided an important lesson. When the community staff heard about her accident, they came to check her injury to be sure it was not serious and offered to walk the dog. “I knew then that I wasn’t alone. I was really part of a community,” Mrs. Borie says.
With that type of welcome, it is no surprise that the Bories have quickly adjusted to life at Cathedral Village. She says that she often feels like she lives in a “luxury hotel” where “no detail is forgotten.” With the daily chores taken care of, the Bories are finding more time to pursue other interests.
For Mrs. Borie this includes her work with various non-profit boards, as well as increasing responsibilities within the community. She is a Trustee with the Kardon Institute for Arts Therapy and with the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Since her recent election as the President of the Resident’s Association, she is gradually shifting her focus from outside activities to more involvement in resident life. As President, she is concentrating on maintaining the high level of communication that exists between Cathedral Village residents and management. Once her tenure as President is up, she also plans to spend more time taking classes at the on-campus, lifelong learning program, Village College.
Mr. Borie works part-time at the nearby Morris Arboretum. He is also a full day volunteer at the Chestnut Hill Hospital. Closer to home, he has volunteered at the nursing facility on campus and is always impressed with how well it is maintained and operated. Both Mac and Judy are pleased with the “absence of day-to-day stress” that their new community affords them. It is almost like being on vacation, or maybe like going away to camp.
There are camps for nature lovers, computer whizzes, equestrians, and even future astronauts. They all have unique mottos and offer singular experiences. The same can be said of retirement communities. Of Cathedral Village, Mrs. Borie says, “I wasn’t here three days before I figured out that the culture of Cathedral Village revolves around the idea that this is the good life. The culture doesn’t encourage complaining, and it nourishes positive attitudes.” With such a buoyant atmosphere-not to mention amenities that far exceed roasted marshmallows and rope swings-it is no wonder that the Bories are such happy campers.