Inspiring Change at a Retirement Community
It is often said that what defines a community is the people. This is certainly the case for Pennswood Village, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Newtown, Pa. where residents are enjoying some recent changes thanks to a receptive staff. Among the individuals relishing the renovations are Liz Serkin, Herman Silverman and Dan Seeger.
Born in Switzerland, Liz received two Masters Degrees to become a sociologist. Not wanting to stop there, she proceeded to earn her PhD in Social Gerontology at the age of 66. “Lifelong learning is really important to me to keep the mind alert. I try to learn something new every year,” she said.
The mother of four worked in the substance abuse field for more than 30 years and taught at the Curtis Institute and several colleges. It was through Liz’s longtime involvement with the Arts Council that she met Herman. A New Jersey native, Herman served in the Army and had an interest in landscaping that led him to start his own company, Sylvan Pools. He enjoyed the success of it becoming the largest pool builder in the nation, but after 35 years, he sold it to start building medical office buildings and shopping centers.
The passing of his wife led Herman, also a parent of four, to think about his future. “I knew I had to find a place to spend the rest of my life and a woman I could love again,” he said.
Liz and Herman began talking more and as time passed, the former acquaintances got married. When it came to where they would spend their future together, Liz knew it had to be Pennswood.
“I knew some of the people who started the community and my sister came here because I told her about it,” she said.
Now at the community for more than two years, the couple is extremely happy with their decision. As they take in beautiful views from their balcony, they enjoy having the flexibility to take advantage of the various perks of Pennswood and continuing their outside pursuits. Herman utilizes the fitness center regularly and works at a local art gallery he started. While Liz enjoys meeting her peers over dinner, she continues her work in substance abuse and volunteers in the community’s nursing unit.
The healthcare at Pennswood was a significant factor that brought the couple to the community as they knew they did not want their children to worry about them. “You feel very secure here. I’m 91 and I know I’m going to need more physical care,” said Herman.
Most importantly, Liz cited how the sense of camaraderie at the community extends to the healthcare units.
“What I love about Pennswood is that the personal care and nursing units are right in the center of the complex,” she said. “There’s a Japanese garden that brings peacefulness and people together and the access to it is through the nursing facility.”
In addition to the healthcare and activities ranging from concerts to talent shows, there are now a few more reasons for the couple to love their home. A recent renovation project has provided residents and visitors with an improved community building along with a new dining experience and larger library.
“We’re really trying to be aware of serving our residents, not just of today, but what future residents will want and need,” said Karen Lehman, CEO of the community. “It’s about maintaining resident life here, keeping it alive and keeping an eye on changing tastes, making sure we stay updated.”
When individuals enter Pennswood’s doors, they now see an art gallery featuring Bucks County exhibitions and a “spruced up gift shop,” according to Dan Seeger, president of the Residents Association. “There’s a new look for our beautiful dining room and café which is now permanently open so everyone can visit when they want.”
A resident for nearly three years, Dan transitioned from his leadership roles in the workplace to immediately getting involved at Pennswood. “One of the things that attracted me to this place is although you can live a serene quiet life, when you go to the community center, there’s a buzz of activity,” he said.
And he would certainly know about the social opportunities on campus since the Residents Association sponsors and sustains the 105 available activities. For Dan, it is important having a staff that takes into account the residents’ wishes. Aside from the Residents Association, there are several committees focusing on healthcare, safety, and dining services through which residents can provide their input.
“The management ultimately makes the decisions, but they are always careful to consult with the dually appointed residents on various issues,” he said. “We’re very proud that the renovations are resident-generated.”
“These renovations are for function, to improve participation and convenience. Community is key here,” added Liz. “The café and library are accessible to those in carts and wheelchairs. There’s just a lighter feel to things and it’s beautiful.”
Additionally, the community has prided itself on maintaining a focus on the environment and sustainability. Among its different environmentally-conscious efforts is the geothermal system that heats and cools the campus.
Residents also feel a sense of security knowing there is a backup generator in case of weather emergencies. In the face of hurricanes and blizzards, Liz knows she and her peers will never have to worry. “The department heads all stay here to keep the place going when staff can’t get in,” she said. “That I think is unique. We know we have water, electricity, heat and the presence of people who are in charge.”
From an expanded library to a lighter décor, Liz, Herman, Dan and their fellow residents can stroll the hallways at Pennswood with a smile knowing they had an influence on these projects. What they may not realize, however, is that they alone make a greater contribution each day by making their home what it truly is, a welcoming and unified community.