Recipes for a Good Life in a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Recipes are the key to striking a perfect balance of flavors. The guidelines they provide can easily be tailored to diverse tastes. Whether you like to turn up the heat or sweeten the pot, starting with a good recipe-and quality ingredients-can help you avoid culinary disasters. The same rules of thumb hold true for life: devise a sound plan, choose superior ingredients, and explore all the possibilities.
Jean Blum and Barbara Wald know their way around a kitchen. Their distinctive creations regularly inspire their friends and neighbors. Their prosperous careers, beautiful families, and long marriages prove that their original recipes for a good life are masterpieces in the making as well.
Jean and Barbara are among a small group of residents who recently compiled recipes for a cookbook. The cookbook, entitled Recipes for a Good Life, was published at Martins Run, the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Media, PA where both women live. The creation of the cookbook got all the residents, and their taste buds, involved.
Jean explains, “We distributed a flyer and had the residents submit recipes. Then we had a tasting contest.” She continues, “People loved it! We gave our recipes to the chef, and now they use our recipes for many of the meals. It’s wonderful.” Working on the cookbook gave residents a chance to share more than just their now famous recipes; they found themselves sharing many of the ingredients that made up their lives.
Jean Blum graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in education and promptly began her career with the Philadelphia public school system. Today, more than 50 years since her career began, Jean still has not completely retired. She continues to teach part-time at The Baldwin School. “They called me in to speak about artifacts and things I did while visiting the Soviet Union. After that, they said, ‘please stay, please teach,’ and I have been there for the past 20 years,” she says.
The nursing field always appealed to Jean as well, who has volunteered as a chaplain in various hospitals around the city. Her passion for nursing continues at Martins Run; she volunteers in the on-site care center.
Avid travelers, Jean and her husband, Jerry, have been to Israel on twelve separate occasions. “Our first trip was for our 25th wedding anniversary. We kept going back year after year because we enjoyed it so much,” says Jean. One of their visits was during the first Gulf War. Jean, also an arts and crafts enthusiast, served in a hospital helping to keep the patients and their families occupied.
Jean worked at a camp in the Poconos teaching arts and crafts for 34 years. Only having been at Martins Run for a little over a year, Jean remarks, “I still think I’m at camp. Everyone’s going back to their apartment, and I’m going back to my bunk!” Her youthful exuberance may be in part because Jean has taken such an active role in her new community. In addition to her chaplain work, she is a member of the book club. “There is still positively so much that I can do. You can be as active as you want,” says Jean.
When they are not busy on campus, Jean and Jerry are often visiting with their two sons, who live nearby. Jean says, “We decided to stay in the area partly because my son is a Rabbi right down the street, and he’s here very often. He used to do the Seders at Martins Run and he still does both nights of Passover.”
Like the Blums, Barbara Wald and her husband, Martin, decided to move to Martins Run largely because of family influence-but in a different way. Barbara’s parents were actually residents at Martins Run in the early ’90s. “We were really familiar with the property because my parents lived here, and our daughter worked here for many years,” she says. Their daughter, Leah, was the exclusive Rabbi at Martins Run for ten years and still lives nearby with her two sons.
Barbara and Martin met at the University of Chicago. While she was working toward degrees in both English and education, he was studying for his MBA. Several years after graduation, the couple returned to the University with their two year old daughter, so that Martin could study for his law degree. Barbara remembers, “We were house parents when we moved back. It was a very tough job being responsible for 180 freshman boys. I could write a book about that!”
The Walds moved to Philadelphia when Martin was offered a great job with his law firm. Over the years, Barbara held a wide array of positions, including mother, author, volunteer, teacher, and small business owner. The software consulting business she founded helped customers identify the best software for their needs. Her successful stint as a business owner ended because of a health scare.
In 1987, Barbara was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. She had two mastectomies six weeks apart and her “tolerance for stress went way down,” she recalls. She retired two years later. Barbara’s surgeries, as well as one that Martin had, precipitated the couple’s move to a life care community. Today, they take comfort in knowing that whatever path their lives take, they will not have to make a major move again.
Like Jean Blum, Barbara has become extremely involved in her new community. In addition to submitting recipes for the cookbook, she participates in chair yoga, serves on the residents’ board, and recently wrote a play adaptation of Cinderella to be performed at the community. Barbara says, “The list of available activities is impressive, and I’m busy everyday. Sometimes I have to force myself to take a day and just veg out!”
Perhaps her most time-consuming role is orchestrating the entirely resident-operated “I’m O.K.” program. Every morning, residents hang a sign outside their door that says, “I’m O.K.” Residents in each wing of the building check to make sure everyone has “checked in.” If anyone is found not to have placed their sign out, and does not respond to a knock, security is called. Barbara says, “There’s a real sense of community here. We really care about one another.”
The Walds are pleased with their decision to move to a retirement community and have enjoyed meeting new friends. Barbara says, “There is a real family feeling here. We are very fortunate to eat every evening with two other compatible couples, and we’ve become very close in less than a year.”
And moving to a CCRC certainly hasn’t slowed the Walds down. In this year’s annual Martins Run Fitness Walk competition, a “race” around the campus to promote healthy and active lifestyles for all ages, Barbara placed second. She jokes, “I was behind a man with very long legs!”
While working together to create Recipes for a Good Life, residents got the opportunity to share their favorite ingredients-for special dishes and good lives. Jean was one of the residents who helped compile the book, and Barbara contributed several delicious recipes. “We created Recipes for a Good Life, and now we are toasting to the good life we are living,” says Jean.
Using only the finest raw materials and following a clearly devised plan, Jean and Barbara have concocted a rare creation: a truly good life. Finding the right retirement community has added an extra zing to their already active lifestyles.
Any cook will tell you that a good recipe is one that adapts over time-one that grows, changes, and becomes richer with each new ingredient. If this holds true for life, Jean Blum and Barbara Wald’s recipes are nearing perfection.