Retirement Community Residents On the Move

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healthy retirement community residents in baltimore

Dawn Strumsky, John Strumsky and Michelle Caldwell pictured in the fitness center at Oak Crest represent the new breed of health conscious community residents.

Although the “obesity epidemic” seems to be grabbing headlines, Baby Boomers are surprisingly quite serious about their physical health and exercise regimens. A recent survey sponsored by Humana revealed that nearly 75 percent of over 50 Boomers exercise at least three times a week, and nearly half of the respondents have established a commitment to exercise for at least five years.  These statistics are already changing the face of senior living communities as this more active and health-conscious consumer begins to research alternatives.

Charlestown and Oak Crest are two senior living communities in Baltimore County that are ahead of this curve by having made a commitment to embrace this trend offering state-of-the-art facilities, services and support to address the needs of residents now and in the future.

“Oak Crest and Charlestown are adapting with the times and with the needs of their residents,” said Jeff Getek, public affairs manager with Oak Crest and Charlestown.   It is through an ongoing dialogue with the residents of these large campuses that they are able to deliver. “Each year we survey the residents, we ask them what we do right, what we could improve upon. They give us feedback and, together with them, that’s where we see better results,” Jeff continued.

The campuses have made a commitment to deliver on the results of the survey, At Charlestown, the fitness center with amenities will be expanded to 4,300 square feet, and the aquatics center will grow to nearly 6,000 square feet as part of the campus modernization underway.  A new computer room will be opened in Charlestown Square. Meanwhile at Oak Crest, individuals have seen an expanded fitness center with personal training services among other improvements. Both campuses have expanded the hours of operation for their fitness centers to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This new generation of residents wants more freedom, wants more flexibility as to when they want to do things, and we try to adapt to that,” said Jeff.

And if these communities can meet the demands of two fitness buffs, Oak Crest resident Michelle Caldwell and Charlestown resident John Strumsky, then they are clearly ahead of the curve in addressing the needs of a healthier population.

exercising in retirement community baltimore

Temica Carter a personal trainer at Oak Crest works with Michelle on her fitness program

Michelle Caldwell
A native of Baltimore, Michelle’s path to Oak Crest was an interesting one. In 2002, Michelle’s parents had moved to the community.

“At first my Dad did not want to move, so they had an application in for a few years and finally Dad agreed to make the move,” she said.  “At first my Dad did not want to move, so they had an application in for a few years and finally Dad agreed to make the move,” she said.  “Once he got here, he quickly made the transition.”

Visiting her parents regularly, Michelle quickly felt like a part of the community, “I became very familiar with many of the residents and staff and I fell in love with Oak Crest,” she said. “Everyone embraced me as well as my parents.”

She recalled one example in which she went to pick up a meal in the café for her mom and did not return for 45 minutes having started conversations with residents.

When her mother passed away, Michelle began working on closing her parents affairs.  She inquired about the minimum age requirement to live at Oak Crest

“They said 60 and at that time I was 59-1/2, so that day I was able to put in an application and reserve my parents’ apartment,” she said with a smile. “I was able to move in for my 60th birthday. I think I had the distinction then of being the youngest resident.”
Since moving to the community, Michelle said she has been “going non-stop.”  This is not hard to believe with her extensive list of activities ranging from Bible study to volunteering at the resident-run TV station. As a result, she has formed many friendships. “There is such a wealth of sharing that many of the residents actually want to do,” she said.

It is Oak Crest’s ability to support her commitment to health and fitness, however, that really makes her happy.  Working with Temica Carter, a wellness manager and personal trainer at the community, Michelle never misses a session.

“She’s an inspiration to everyone here. She is here three days a week at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and she’s just a pleasure to have around,” said Temica. “The fact that she really makes fitness a priority is something that both the employees and residents really look up to.”

While she maintains a healthy lifestyle, Michelle is especially appreciative of the security she has at Oak Crest, whether it is regarding her physical safety walking at night or knowing she has access to different levels of care, including assisted living and nursing, should she need it in the future.

baltimore retirement community residents

Dawn and John Strumsky enjoy the vast fitness and social offerings at Charlestown as well as the sense of community and security.

Dawn and John Strumsky
“I am very competitive with myself,” said Charlestown resident John Strumsky with a smile.  The former Marine has not only pushed himself to new limits in fitness, but he has inspired others.  In 2000, John and his wife Dawn co-founded the US Running Streak Association (USRSA) whose members strive to run at least one continuous mile within each day. Membership in the organization is open to those running every day for one year, however, there are members that have run every day for multiple years including John.

It was an injury that forced John to end his multi-year running streak, and that played a role in the couple’s decision to move to Charlestown.  Dawn had a friend that lived at the community who she had visited several times.

“I thought the community was wonderful,” she said.  “Since we didn’t have family nearby, it could provide us with security for the future.”

Hesitant at first, John eventually saw how important the transition was for his wife and presented Dawn with his signature for her birthday. Now that the couple has settled into their new home, he has found the community offers more than enough outlets for his highly active and competitive nature.

Although he was a regular visitor to the fitness center, he has shifted his focus to the Walk Challenge, a competition between Erickson Living residents and staff throughout the nation. “He literally walks day and night,” said Dawn.  “When we lived in our old neighborhood I was always nervous when John would go on an early morning run and now I have no worries.”

John has also enjoyed the fact that the pathways are well lit, and in the event there is bad weather, there are miles of climate-controlled walkways throughout the campus that can be used without stepping outside.

Overall the Strumskys described their life at Charlestown as “living large.”  Their home offers them so many amenities, clubs and dining options that they have to carefully budget their time.

While the fitness, amenities and security are great benefits to living in Charlestown, the couple said that the feeling of connectedness to their neighbors is what makes it truly special.  Dawn tearfully recounted when their beloved dog, Twinkie passed away.  Although saddened by the loss of their ‘family member,’ she was amazed at the outpour of support she received from her new neighbors. Both Dawn and John have felt they are part of an amazing family.

Reflecting on his initial “foot dragging” when making the move, John said, “I should have at least been more open to it.  You develop a mind set about things that you haven’t experienced. And then when you experience them, you realize that the experience, the reality, is so different from what your personal perceptions were and you could be so off-base with something””and that’s what happened with me.  I couldn’t be happier with where we live and the opportunities it has created for us now and in the future.”

Communities Prepared for the Future
“We’re seeing more and more residents like the Stromskys and Ms. Caldwell who come in and are really engaged in health and wellness activities,”said Jeff.  “When you see people like them, you’re motivated by what they do. They inspire me personally, because it shows that, at any age, these health and wellness activities can really make a difference.”

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