The Other Side of the Desk: A Retirement Community Story
Over 30 years ago, Ann Hambrook started researching retirement living options. Just last year, she made the move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Ann is not astonishingly indecisive or simply persnickety. She is certainly thorough, but it was her job to be.
During her 30 year career in the senior marketing industry, she completed exhaustive research on retirement living options. Years later, her expertise informed her personal retirement living choice.
“When I started researching the senior living industry, everyone was concerned about the coming ‘Age Wave’ but no one had any idea what to do,” says Hambrook. Retirement communities, she explains, were seen as homes for “poor old folks.” Communities had no idea how to shed this negative image and let seniors know about the lifestyle options they offered. That is where the marketing firm she founded, Hamlyn Senior Marketing, came in.
Ann’s varied career started in a newsroom. She was a reporter and later an editor at a local newspaper. When she was left as a widow with three small children, she began searching for a more lucrative career. As a public relations specialist at a local hospital, Ann learned many of the skills that would be instrumental to her future success and developed an immense sense of respect for the senior volunteer force she managed.
Years later, several of her friends and neighbors approached her with a job offer. They were opening a retirement community, and they wanted Ann to act as the community’s associate director. While completing research for the new community, she learned that marketing was largely missing from the senior living industry. This knowledge led to the founding of her firm. She served as the president of Hamlyn for the following 30 years.
“I always knew that when the time came, I would move to a retirement community. I didn’t want to wait too long. This is my gift to my children,” explains Ann. Since her research began years ago, she felt that her search for a retirement community would be quick. She did not realize that there would really be no search.
While visiting a friend and colleague at Meadowood, a CCRC in Worcester, PA, Ann explained that she was considering a move. She recalls, “The funny thing is that after all those years in marketing, I would have been ready for the pitch, but there really was none. We went to look at the model, and that was all I needed to see. It was fabulous, and I was in love.”
In addition to the well-designed homes, Ann was impressed by the overall atmosphere of the community. She explains, “I have been to literally thousands of communities, and I get a feeling for whether or not it is a good place as soon as I enter the lobby. Some have a sad feeling; others are just impersonal and cold. Meadowood had a friendly and upbeat feeling from the moment I walked in.”
A long-time resident of center city Philadelphia, Ann has enjoyed exploring the exquisite countryside of Montgomery County since her move to Meadowood. “I still go into the city frequently for the symphony and to visit with friends, but if I’m not busy, I’m happy to just take a drive out here,” she says.
The times when she is not busy may seem rare. Ann still consults for the marketing firm she founded and can often be found participating in community activities. She joined the book club and the discussion group on campus. She says, “I slipped right into Meadowood without a ripple.”
Ann’s biggest adjustment has been learning to appreciate life without deadlines. “For so many years, there was always a deadline. Everything needed to be done today-or yesterday. It’s great to realize that nothing has to be done today.”
Ann Hambrook has been studying and tracking the senior living industry for years. She has seen the rest homes of old transformed to the sprawling, active retirement communities of today. The retirement community lifestyle always looked appealing to this industry insider. Now, she finds things are even better than she anticipated on the other side of the desk.