New Home for Recent Grad: Continuing Care Communities

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Trudy Brown retired after more than 20 challenging years as a school social worker and now finds herself enjoying an active, invigorating lifestyle while pursuing a long list of interests: study and book discussion groups, theater, art/independent films, travel, bridge and participation in various committees at Meadow Lakes, to name just a few.

Mrs. Brown moved to this Hightstown, NJ, continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in 2001, knowing that she wanted to come in early enough to take full advantage of the active Meadow Lakes lifestyle. When researching continuing care retirement communities, Ms. Brown said she met many CCRC residents who told her: “I should have made this decision five years ago.”

Not wanting to be in the same position, Ms. Brown says, “I listened and I learned–and I’m glad I made the move when I did.”

Ms. Brown, who enjoyed helping students with learning disabilities by creating educational plans for them, is no stranger to a high-energy lifestyle. Just before retiring from the Cedar Grove Public School system, she plunged back into the challenge and vigor of college life. “I had always taken courses to enhance my professional skills, so going back to class seemed like a natural thing to do,” Mrs. Brown said. “And, I just enjoyed being with young people; I found it stimulating and exciting.”

Mrs. Brown said her course of study–gerontology–was a logical choice, considering that she was about to enter her retirement years. She began taking courses in gerontology at Kean College, ultimately completing the program and earning a Certificate in Gerontology.

“Perhaps it was that background that enabled me to plan ahead in researching CCRCs,” she said. “I did a lot of investigating. I began visiting CCRCs in the area. I’ve been to many of them, many times.”

Meadow Lakes, she learned, “is the oldest CCRC in New Jersey, and it has a very good reputation in every way,” including an excellent fitness facility and wonderful dining services.

Since moving to Meadow Lakes, Ms. Brown,–who has six children, 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren–finds time to serve on the health care and activities committees. She said she was pleased to have a hand in adding more life-long learning programs to the mix of activities at the community.

Mrs. Brown served as treasurer of the Meadow Lakes Residents Forum, which works to enhance the lives of residents through a broad variety of committees and volunteer groups. She also played a part in organizing the twice-monthly games of duplicate bridge that she enjoys.

Mrs. Brown also represents the interests of Meadow Lakes through her participation in ORANJ–the Organization of Residential Associations of New Jersey. After being recruited to ORANJ by a fellow resident, Mrs. Brown became chair of the ORANJ Health Care Committee and is a newly appointed member of the group’s executive committee.

“Being part of ORANJ is exciting. You get to meet people from other communities and learn about how things are done at other CCRCs,” Mrs. Brown said. “We are able to share our best ideas and best practices with one another.”

Ms. Brown was born in Philadelphia, and spent much of her adult life in Rutherford, NJ, where she raised her family while working in the nearby community of Cedar Grove. Before moving to Meadow Lakes in February 2001, she lived in a neighboring active adult community for six years.

Thinking ahead about retirement options, Ms. Brown said she liked the security of knowing that her needs would always be met. “Hopefully I’ll always be in good health, but I know that if I do need assistance, it’s here for me,” Ms. Brown said. “There are all kinds of healthcare programs and professionals to help you.”

And, Ms. Brown said she knows the day is ahead when she will no longer be able to drive safely. “It will be comforting,” she said, “to be living here where the basic things I need are available to me.”

It was only after moving to Meadow Lakes, Ms. Brown said, that she discovered a surprising new aspect that her research had failed to uncover. “There’s something you just can’t quite measure,” Ms. Brown said. “In coming here, there’s a feeling of well being that you start to internalize. It lessens stress. I think this lifestyle does contribute to longevity in a very positive way.”

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