On 83 half-wild acres overlooking the Shawangunk Ridge in the Village of New Paltz, you will find the upper Mid-Hudson Valley’s only true continuing care retirement community (also referred to as a “lifeplan community” or CCRC). Now open for nine years, Woodland Pond at New Paltz is a center for all things senior living, but it hasn’t always been so.
In the mid 2000’s when Woodland Pond was being designed and developed, the concept of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) was foreign to most people in New York State. Though there are more than 1,700 CCRCs across the country, New York only had about a dozen. The idea of ‘buying into and securing’ a lifetime of access to care at all levels of retirement—the basic premise behind a CCRC—has been embraced in states like Florida and Pennsylvania, but not so much here in New York. You need only to search “The Villages Florida” to see what we mean by ‘embraced.’
Why was establishing a CCRC more challenging in New York?
Many blame the high level of regulations here in New York. Though these financial and operational protections were enacted to ensure New York State retirees’ access to high quality and trustworthy service for life, they can also create financial and operational hurdles that CCRC operators outside of New York State have not been required to meet. In other words, CCRCs in other states may not be as regulated as those here.
Woodland Pond at New Paltz was willing to accept the charge, and has since created a haven for New York’s retirees. Offering seniors the promise of a supported environment through a continuum of care (Independent Living, Assisted Living with or without Memory Support, and Skilled Nursing), the community is a one stop shop for all things senior living. Seems like a no-brainer when the time comes, right?
Home Sweet Home
“Not so fast,” Woodland Pond’s President and CEO, Michelle Gramoglia, says. Despite incredible reviews, industry-leading resident satisfaction levels, and the highest possible quality and safety ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, everyone may still not be sold on the idea. “We have long said that our greatest competition is not another CCRC. It’s the long-time home of our prospective residents,” Gramoglia continues. “Our prospective residents grapple with the decision to leave their homes to come to a community setting, regardless of how dynamic, engaging and supportive Woodland Pond is. We hear a variation on the same theme time after time: Our prospective residents love the community, but they just aren’t ‘ready’ yet. It’s a very common, yet challenging, perspective to change.”
Woodland Pond Residents, Vivian Stoner and John Fracasse
So how does Woodland Pond respond to that oft-expressed sentiment? “We have found that the single most effective way to reassure our area seniors that this is a positive move is to give prospective residents access to our residents, their peers. So many of our residents want to share their own decision making process. What did they consider when making their choice to move here? What did their families and friends think? Is it really as expensive as I fear?” Gramoglia explains.
â€‹“Woodland Pond is the Perfect Place for Me”
Woodland Pond at New Paltz resident Dick Barry found his way to this community with a great deal of gusto. He visited a handful of CCRCs throughout New York a few times each and, after all his travels, he decided that Woodland Pond would suit him best. He offered the following perspective on life at Woodland Pond.
“In my seven-year residency at Woodland Pond, I feel very blessed to have found a home I love and a vibrant, caring, inclusive community I treasure. Best of all, I have the comforting security of knowing that whatever health issues I might face in the future, I’ll be right here on campus, surrounded by friends and still enjoying the magnificent natural scenery that enhances my daily living.
In pursuing writing as a second career in retirement, I have the luxury of quiet hours in a beautiful, spacious apartment, freed from all maintenance cares, to spark my creativity. Each time I step out my door, I have a rich social life to keep me stimulated and connected. I also have the satisfaction of actively contributing to the ongoing welfare of my beloved Woodland Pond by serving on its Board of Directors.
To satisfy my varied cultural interests, each month our community buses take me to venues offering concerts, plays, dance recitals, museums, historical sites and interesting excursions, while Manhattan is less than a two-hour public bus trip away. A brilliant management team, a very caring staff and truly stimulating fellow residents—many of whom have become like family—all serve to amplify my enthusiasm in feeling that Woodland Pond is the perfect place for me.”
Happiness, Tranquility and Peace
Bernice Hummel came to Woodland Pond from her single family home in Florida following her husband’s passing. Though she says that her decision may have been easier than for most, it still took consideration.
“For me, it was the same old story: we were retired in Florida, and suddenly I was alone. My daughter, Linda, lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, and had heard about Woodland Pond from a neighbor. She collected information about Woodland Pond and flew to Florida. For us, the decision was a big one—a move from my home in Florida—but upon calculating my financial expenses, it was obvious that it was prudent that I buy into Woodland Pond and move. I am now at Woodland Pond nearly five years, and the mind-stimulating and educational activities, as well as the physical exercise, have added to my strength, security and my independence. I have found happiness, tranquility and peace.”
Linda, and her brother, Bill, say the benefits to their mother and to their entire family are innumerable. Linda says, “It has been the best decision we have collectively made. I feel that I can easily go away on business or a vacation and be completely confident that Mom will be alright in my absence.” Linda says she would have never felt that level of comfort and security had her mom stayed alone at her former home in Florida. “The residents share a family-like commitment to each other, and this is a very proud place to call home.”
Bill, a renowned fertility doctor who practices in the San Diego area and visits his mom regularly, says, “A worldwide pattern exists wherein only 10% of individuals above the age of 80 live with their children, and almost half of that population lives completely alone. It is comforting to me, living in San Diego, to see my mother at 95, being so happy and healthy. I can live 3,000 miles away and know that my mother is having some of the happiest years in her life. She often tells me, ‘Do you know that I’m healthier now than I was in my 80’s?’ And, she is!”
Woodland Pond Residents, David & Susan Smith and Flo Jerdan
Bill says that their whole family has great peace of mind knowing that Bernice has been embraced and enveloped by such a warm community, and is not isolated in her home in Florida.
“It is one of the most evident things about Woodland Pond, I think,” adds Gramoglia. “Our mission, developed jointly by our Board—which includes resident members—and our leadership team, is simple, but so clearly highlights what the Hummel family has expressed: Opportunity. Care. Connections. Yes, folks can obtain access to care in their homes, but the opportunities to enrich their lives in that longtime family home, and the connections have probably begun to fade. That’s where we come in!”
Woodland Pond residents, Karl & Ann Rodman, and Dawn Sangrey and Paul Fargis
The Joys of Retirement in Community
Most people make a number of visits to the community and talk with staff and residents while considering their decision. Even then, some prospective residents still aren’t convinced that leaving “home” is right for them. “The final piece to the puzzle, we have found, is an opportunity to try us out,” Gramoglia explains. “We offer certain prospective residents that are still unsure of their decision the chance to visit, dine, partake in programming, attend events, and get to know our staff and residents at their own pace. We have been running this program for a little more than a year, and find it very helpful in demonstrating that there is so much more to a joyful retired life than people may imagine when they’re still living in their long time home.”
Woodland Pond Residents, Bob Lukey, Deborah Moore, and Keith La Budde
Deborah Moore and Bob Lukey, one couple that made the decision to move to Woodland Pond, say it’s the people that make the difference, when all is said and done. “WP is a caring community. People care, not just when you’re sick, but when you are well. The community, staff and the administration are all interested in making our lives the best they can be,” Bob says. Deborah adds, “We truly have acquired a new extended family here at Woodland Pond.”
Needless to say, the decision to make such a significant move is never a straightforward one, and patience is crucial for everyone involved.