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Collingswood Manor: Coming Full Circle

by Lindsey Getz
Collingswood Manor is part of the community—and they make community part of their philosophy as well.

Helen Divelbiss says she has made many friends since moving into Collingswood Manor. It’s been an opportunity for her to be even more social between bus trips, sit-down dinners, and a variety of planned activities for residents. But what Divelbiss likes the most is that she’s able to keep her independence.

It’s the aging-in-place approach to senior care that residents like Divelbiss appreciate. This less restrictive care-giving model does not require a resident to move from an apartment to secure support, even as needs change. Residents’ family members appreciate it too. “My mother has her own apartment and lives independently,” says Helen’s daughter, Nancy Broz. “(She) appreciates being able to have meal choices or even options as to what to do each day. There’s a lot of entertainment going on and opportunities to socialize.”

A favorite event that Broz says she’s come to enjoy alongside her mother is a special Collingswood Manor Family Thanksgiving dinner, always held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Managers of each department serve a full-course Thanksgiving feast, complete with all of the fixings. “That’s a very special event that everyone enjoys,” says Broz. “It’s a lovely sit-down dinner.”

Embracing Community
Residents also socialize through their extensive volunteer efforts within the community, says Len Weiser, Collingswood Manor’s executive director. “Our volunteer program is another opportunity for residents to be social,” he says. “But it’s also about giving back. I’ve witnessed that residents love being productive and having opportunities to give back to the community they live in.”

Community involvement is an important part of what Collingswood Manor stands for. Even though seniors are moving into a full-service retirement community, they’re not disappearing from society, an important concept that helps residents realize they’re still valued members of the community. “We believe that if you’re a resident here, you’re still a member of the community at large,” says Barbara Wrzeszcz, marketing director. “Collingswood Manor residents are still instrumental parts of the community, so, in many of the things we do here, it’s not just the residents and their family, but also friends and even people within the community that we like to involve. When we host events we advertise them to the entire community.”

Collingswood Manor residents have recognized the local fire and police departments with special meals to thank them for their community service and open up the Manor as a meeting site for local community groups. “We’re constantly looking at ways to give back and we find that our residents are eager to be involved in those types of activities,” says Wrzeszcz.

A Life Transition
As the Baby Boomer population ages, many seniors and their adult children are faced with difficult aging-related decisions. But the community at Collingswood Manor aims to make this life transition easier. “Aging adults may have lived in their home for decades and the idea of moving into a retirement community makes them feel like they’re losing their independence,” says Wrzeszcz. “It’s a difficult transition and we understand that, but we try to make it as easy as possible. We also help residents realize they’re not giving up all of their freedom. It’s sort of a ‘middle ground’ for everyone. Residents can be as independent as possible, while their children can know they’re well taken care of and that extra care is available should they need it.”

Weiser says that Collingswood Manor has a philosophy they call “LifeChoices,” focused on celebrating life together, with residents, staff and family members. “It’s not just about activities, but about taking the interests of our residents, family members and staff and finding things everyone can do together,” he explains. “It comes back to the idea of community.”

Residents have brainstormed ideas that would live up to the LifeChoices ideals, like a fishing trip, getaways to Baltimore and New York City and shopping trips. “It can be hard to make friends and be social as one ages,” says Broz. “There are issues like impairments or loss of interest because of depression that make it more of a challenge to get out and interact. But Collingswood Manor gives residents so many opportunities to get involved. It’s really wonderful.”

Collingswood Manor
460 Haddon Avenue
(856) 854-4331

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 9 (November, 2011).
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