Germantown: Senior Home Adapts to Residents’ Desires

The spirit of the renovations planned for Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley on the corner of Greene Street and West Washington Lane was spearheaded by the facility’s own residents. Beginning in early April, the $5 million renovation project will include upgrades to its rehabilitation center, a new art studio and a remodeled dining room.

Stapeley provides several ways to keep resident seniors active, including shuttle bus services and guest speakers like Briar Bush Nature Center. It is a place where resident Jeanette Loughlin can surf the Internet in the computer room, where senior Wilma Rowe takes care of the greenhouse, and a group of residents rise early to read and discuss the news.

Philadelphia Quaker philanthropist Anna Jeanes originally founded Stapeley in the 19th century. It has always served as a retirement home but became affiliated with Wesley Enhanced Living in 2010.

Paul Zlotolow, executive director of Stapeley, was there during the transition. He worked at the facility as an intern before its affiliation with Wesley Enhanced Living.

“It provided Stapeley with the foundation that it needed because it was going through some financial troubles, and Wesley came in with a solid foundation from an operational standpoint, as well as financial,” said Zlotolow. “And it was a really, really good thing for Stapeley.”

The facility’s strong Quaker tradition will be preserved through the renovation process. Zlotolow said more than a dozen practicing Quakers still live in the building. Many Quaker artworks and artifacts that remain in the building will be displayed more prominently when the renovation is complete. “We’re going to build them into the design,” said Zlotolow.

Jeanette Loughlin, a Stapeley resident since August, surfed the Internet in the facility’s computer room.
Jeanette Loughlin, a Stapeley resident since August, surfed the Internet in the facility’s computer room.

Stapeley houses over 200 residents who fall into one of three tiers of dependency. Independent-living apartments are available in studio and two-bedroom options for active adults who no longer want the hassle of lawn care and cleaning. The personal care unit accommodates seniors with minimal health needs and includes a dementia-assistance program. “Typically they don’t have any very difficult health needs, other than their memory just doesn’t work quite as well as it used to,” said Zlotolow.

The rehabilitation unit will receive the most updates. This is for seniors who need long-term care and living assistance. “We are going to, of course, have to upgrade really everything, equipment to how we treat our rehabilitation services,” said Zlotolow. Stapeley has hired a new director of rehab and occupational therapist to work in the upgraded unit.

Stapeley approached residents early on in the design process to learn their preferences. “One of the things they talked about was enhancing the dining experience,” said Zlotolow. “They wanted to make it more like a bistro.” In the future, residents will sit in a waiting lounge by the new fireplace until a hostess seats them. Zlotolow pointed out the irony of the request to transform the dining room into a restaurant when the renovation’s primary goal is to create a home-like environment.

Seniors also expressed interest in the addition of an art studio. “We’re going to have a lot of help from Allens Lane Art Studio to get that done and do it right, because we’re not in the art business, obviously and they are,” said Zlotolow. “So, with their help, we’re going to be able to put this all together.” Residents currently do plenty of creative work, but look forward to having a space devoted to art.

Barbara Dietrich has lived in an apartment for the past two years. She is also the president of the Stapeley Residents’ Association. “This is an organization that benefits the residents in ways that administration would not be able to or have the time for,” said Dietrich.

She is a part of several more groups at Stapeley, such as a choir called the Stapeley Singers and a group called the Knit Wits that knits blankets for the community.

Briar Bush Nature Center brought a boa constrictor to visit Stapeley seniors.
Briar Bush Nature Center brought a boa constrictor to visit Stapeley seniors.

Dietrich said the community residents’ interests are diverse so the seniors have initiated the creation of groups they would like to join. Stapeley offers a book club and a garden committee.

Residents publish their own bimonthly newsletter called Poperie to alert everyone of activities and to profile new residents. “They get interviewed, and they get printed up and that makes it more interesting to sit and chat with them at dinner,” said Dietrich.

So, it comes as no surprise that such a driven group of seniors wanted to be involved in the renovation plans.

Dietrich said she is looking forward to new carpeting, paint and lighting in the common spaces at Stapeley.

“I love this building,” said Dietrich. “But obviously things need updating from time to time and it is time for this building to be updated.”

Stapeley said it hopes to complete the renovations by the end of the year.

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