By Gina King

IMG_1357On the path to the golden years there have been many choices, changes, and decisions made in a person’s life. By the time you reach those senior years you most likely have had a few career changes, raised a family, moved either to a different state or maybe internationally, owned and maintained a home or two, battled health issues, married, divorced, remained single, and lived your life in the way you desired. The importance of aging in place is an emotional decision and choice in any aging senior’s life pertaining to care, well being, and peace of mind. It’s about living in the residence of your choice for as long as you can with services available as needed, for the kind of lifestyle you want to lead. Essex Meadows is that place.

For John Johl and his wife Emily, moving to Essex Meadows was the “best decision they ever made.” A retired insurance agent from New Jersey, John and his wife had a summer home at Chapman Beach and were familiar with the shoreline area. Out of a longing to live full time in Connecticut and be closer to their daughters, they started to look around for a smaller house, but just were not finding what they wanted, until they saw Essex Meadows.

“As we drove in flowers were blooming,” says John. “Wow, it looks just like a resort, was our first reaction. We liked everything we saw,” stated John. It’s been six years, and they love their cozy two bedroom cottage and the sense of community it provides just knowing that if they go away, someone is there to check in on their home and even bring in the paper.

Libbie Cook has been a happy resident at Essex Meadows for 11 years in one of their stellar apartments and finds living there to be “wonderfully convenient” with lots of enjoyable amenities and the location ideal for shopping and cultural events. She enjoys playing golf on the casual nine hole golf course, and the 86 degree temperature in the wellness pool is perfect for laps and water exercise.

For both Libbie and John retirement at Essex Meadows is all about peace of mind, enjoying life, and passionately engaging in the community. As a premier Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) Essex Meadows offers independent living for residents who do not need personal assistance and also have services available for those that need a little help with activities of daily living, as well as a skilled nursing and rehabilitation Health Center. CCRCs  offer a tiered approach to the aging process by offering independent living and also have many layers of services available if needed, which provide a level of comfort for not only the seniors themselves, but their family and caregivers as well.

“It’s peace of mind to know that when you make a decision to move, it should be the last big decision you make about your care,” says Kathleen Dess, Essex Meadows Associate Executive Director. And although they are not an assisted living facility, they do recognize that people’s health and needs change and therefore offer many layers of support and services to maximize health and safety for their residents.“Our employees really care about the residents and take care of them for the rest of their lives,” says Jennifer Rannestad, Executive Director.

Essex Meadows stands out as a CCRC leader, and a big part of their success is driven by their initiatives. Hospitality and always looking to improve is the first initiative. Their motto is “The answer is yes, what is the question?” says Kathleen. Wellness is number two, both physical and holistic. There is a wellness room, heated swimming pool, meditation chapel, and many  activities and exercise programs going on throughout the day that keep residents active and engaged. Number three is technology, offering Wi-Fi, cyber cafes, and high definition TVs for the convenience of their residents. Keeping people safe with their 24 hour security and checking on each resident morning and night is number four. And the number five initiative is “being a responsible employer with a work life balance; paying competitive wages keeps us state of the art,” says Jennifer.

They were also recently awarded Gold LEED certification for their green initiative in energy and water conservation, sustainable materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Driven by their resident environmental committee, Essex Meadows is committed to being a responsible steward of their buildings, 106 wooded acres, and the surrounding community. Their impact to contribute to sustainable living shines through in many areas of their operations whether it’s solar power, non-potable water used for irrigation including using organic fertilizers, and recycling,

Taking initiative also extends to the residents who are very involved in the daily activities and decision making at Essex Meadows. “Much that happens here is run by the residents,” explains John. “Part of the aging process is staying alert and being involved,” he says. And there is lots to get involved with including writing and contributing to the monthly newsletter, Meadowords, helping to run the onsite store, setting up art shows in the gallery, or joining any of their many committees that represent the residents in discussion with administration and for  better quality of life. Both John and Libbie are chair and vice-chair respectively of the Resident Council and are actively involved in fundraising for different causes and the Essex Meadows Scholarship Program. The scholarship program was created by the residents as a way to say thank you and show their appreciation to the dedicated staff. Each year education scholarships are awarded and given to employees or members of their families who apply. Scholarship Foundation Chair, Biff Shaw reports awarding $110,000 to recipients this school year and since its inception, $1,250,000 in scholarships have been  awarded.

The word retirement is anything but at Essex Meadows with many of the seniors ranging in age from 62 to their oldest, who recently passed away at 108. Many residents still work part-time and are very much involved in the community social life. “The concept of sitting on the porch with warm milk and rocking is not happening around here,” says John. There is something for everyone to participate in and enjoy whether it’s playing billiards and shuffleboard in the game room, listening to live music in The Pub,  playing bridge or golf, swimming or exercising in the fitness room, or going on a nature walk to birdwatch among the beautiful scenery. Transportation into the surrounding communities and cities for cultural events, shopping, and dining is also available for those who do not drive.

“Life is about feeling a sense of purpose,” says John Johl. “That is important, and here at Essex Meadows it’s what I do that matters.”
For more information, or to schedule a tour, call the Marketing Department at 860-581-7220 or visit