Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Declaring Independence: Options increase for senior living.

Dorothy King plays bingo at Senior LIFE Harrisburg.

Let’s face it: none of us are getting any younger.

According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, 75.4 million people born between 1946 and 1964 live in this country, and, last year, the first of these Baby Boomers turned 70. We are an aging nation.

Given the choice, many of us probably would prefer to live out our golden years as independently as possible. Even the prospect of moving into assisted living may seem frightening to some.

If this resonates with you, take heart. There are more options than ever before to live longer and better while preserving your independence.

Healthy and Active

One concept in independent senior living is unfolding in Elizabethtown, with a name almost synonymous locally with senior care.

Masonic Village plans to construct 48 townhomes for adults 60 and older who aren’t ready for full-fledged senior living.

“These are people 60 and older who are ready to turn the page on the family home,” explained Nicholas Mahler, Masonic Village’s director of sales, admissions and outreach. “They’re in good health and don’t want to pay for a continuum of care. They’re looking for maintenance-free living without the full plunge into retirement.”

Proposed construction on the two-bedroom units with garages would begin in spring 2018, ranging in size between 1,275 and 1,447 square feet, with occupancy expected by the end of the year. Unlike other Masonic Village residences, these homes would be geared toward empty-nesters who are still working, in addition to retirees in good health.

Residents would have “maintenance-free living” that includes automatic snow and trash removal, housekeeping services and access to Masonic Village’s wellness center, swimming pools and restaurants, said Mahler. They would pay a one-time residency fee of $299,000 to $369,000 upon ownership, with monthly service fees ranging between $890 and $1,030.

Mahler said Masonic Village directors came up with the idea for the proposed community “by listening to our customers who were getting ready to retire.”

“They’re looking for a way to have a more carefree way of living and be a resident on our campus,” he said.

Across the river, Betsy Wendlek plans to move into Messiah Lifeways’ new Village Square development, a town square concept at the heart of Messiah Village outside of Mechanicsburg. The brand-new community features 84 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Village Square is designed to appeal to healthy seniors who want maximum independence but still desire access to the amenities offered as part of the Messiah Lifeways campus, such as dining options, recreation and health services.

“I am beyond excited to never have to call a plumber again,” Wendlek said.

She hasn’t lived in an apartment for about 50 years, but, after her husband passed away, wanted a living environment that was simpler and had more amenities, such as exercise classes.

“I wanted it to be my decision, one I had made on my own,” she said. “It is a freeing feeling.”

An Alternative

Earlier this year, Senior LIFE Harrisburg opened its first facility in the midstate, one of a dozen such locations throughout Pennsylvania.

LIFE is an acronym for Living Independence for the Elderly. The home and community-based healthcare program, funded by Medicare and Medicaid, provides lower-income seniors with services to remain living in their homes. Clients also are given the option of paying out of pocket.

“Most people are happy not to be in a nursing home,” said Jordan Hantz, Senior LIFE Harrisburg’s executive director. “Most individuals want to age at home.”

LIFE program participants receive all medical, social and personal support services from under one roof, comprising an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, home care aides, therapists, social workers, dieticians, drivers and others who provide direct care and services.

“We’re pretty unique,” Hantz said. “We’re like a one-stop shop for healthcare for seniors who qualify. We’re set up so that we can provide care 24/7/365.”

To qualify for Senior LIFE Harrisburg, applicants must be 55 or older, live in Dauphin County, be eligible for Medicaid or Medicare or have the ability to self-pay. Monthly personal income must remain below $2,205 with resources not exceeding $8,000. Members also must be able to live safely in the community.

To determine these factors, the Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging conducts in-person assessments.

Senior LIFE Harrisburg center manager Michele Myers said that she can name several instances in which members and families told her how the center improved their quality of life. Many, she said, fear leaving their homes, where they’ve lived much of their lives, for a nursing home.

“We have the opportunity to make a real difference in our members’ lives,” added Melanie Saul, Senior LIFE regional manager.

Masonic Village is located at 1 Masonic Dr., Elizabethtown. For information, call 717-367-1121 or visit

Messiah Lifeways is located at 100 Mount Allen Dr., Mechanicsburg. For information, call 717-697-4666 or visit

Senior LIFE Harrisburg is located at 1910 Manada St., Harrisburg. For information, call 717-234-5433 or visit Senior LIFE Harrisburg is hosting a grand opening on Oct. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m.

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