Greg Alexander

Living in the City

Mason-Dixon Arrive, June 2007

The aging Baby Boomer generation has garnered a significant amount of press the past few years, as the “graying” of this large segment of the population will have an important effect on several areas – medicine, Social Security and housing, among others. Those entering their early 60s seem to dominate the news, but we don’t hear so much about their healthy elders, those who shaped the Baby Boomer generation. These are our parents and grandparents, those who are still actively pursuing their passions, be it arts, culture, politics or fitness. They mix and mingle in all manner of classes and activities to keep their minds open and fresh. They debate politics, they discuss movies and books, they work out and travel. These are the types of people you’ll find in today’s retirement communities.

At Roland Park Place, residents have the advantage of being able to pursue these passions “on campus” as well as out in Baltimore City, as the vibrant offerings of urban life are just a few steps away from Roland Park Place, set in a leafy, historic neighborhood.

“For someone making the move to a retirement community from their home of many years, it’s really important to make the transition easy,” says Betty Scott, 84, who moved seven years ago to Roland Park Place, a full-service continuing care retirement community that offers independent living, assisted living and comprehensive nursing care. “I am a native Baltimorean and lived on Roland Avenue for many years, so the move here was pretty easy.”

Scott says that what made her move to Roland Park Place, which opened in 1984 and was built on the former site of Roland Park Country School, easy was that she could continue to participate in the activities that she had enjoyed for years. “I get to keep enjoying urban life and take advantage of all the cultural events that Baltimore City has to offer. I gave up my car two years ago, and I really don’t miss it. I can catch a shuttle to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra or the Everyman Theatre to catch a show. I can walk, take the shuttle or use public transportation to anywhere I need to go,” says Scott.

Rena Kelly, 85, who moved to Roland Park Place in 1999 with her husband from their home in Baltimore County, agrees that the urban setting was a big draw for her. “It’s wonderful to be right in the heart of the City. I graduated from The Johns Hopkins University, so I knew the neighborhood well, and now I can continue to stay involved in the Hopkins Club, of which I am a member,” says Kelly. “I love to walk, and it’s nice to be able to walk downtown and to the Baltimore Museum of Art and enjoy looking at the architecture along the way. I can also walk to the Rotunda to shop, which is just across the street, and I can take the shuttle to the Baltimore Opera or to a concert at Shriver Hall at Hopkins. Many of the people here at Roland Park Place have spent their whole lives doing these types of things, and they can continue to do so without a major life change, which is great.”

Scott adds that living in an urban environment also allows her to stay involved in politics, a lifelong passion of hers. “Every Friday from Noon to 1pm, I take part in the Roland Park Place Peace Group’s peace vigil on 40th Street by the Rotunda. It was started by the Women in Black [the Baltimore chapter is part of the international group that brings together people who seek peace]. Afterwards, we have lunch at the café where we talk politics. Sometimes the young people join us … and by young, I mean 50 or 60,” Scott laughs. “We’ve been doing the vigils for about six years, and once a month, we show documentary films, too. Years ago, I was actively involved in the National Organization for Women (NOW), especially in the fight surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment. I am glad that I can stay involved in politics here, and I enjoy the more laid-back environment and attitude with this group,” says Scott, who is also the chairperson of the Roland Park Residents’ Association. She adds that she also enjoys taking classes at the Renaissance Institute at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland (she is a 1945 graduate of the school and has been taking classes at the Renaissance Institute since it began). The Renaissance Institute is for men and women age 50 and up who want to take lifelong learning classes such as computers, literature, public affairs, writing, history, philosophy, music, art and languages.

Of course, residents do not have to always venture off campus to keep busy, as there is a litany of activities offered on campus, as well, including bridge, quilting, language, art, fitness, spiritual classes, dancing and book clubs. The residents at Roland Park Place also take part in several service projects, including a “Knitting for the Homeless” project, which in the past 10 years has resulted in residents knitting thousands of scarves, caps and mittens that have been distributed to area shelters in the winter; and an annual benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association of Central Maryland. Both Scott and Kelly praise the work of movie buff, Mary Louise Franz, who started Sunday Flicks several years ago. Her eclectic taste (and the convenience of Netflix) brings art films, documentaries and poignant stories, followed by lively discussions.

Kelly, a charter member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, started a book study group at Roland Park Place. “I like to stay active, and I really love the new Fitness and Aquatics Center here. I swim six mornings a week and enjoy the water aerobics classes, too. I feel like I live in a fancy health club.” Kelly says that she also developed a passion for travel and utilized the Dot Com Center on campus to help plan a trip she’s taking to England and Italy this year. “Travel is all new to me, and it’s quite exciting. I love living here!”

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