Phoebe Berks Wellness Program Aims at Keeping Seniors Independent

As people continue to live longer, healthy aging becomes more imperative for seniors. According to the United States Social Security Administration, approximately one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95.

When Phoebe Berks Village opened its doors in the early 1990s, hundreds of seniors moved into the independent living community. Over the last twenty years, many of these residents have continued living independently, a testament to adopting an active lifestyle. Today, Phoebe Berks Village residents boast an average age of 84, and a quarter of these residents are over the age of 90!

Phoebe Berks is not unique in the chemistry and makeup of its independent living community. Independent living residents—whether new residents or residents since the 1990s—become attached to their homes, lifestyles, and independence.

The Phoebe Berks Wellness Program

“The Wellness Program at Phoebe Berks supports an infrastructure to keep seniors living independently for as long as possible,” says MaryKay McMahon, Executive Director at Phoebe Berks. McMahon recognized the potential of implementing a wellness program on the campus abd appointed Star High, who at that time served as Director of Nursing, to the new role of Director of Wellness Services and charged her with building the program from the ground up.

High developed and implemented a comprehensive wellness program that proactively manages health issues by tracking how each independent living resident is functioning and coordinating campus services to meet the needs of that specific resident.

Every independent living resident at Phoebe Berks Village undergoes a clinical evaluation to see how well he or she is functioning independently. Then, High and her team work to find ways to help each resident stay independent longer.

The Wellness Team includes a clinical nursing component, outpatient rehabilitation support, social services support, spiritual support, in home geriatric care management services, fitness services and community life activity programming. High and other team members work actively to link residents to social activities, fitness programs, volunteer opportunities, and spiritual programs that fit each person’s life goals.

If you build it, will they come?

Star High, Director of Wellness, meets with Philip Malpas, Phoebe Berks Village resident. Malpas, along with many other seniors at Phoebe Berks, is pleased with the program’s goal  to help him stay independent longer.
Star High, Director of Wellness, meets with Philip Malpas, Phoebe Berks Village resident. Malpas, along with many other seniors at Phoebe Berks, is pleased with the program’s goal to help him stay independent longer.

At first, the Wellness Program was met with some resistance. “People thought we were going to move them out of their homes and into a higher level of care, but that wasn’t the program’s goal. The goal of the Wellness Program is to keep our independent living residents as independent as possible for as long as possible,” says High.

By encouraging activity, addressing potential difficulties before they become problematic, and offering personalized concierge services,
the Wellness Program grew in popularity.
High trusts the residents enjoy the program
and all of the assistance they receive to stay
active and healthy. “Often, I have a line outside
of the Wellness Center! If I step away for a
meeting, residents are waiting for me when
I get back,” High remarks.

Sue Naylor, Phoebe Berks Village resident, is enthusiastic about the program. “All of us here are so excited about it. We in the apartments are very hopeful that we’ll be able to stay here longer with this new program,” she says. Above that, Naylor stresses, “The Wellness Program improved the tightness of the entire organization. We know now if one of us is having trouble, they’ll work with us to try to keep us independent so we don’t have to move to personal care.”

The Wellness Program also has positive clinical outcomes for residents. Dr. Harold Cohn, retired thoracic surgeon and also a Phoebe Berks Village resident, says, “The idea of implementing a wellness program for preventive care is excellent. By knowing our clinical backgrounds, Star can help residents with healthcare issues and questions before anything troublesome has a chance to happen.”

Dr. Cohn recognizes the guidance seniors need when it comes to making healthcare decisions: “the preemptive management of possible emergent health issues will decrease ambulance rides and doctors’ visits.” He refers to the Wellness Program as an “ombudsman” of sorts, providing a voice for the residents as they migrate through the healthcare process to clarify needs and situations. “My entire group of friends is embracing this proactive management of our health,” Dr. Cohn says.

Phoebe Berks Village now boasts a new Wellness Center in the Community Center where residents can stop in for advice or assistance. The program is structured to provide an ongoing infrastructure for preventive health maintenance. “We use our on-campus resources to best serve our residents,” says High. “From medication management, to elements of in home care, to dietary suggestions, the Wellness Program provides concierge services to help our seniors age in place.”

Learn more about Phoebe Berks Independent Living at