Penn State Intercom......March 20, 2003

Village population growing at a quick pace

By Julie A. Brink
Public Informationvillage5

The driveway is deserted. The buildings are incomplete, but it won't be long before the streets and sidewalks of The Village at Penn State are teeming with people.

With 115 of the initial 150 residences already reserved, the first apartments are expected to be open for occupancy by this summer, according to Jill Lillie, Village marketing director. The average age of these occupants is 76.

Of those signed up already, about 70 percent are Pennsylvania residents. Many of them have Penn State connections. The Village is turning out to be a boon for University faculty and staff who want to have family members living close by.

Deborah Oakes, writer/editor at the Center for the Performing Arts, is looking forward to her parents, Stewart and Nancy Harlow, making the move this fall.

"They are my good friends," she said. "And the kids get a kick out of them." Oakes and her husband have 10 children.

The family has a strong Penn State connection. "All five of us, my parents sent to Penn State," she said. "They've been up here so many times getting us settled into college, they could make the trip blindfolded."

Located just outside State College borough, the Village at Penn State is a total-care retirement community. When completed, it will feature apartments, cottages, a medical facility, dining room, lounge, library, mail and banking area, barber/beauty shop, fitness center, pool, convenience store and a branch of the Penn State Creamery. The life-care contract allows for several levels of living -- independent residences, assisted living apartments, skilled nursing beds and dementia/Alzheimer beds. Minimum age for occupancy is 62.

The Commons Building and the first round of apartments will open this summer, Lillie said. The second wave will open in fall and the final section, which includes the medical facility, will open in winter.

The community is not Penn State-owned or operated, although it is on 80 acres of land leased from the University. The project does not involve any investment by the University, nor the use of tax dollars. A nonprofit community, the Village is governed by a board of directors with University ties: Peter Weiler, associate vice president for development and alumni relations: Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business/treasurer; Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and provost; and Janis Jacobs, vice provost of undergraduate education and international programs.
The project team consists of Cooperative Retirement Services of America Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., and Pinnacle Development of State College.

Weiler predicts it will be a active community. "There's a great view, it's easily accessible," he said. "With the planned residences, as well as the continuing care, we'll have a very vibrant community of people. With the University community, whether they are former faculty, staff or just have a love of the institution, it will be athletically, socially and culturally active people."

"The Penn State name was big draw, plus this is a favorite gathering spot for my family," Oakes said. "I wouldn't be surprised if my brothers and sister came back here."

The Harlows have already sold their home of 40 years in Beaver and are wintering at a New Hampshire cottage waiting for their apartment to be readied at the Village. Nancy Harlow said she's looking forward to the move.

"It's been a long winter up here," she said joking about New England's weather.

The couple had researched a number of retirement communities before settling on the Village. They asked their children what would be the most central location for them -- and got suggestions in five different locations. The Harlows looked at the State College area, because all of the children enjoyed their stay at Penn State.

"Our car goes to Penn State without our driving there," she said. "Debbie, we knew, was happy living back there. So we thought this makes it easy. We were familiar with the area, we knew there was a lot of good places to pick from."

The Harlows made the decision on their own, Oakes said.

"They're healthy, active, they saw it as a gift to us kids to prevent us from having to make tough decisions down the road," she said. "They are clearly the head of the family and always will be."

For the Harlows, health and security were contributing factors. "We had friends who waited too long. They found themselves in a position where they couldn't make decisions for themselves," Harlow said. "Being independent Yankees, we wanted to make the decision for themselves."

The couple is anxious for their new life to begin.

"We've met an awful lot of nice folks already," she said. "We have a lot in common with them. We're all going into a new place. We're all going to be at the same level."

Mark Hinish's parents also have a strong Penn State connection. Hinish, assistant director of the Morgan Support Center for Student Athletes, is a son of Wayne and Janet Hinish of State College. Wayne Hinish was on the faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences for 35 years and his wife worked at the conference center.

"I think it's wonderful that they are living so close to a lot of their friends," Mark Hinish said. "It offers peace of mind for me. They don't have to worry about going up and down steps, taking care of the house inside and out, doing the laundry, the landscaping. I don't have to worry about injuries."

Making the decision wasn't easy for the Hinishes.

"We lived in this house for 45 years and it's a change of lifestyle, it's a difficult thing," Wayne Hinish said. But, he added that he and his wife were attracted to the health-care program. "The fact that you don't have to carry wood, mow lawns or shovel snow" was another reason life at the Village appealed to him. Amenities at the Village include housekeeping, linen service, security and shuttle transportation.

Virginia Althouse of State College echoed Hinish's sentiments.

"I don't have to worry about the house falling apart or the outside work or doing a lot of repairs and remodeling and stuff which I see no point in at this stage of the game," she said. "I figured why not." Althouse worked at the Eisenhower Chapel for 12 years and her son Richard is the University budget officer. She plans to move to the Village in October.

Jill Findeis, professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics, and demography, is looking forward to her New York parents moving nearer to her.

"I'm the only child that lives on the East Coast -- my two brothers live on the West Coast and they have two grandchildren here," she said. "It made sense to come here. We can help them out and they can be near."

"We have a similar unit in Ithaca, but we thought we'd get a life care community closer to members of our family, said Roger Sovocool, Findeis' father. He and his wife, Doris, plan to move to the Village next winter. He said the medical facility was part of the draw. "My wife has Parkinson's," he said. "We thought we'd like to be closer to our daughter, her husband and our grandchildren."

For more information about the Village, call (800) 238-3173 or check on the Web.

Julie A. Brink can be reached at