This cover story was written by Christy Brudin and appears on Page 14 in the Winter 2017/18 Maryland Edition of the Retirement Living Sourcebook. To view the complete publication, click here.
Pat retired her snow shovel. Susan and Chuck left behind their home in California to be closer to family. Nancy quit worrying about home maintenance. Peggy and Jim gave up the snowbird lifestyle and returned to the Eastern Shore. They all found a place to belong at Londonderry on the Tred Avon in Easton, Maryland.
Londonderry is a cooperative independent living community for ages 62 and over, offering residents all the amenities of a retirement community with the added benefit of controlling their financial investment. The community recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and remains the only waterfront independent living cooperative for residents 62 and older on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It is also one of only ninety-eight independent living cooperative retirement communities in the entire country.
At Londonderry, the residents are members of a corporation that owns all the real property, including all residences and common areas. The co-op owners control every aspect of Londonderry’s management and operations. Ultimately, residents enjoy all the benefits of homeownership without the burdens of maintenance or upkeep.
A Place to Lead
“One of my greatest joys is to watch the snow plow go right by my door and to know I don’t have to touch any snow,” said Pat Lewers.
Four years ago, Pat and her husband, Ted, moved to Londonderry in large part so they could relax—and retire their snow shovels. Prior to moving, the couple had lived in the same home for 40 years. Dr. Lewers had also practiced medicine in the area for more than 30 years, so the couple was very connected to the larger community.
Beyond wanting to relax, the Lewers also wanted to find a place where everything was taken care of for them. Following Ted’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Londonderry allowed for Pat to worry less and focus on spending time with her husband. Ted and Pat lived for two years at Londonderry together before Dr. Lewers moved to a long term assisted living to receive comprehensive care.
Through all these changes, Pat has had the support of her fellow residents and the team at Londonderry. “This is not a community. It’s not even a village. It’s a home,” Pat said. “I truly love it here. I love every minute. It feels like one big family.”
Pat was recently elected President of the Board of Londonderry and is really looking forward to the opportunity to give back. “This community is really operated by the residents,” she explained. “I feel very honored that they elected me and gave me this responsibility, and I hope I can live up to it.”
Pat may have put down her snow shovel, but she is still very active—and very much a leader.
A Place With Family
When their son married and moved to Easton, Susan and Chuck Andrews became frequent visitors to the Eastern Shore. They loved the area, but California remained their home.
“We saw Londonderry several years ago, and we thought it looked really nice, and we loved that it was on the water,” Susan recalled. “We started thinking that we really needed to find a place where we could be taken care of and just enjoy life.”
During their next visit, the Andrews stopped and added their names to Londonderry’s waiting list. When they came back to tour their first cottage, things happened quickly.
“Chuck said, ‘We’ll take it.’ And that was that,” Susan explained. “It was a major move for us—moving across country—but we wanted to be closer to family, and we couldn’t be happier with the decision.”
Both former educators who were active participants in their long-time community in California, Susan and Chuck are still impressed by how quickly they felt at home at Londonderry. “We knew nobody coming in here, and we were immediately embraced,” Susan noted.
Although they never really considered the cooperative aspect of the community before moving, Susan is now grateful for the residents’ level of involvement. “I think most of the people here were involved in leadership roles in their past,” she said. “Once they get here, they can continue to be involved, and to have a say in everything about the community.”
For Chuck, being involved means pursuing his passion for making wine and beer and sharing the fruits of his labors with his friends and neighbors. “Once a month, all of us on the wine committee dress up and serve the wine we made to everyone,” he said. “We also make beer for those who prefer beer. We really have a great time.”
Susan and Chuck moved thousands of miles to be closer to their family, and they found a whole new family at Londonderry.
A Place to Rebuild
Nancy Burns and her husband, Bernie, had called the Eastern Shore home for more than 30 years prior to moving to Londonderry. They owned a place on the water and frequently hosted their four children and twelve grandchildren.
“The children all called it the Burns’ Camp,” Nancy said. “It was wonderful, but it was big, and it was just getting to be too much for us to take care of. We realized that it wasn’t fun for us anymore.”
When the Burns saw Londonderry, they discovered an answer to their home maintenance problems. They could still enjoy the beautiful shoreline and give up the burdens of seemingly endless home repairs.
“We immediately liked the atmosphere here,” Nancy said of the couple’s first visit to Londonderry. “Everybody was friendly. We saw so many smiling faces, and people were always stopping to talk to us.”
When tragedy struck just six weeks into her residency, Nancy learned the true value of the caring atmosphere at Londonderry. “We had only been here for six weeks when my husband passed away,” she said. “That changed my whole view of Londonderry. It is not just friendly; it is so much more. The support here has been wonderful. From the very first day, people came and invited me to dinner and activities and made sure I wasn’t alone.”
At Londonderry, Nancy has found a place to rebuild her life as a widow. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be here. I have so many great friends and everyone is so supportive,” she said. “At least half of the people here have already lost a spouse, so they really know what it is like. I do feel like I am part of a big family.”
A Place to Own
A native of the Eastern Shore, Peggy Sloan spent most of her life in the area before moving to Florida with her second husband, Jim Sloan. After twelve years in Florida, Peggy and Jim decided it was time to head north again.
“I just had enough of Florida,” recalled Peggy. “I thought it was time to get back to family, back to home.”
The Sloans toured Londonderry and thought it would be a good option. When a cottage became available while they were still in Florida, they sent Peggy’s daughter to tour the property. They immediately knew it was the right place for them.
“We are so glad to be here. To be close to family and to be a part of this close-knit community is just perfect,” said Peggy. “We also love owning our home and knowing that we have equity in it.”
A retired nurse who spent many years working in geriatrics, Peggy is thrilled to have found a retirement community that is the perfect fit. “I was uncertain if I wanted to move to a community or not, but I’m having a ball,” she said.
Peggy’s involvement in the community started shortly after the Sloans moved in when she joined the community’s musical group, the Jammers. “I mentioned to our CEO that I played the piano, and she brought a Jammers t-shirt out of her office and asked me to join the group,” Peggy recalled. “After that, I decided to participate in the talent show at the last minute, and I did a little Minnie Pearl routine. It was fun, and everybody called me Minnie for a long time after that.”
As a member of the Activities Committee, Peggy appreciates how much influence the residents have on how the community is operated. “There are so many ways for people to get involved. It is nothing like what people think of as an old folks’ home. This community is filled with vibrant people doing exciting things,” she said.
Jim added, “I always say that we live just east of Paradise, just a little east.”
A former National Security Agency employee, Jim met Peggy when he went to the doctor’s office where she worked. After more than a decade, he was also ready to leave Florida behind and return to the Mid-Atlantic. At Londonderry, he has found an active community of like-minded peers. He participates in the beer and wine making club and enjoys an array of other activities.
The Place They Belong
All these residents have one thing in common. They were looking for the right place to retire. They needed a place to lead, to connect, to grow and to own. At Londonderry, they all found a place to belong—and that place belongs to them.