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A family affair

Having family work where you live is an added bonus

Julia Collins
December 14, 2018

Like many physical therapists and rehabilitators, Danielle Cusimano knew what she wanted to do: to help people. But when she landed a job at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pequannock Township, N.J., 13 years ago, she found her "why."

"What I appreciate now is being able to do this [job] in a setting where I really form a relationship with the people I work with. You're in their home, essentially. They really begin to feel like your extended family," Cusimano says.

While all of her clients feel like family after a time, none compare to her father- and mother-in-law Vicki and Andy Cusimano who moved to Cedar Crest in Dec. 2017, for its conveniences, amenities, on-site medical care, and activities. "There is everything you could possibly need here," Cusimano says.

Vicki and Andy feel the same way.

Right at their fingertips

"Every single club that we would be even remotely be interested in is here," Vicki says. "It's so convenient as far as the amenities and niceties available. There's nothing Cedar Crest hasn't thought of as far as growing older gracefully and independently."

Vicki, who was the assistant to the head of a small Quaker boarding school, loves not having to cook or clean much at all. Andy, a former IBM programming manager, is pleased someone else mows the lawn and takes care of all home maintenance.

One check a month covers most day-to-day expenses, including apartment home maintenance, property taxes, heating and air-conditioning, trash and recycling collection at your door, dining plans and options, basic cable TV, regularly scheduled transportation, 24-hour security and emergency response services, plus access to a wealth of campus amenities.

But what they love most is having Danielle nearby every day.

"We have a set Wednesday date where Andy [our son] and Danielle and the boys come here, or we go there for dinner," Vicki says. "Danielle is very busy at work so aside from her birthday I really don't like to disturb her, although it's a tremendous comfort knowing she is across the parking lot."

"She's one of the most nurturing people I know. Just her presence makes you feel like everything's going to be okay. That's an emotional comfort," Vicki continues.

The feeling is mutual. "It's a comfort to me that they have, in addition to us, a nice support group of friends around them," says Cusimano.

'We're glad we're here'

One of the things Danielle loves most about her job is finding new ways to share her other talents. "We'll do cooking or music events. Anything you like to do personally you can share that with the residents, and vice versa. They share their gifts with us."

When it came time for Vicki and Andy to move, she assisted them through the moving process from their home in Butler. Because she knows the community so well, she helped them choose their apartment style and location.

"We're very glad that we live here," Vicki says. "I'm really glad we sold our condo so quickly. It meant that it was the right time. We're very lucky having family so close and still have close friends inside and outside the community. It is a place where you find your niche rather quickly if you want to."

So far, Vicki and Andy have taken continuing education classes, listened to fascinating lectures and current events discussions, and simply gathered with neighbors. "The courses are very high end, and on a daily basis, it's nice to be able to walk down the hall, meet friends, and have a dinner," Vicki says.

Friendships, she says, are one of the most valuable aspects of living at Cedar Crest.

"As you get older, you find how precious friendships are. When you make a connection at this age," Vicki says, "that connection happens so much faster than when you were in your 20s or 30s because, at that age, everybody is busy. Here, you're busy doing things you want to do, and people are inclusive. They invite you to play bridge or discuss current events. We've been very, very lucky with the people we've met being so warm and welcoming and inclusive to us."