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The Social Life is Hopping at Lantern Hill

February 20, 2020

Residents Stay Young and Healthy by Staying Engaged

"Activity" is always the word of the day at Lantern Hill, a developed and managed Erickson Living senior living community in New Providence, NJ. Whether it's a swim in the pool, a robust debate at the Current Events Club, a mind-challenging game of Bridge, or a field trip into Manhattan, residents spend their time enjoying stimulating social and intellectual pursuits that keep them active and sharp. There is something for everyone, even those who prefer just to relax and enjoy the engaging atmosphere on campus. 

Besides being fun, engaging with others around shared interests delivers important benefits: It enhances residents' emotional well-being and cognitive function, and may even help stave off certain age-related illnesses.

Studies Prove the Point

The National Institute on Aging cites research that shows "a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults."

That's why so many seniors are opting to live in communities like Lantern Hill, where they can stay active and connected. All the amenities – gym, pool, theater room, restaurants, and clubs – are under one roof, so it's easy to engage with peers. Manhattan's cultural attractions are only 50 minutes away. With so much to do on and off campus, residents can pursue long-time hobbies and discover exciting new interests.

Manager of Resident Services Christa Decarvalho says, "At Lantern Hill you can fill an entire day with fun activities that challenge you intellectually and physically, then end your day socializing at happy hour and dinner with friends."

"Even if you're not a "joiner," you'll love the welcoming atmosphere and sense of community," she adds. "It's easy to make friends and impossible to feel lonely here." 

The Downside of Aging in Place

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11 million seniors live alone, usually in their family home. Many view "aging in place" as a badge of independence, but living alone can be isolating.

Then, there's the time and expense of home maintenance. Unfortunately, houses age right along with their occupants; deferring maintenance can erode a home's value and your nest egg.

Lantern Hill's Sales Director Dan Millender notes, "We offer 26 acres of walkable grounds, modern architecture, beautiful apartment homes, and proximity to the city. We do all the maintenance for you, so everyone has time to focus on fun. All of these things contribute to an unmatched quality of life at Lantern Hill."

He adds, "I encourage prospective residents to explore their options and to be open to everything we offer here. This truly can be the best time of your life."

From Workaholic to "Funaholic"

When Susan Gruen graduated from college in 1969, studying law wasn't a viable career for women. She set aside her dream, became a teacher, and took time off to raise her two children. When her daughter and son entered college and high school, respectively, she felt the time was finally right to pursue her passion.

Susan graduated from law school in 2002, the same year her daughter completed medical school and her son finished undergraduate school. At age 56 she joined a law firm and practiced until 2019. "I was a bit of recluse, not because I didn't want to socialize – I just didn't have time," she says. "My career consumed everything."

As Susan and her husband, Tom McArdle, approached retirement, they experienced temporary health setbacks. They loved their large, three-story townhouse but realized it might be time to rethink their living arrangements.

"There was a psychological barrier to moving," Susan acknowledges, "but we needed a more manageable home. Once we saw how bright, airy, and beautifully decorated Lantern Hill is, we decided quickly that this was the right place for us." Within three months they had sold their house. They moved to the community in September 2018.

"It was one of the best decisions we've ever made," she adds. "You're out and about, doing things, enjoying your friends. Even in bad weather you can get up and go, because everything is connected by interior walkways. You're never stuck in your apartment. It's really terrific."

Making up for lost time, Susan started taking fitness classes, swimming, and walking the grounds. Tom had always been an avid Bridge player, so she learned the game. "It's incredibly challenging," she says. "I made flash cards to help me memorize the bidding, the card values. Things like that help keep you sharp and focused."

Looking to volunteer, she ran for and won a spot on the Resident Advisory Council (RAC), a group of residents who serve as ombudsmen between residents and community management. Susan's duties include preparing presentations and delivering them to different audiences. "My legal training and organizational skills come in handy," she says with a smile.

"I love serving, because this is my home. I want it to be the best place it can be," she adds. "We're fortunate that management really listens and is so responsive to our recommendations."

Susan uses her skill set in other endeavors. She directs the movie-selection committee and has organized several rummage sales; proceeds went to the Employee Appreciation Fund. A self-proclaimed ping pong aficionado, she set up a tournament between staff and residents. "I thought a little friendly competition would be fun. We won three out of four matches, even though they're half our age," she laughs.

Even with such a full plate, Susan makes socializing a priority. "I think it's terribly important, and the people here come from such interesting backgrounds," she says. "For example, my next-door neighbor invented statins! Everyone has such a fascinating story, and it's so easy to meet people and make friends. I have more friends now than I ever had."

Her advice to anyone hesitant to move? "Do it while you can fully enjoy all the amenities. I participate in as many activities as the day will allow. I love having this amazing social life."

The only downside is that she's too busy to babysit for her grandkids. "Our kids understand and are thrilled for us," she says. "We feel very blessed to live here."

Lantern Hill is a not-for-profit organization, developed and managed by Erickson Living®. The community is governed by its own board of directors affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. 

About Lantern Hill: Lantern Hill, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 26-acre campus in New Providence, New Jersey. The not-for-profit community of more than 390 residents and 300 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Lantern Hill can be found at

Story by Dorrie Anshel

Photo: Susan Gruen and her husband Tom McArdle moved to Lantern Hill in September 2018. Now that she's retired, they can take full advantage of all the amenities on campus and opportunities to socialize.