The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our tenth article is by Larry Zook. Larry has served as President/CEO of Landis Communities/Landis Homes since January 2007, and prior to that served in various positions at Landis Homes beginning in 1994. He is a licensed Nursing Home Administrator and holds a BS in Business Administration from Millersville University and an MBA with an Urban Economic Development concentration from Eastern University, St. Davids, PA. Larry and his wife, Dawn, taught English at Chongqing Normal University in China from 1992-94, and from 1982-92 he worked for Eastern Mennonite Missions, the organization that founded Landis Homes in 1964. Dawn and Larry have one son, Ben, who is a second-year master’s student in speech language pathology in Temple University. They have a 14 1/2 year old yellow Labrador Retriever named Daisy.
Creatively Serving our Aging Community
By Larry Zook
One of Lancaster County’s strengths is our diversity—market segments, faith backgrounds, and the people who call it home. With nearly 30% of the county’s population above the age of 55, it is little wonder providing services to this population is one of the larger drivers of the local economy.
The twenty members of Lancaster Area Senior Services (LASS), all non-profit continuing care retirement communities, are home to over 12,600 residents and employ 9,000+ persons, providing $280 million in wages. Most of these wages stay here and support local businesses. In addition, many LASS members are among the highest property taxpayers in their school district and municipality.
But the greatest impact of older adults in our community is not measured in economic terms. It is found in the many ways they give back through their engagement.
At Landis Communities our mission is following God’s call to creatively serve the diverse needs and interests of older adults by developing opportunities and collaborative relationships.
This is taking us in new and exciting directions. As we listen to those we serve, and those we will serve in the future, they are pointing out the need for new models for how they want to live in communities (both in person and virtually), to receive needed services, and to engage and grow in ways that strengthen the broader community.
In 2011, at the WHO’s First International Conference on Age-Friendly Cities in Dublin, Ireland, I heard former US Ambassador to South Africa, James A Joseph, speak on the topic, “Leadership and Aging as an Asset”. He shared a challenge that has stayed with me, “Far too many are asking what can we do about an aging population, what can we do for older adults, when they should be asking what we can do together, how can we draw from the strengths of each generation. They should be asking not simply what social service should we provide, but how can we encourage and empower older adults to continue serving, and to do so in the center of the arena rather than silenced on the sidelines.”
One way Landis Communities lived into this vision was by opening Steeple View Lofts in 2013, an age 55+ community in the walkable core of downtown Lancaster. The 36 apartments on North Water Street are full, there is a waiting list and the building has a thriving culture of looking out for each other and connecting in the city through shared interests and experiences. It is providing a choice for middle-income persons who already lived in the city and wanted to stay, people from throughout the county looking to live in a vibrant city, and for those from outside the area wanting to relocate to a safe and healthy urban environment.
Our newest planned middle market apartments, Landis Place on King, will offer these same opportunities but will also engage the diverse neighborhood already existing in the West King street area. We anticipate these apartments will not only offer a thriving community of older adults, but also be an innovative space, using green features, new technologies and offering access to care navigators for residents.
We know many persons age 55+ also wish to stay where they have been living and have services made available to them in their current accommodations. Landis HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) offers these programs. The COVID pandemic has provided us the challenge to serve these persons in new creative ways.
There are a myriad of studies showing the value of lifelong learning and the dangers of social isolation. However, in these physically distanced times how do we keep learning and engaging with others? Landis Communities, in partnership with Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning®, offers classes that are open to ALL residents of the county who are age 55+.They cover topics such as history and culture, politics and world affairs, literature, religion, science and environmental issues, music, fine arts and culture, wellness, and hobbies and general interests. When the pandemic made it impossible to meet in person, the staff leading this effort moved the courses online, thus enhancing our virtual community offerings. You can read more about these courses at https://www.thepathwaysinstitute.org/
There are many challenges for those of us serving older persons today. From the lack of access to expedient testing for COVID, to the limited availability and high price of PPE, to the isolation that comes from physical distancing, it can be difficult to navigate effectively in the midst of constant change. But we know we serve a resilient community, we are committed to our mission and we will continue to strive to find new and creative ways to meet the diverse needs of our aging neighbors.
Catch up on other articles in this series:
Stay tuned for even more perspectives this year as we hear from a variety of local business and community leaders sharing insightful commentary on our society, our community, and our workforce.