Residents of Peconic Landing were as excited and antsy in their seats as a bunch of graduating high school kids at a ceremony Thursday morning celebrating the grand opening of a major expansion to the continuing care retirement community.
“I say this all the time — this is a very, very happy place,” said State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle at the ceremony that preceded tours of the expansion. Mr. LaValle had been instrumental in helping to shepherd the project through myriad state agencies for approval. “Anything I can do to assist you to make this a happier place, I will do.”
The $44 million expansion includes 46 new apartments for independent living — all of which are spoken for, a new wing called The Harbors devoted to memory care, and a short-term rehabilitation center.
Peconic Landing is designed as a Continuing Care Retirement Community, in which residents can move in as early as the age of 62, and are able to take advantage of services designed to keep them fit and independent so that they will not need advanced nursing care as they age. While there are other CCRCs in New York, Peconic Landing is the only one that gives residents an equity stake in their housing, which can be sold to benefit their estates.
Peconic Landing’s first-ever resident, Harvey Feinstein, moved into his cottage in 2002, when there was “nothing but dirt” on the 144-acre campus. He’d put his house in Southampton on the market not long after September 11, 2001, when many people jumped ship on living in New York City.
His house sold in just one week, so he packed up and moved into the construction site, where the roads were still dirt and his meals came from a vending truck that was bringing sandwiches for the workers.
Mr. Feinstein was among the hundreds of residents who took a walk through the new construction on Thursday.
“I never thought they’d be putting up another building,” he said, with a skip in his step as he checked out the new services, which include expanded dining, recreation and fitness options. “It’s a safe environment. It’s the wave of the future. There are a lot of places opening like this in America, but not in Europe.”
Dr. Jan Harting-McChesney, a professor at St. Joseph’s College, moved to Peconic Landing with her husband two years ago, at the time the expansion was being built. Now, she’s bringing her mother to the memory wing for a tour.
“She’s currently in assisted living, and we live in dread fear of the day they say they will no longer be able to meet her needs,” she said.
As a professor of child psychology, Dr. Harting-McChesney said she’s excited by the idea that Peconic Landing’s memory care wing will be guided by current research on helping people who are facing down the loss of their memories.
The wing includes a kitchen where residents can cook together, and work on remembering recipes they used to share with their families. It includes a great room with two fish tanks, and a garden with raised beds (currently filled with strawberries) and a sculpture, as well as a special walking surface designed to protect residents if they fall.
“When I realized they were building a dedicated memory care unit, I started listening closely to how they were defining it, and the more I heard, the more I liked,” said Dr. Harting-McChesney. “They treat each person like they’re an intact individual who has memory issues. It’s the individual first.”
“She’s a very bright, vibrant person and she’s still herself,” she said of her mother. “I think she’ll be very impressed with the possibilities.”
The expansion also includes updates to fitness and physical therapy rooms, with outdoor basketball and shuffleboard courts, weight machines that remember the number of reps and weight used by each resident, who brings a swipe card that contains summaries of their workouts to the gym, and a new dance room with a barre that is just as important for balance exercises for men as it is for would-be dancers.
Personal trainers and fitness class leaders are always on-hand to coach and work with the residents.
Fitness instructor Laurie Short has been with Peconic Landing for 13 years, and she’s helped create programs, at the urging of residents, ranging from country line dancing to zumba in the pool to nature walks.
“We hear what the residents want because they talk to us. We’re like family,” she said.
In the new apartments, Peter and Janet White spent the morning following Director of Marketing Laurelle Cassone on a tour. They had brought along a tape measure because they were the proud owners of a new ground-floor apartment on the corner of the new wing, and they needed the dimensions of the rooms.
“We have a waiting list for every single model in the expansion,” said Ms. Cassone. “A lot of people think there’ll never be an opportunity. Mr. and Mrs. White went on the waiting list four years ago. They wanted an east-facing one bedroom or one bedroom with den and we had only two of them before the expansion. They were told it might be 40 years.”
But then, the expansion came along, and now they have a new apartment and a new conundrum. They need to sell their house in Center Moriches.
Mr. and Mrs. White were familiar with the CCRC model because Janet had an aunt and uncle in Minnesota and Peter has a brother and sister-in-law in Florida who decided to live in CCRCs.
“They lived longer and were happy the entire time,” said Janet of her aunt and uncle.
Ms. Cassone said that’s by design.
“The program is specifically designed to keep you engaged, active and independent,” she said. “In the long run, that’s a much more affordable choice than a nursing home. And, you leave a legacy for your loved ones.”
As for the future? Well, everyone Thursday was mum on future expansion plans, but County Legislator Al Krupski couldn’t help but notice that the scissors used to cut the ribbon had the words “Peconic Landing” written on them.
“I wonder what else you’re planning to use those scissors for?” he said.