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Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

Senior living community in Middlebury serves Vermont’s aging population, providing variety of care, activities

A resident, Joe Amatura (left), and an associate, Sadie James (right), at the senior living community.
A resident, Joe Amatura (left), and an associate, Sadie James (right), at the senior living community.

With a median age of 42.7 years old, Vermont is the third oldest state in the nation. Nearly one out of every five Vermonters is over the age of 65, according to Peter Nelson, professor of geography. 

A senior living community in Middlebury aims to serve the large elderly population in the state by providing independent living, assisted living, memory care and temporary care. Located off Route 7 on Lodge Road, The Residence at Otter Creek houses over one hundred seniors from the Addison County area. 

The senior living community is part of the broader privately-owned company LCB Senior Living, which aims to build and acquire high-quality senior living communities, according to Tracy Van Hoven, sales and marketing director at The Residence. LCB Senior Living also has senior living communities in Shelburne, Vt. and South Burlington, Vt., Van Hoven said.

According to Courtney Allenson, senior reflections and engagement director at The Residence, the 141 residents currently living at senior living community are housed in 131 apartments. 30 of those apartments are cottages for more independent residents, Allenson added. 

The residents are on average between 70 and 82 years old, Allenson said, and about 70% of them live independently, meaning they are able to go about their daily lives without the assistance of the senior living community staff to cook their meals or do their dishes and laundry, among other tasks.

“I love our residents so much. They’re incredible people,” she said. 

Allenson and Van Hoven described a variety of activities that the senior living community hosts in an effort to keep its residents active and engaged. These activities include weekly live music and fitness classes, such as aqua aerobics, tai chi, band classes, cardio drumming and barre. 

“Regardless of care level, everyone participates in all activities,” Van Hoven said. 

The Residence fulfills a growing need for more senior living facilities in the state of Vermont. According to a recent New York Times article on the labor shortage in Vermont, the state is struggling to retain and employ younger people while also supporting a growing population of retirees. 

“More than a fifth of Vermonters are 65 or older, and more than 35 percent are over 54, the age at which Americans typically begin to exit the workforce,” the article stated. “No state has a smaller share of its residents in their prime working years.” 

In addition to pressures on the labor market, the aging population in Vermont has impacts on the housing market in the state, Nelson told The Campus. Of occupied housing units, 30% have a resident over the age of 65, and 14% of those units are occupied by someone over the age of 65 living alone, higher than the national rate of 11%, according to Nelson. 

Nelson added that creating more senior housing would be helpful to opening up thousands if not tens of thousands of housing units across the state. 

Addison County has three residential care homes to support the roughly 40,000 people living in the county: The Residence, Eastview at Middlebury and Shard Villa. The County also has one nursing home, Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehab Center, according to the State of Vermont disabilities, aging and independent living webpage

Van Hoven and Allenson described the opportunities for volunteers to get involved in a variety of ways at The Residence. Possibilities for volunteers include being matched with a resident with whom the volunteer goes on walks, reads books, does arts and crafts, or simply chats. 

Volunteers may also get the chance to connect with Middlebury alumni and/or former faculty and staff living at the senior community, Allenson said. “All [of the] residents look after each other. It’s a big family,” she added. 

The Residence has a number of resident-run activities and organizations as well, including the Resident-Advisory Council, which provides a space for its members to speak up about their concerns and future hopes for the living community. The community also has a resident-run group that convenes to discuss a different New Yorker article each week. 

The senior living community also hosts periodic events with outside lecturers, sometimes including Middlebury professors. 

Middlebury Professor of Political Science Matthew Dickinson gave his first lecture to The Residence over a decade ago, and has given at least one lecture every year at the senior living community. Dickinson’s lectures generally focus on the state of American politics, and often more specifically on presidential and midterm elections. 

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“I enjoy the questions [during talks],” he wrote in an email to The Campus. “Also the need to turn political science research into a presentation that is accessible to the non-experts is really helpful to me, and to my Middlebury students as well."

Dickinson added that the fact that he is giving a one-time lecture, rather than weekly lectures as he does in his political science classes or at his politics luncheons makes the audience particularly engaged in what he has to say. 

“I also have to take more of a big picture take on the issue, since I can’t elaborate in subsequent lectures. But in many respects it’s a lot like teaching Middlebury students,” he wrote. 

The senior living community has upcoming lectures scheduled to be given by Dickinson and Professor of Anthropology Michael Sheridan. 

According to New York Times, the aging population in Vermont offers a look at how demographics across the country will soon look. Catering to this elderly population, The Residence aims to provide quality care to the 20.3% of Addison County residents who are over the age of 65 according to the 2021 American Community Survey

Editors’ Note: Editor in Chief Maggie Reynolds ’24 contributed reporting to this story.