Social interaction and purpose are essential to longevity | AspenTimes.com

Social interaction and purpose are essential to longevity

Whitcomb Terrace, Aspen’s only senior living community, has rare openings right now

By Lauren Glendenning
For the Aspen Times

Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Aspen Valley Hospital

Director Maggie Gerardi enjoys individual time with each resident. Pictured with Maggie is Sharon Prior, a long-time Aspen local.
Courtesy Image
Whitcomb Terrace Open House

The public is welcome to visit Whitcomb Terrace for cookies, cocoa and coffee during Aspen Valley Hospital’s Senior Health Fair, Friday, Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Whitcomb Terrace is located at 275 Castle Creek Road (right next to the Senior Center).

There’s often a myth that assisted living somehow equates to a loss of independence, but residents often find more time to add healthy, meaningful activities into their daily lives when household chores are eliminated.

In Aspen, senior living at Whitcomb Terrace focuses on enhancing residents’ quality of life by providing an environment that is stimulating, nurturing, active and fun. 

“More and more evidence-based research suggests there are a number of benefits to senior-living residences versus remaining at home,“ said Dr. Joshua Seymour, medical director at Whitcomb Terrace in Aspen. “The programming at Whitcomb Terrace provides the optimal structure — from routine meals, regular exercise and memory stimulating activities, that lifts mood, lowers anxiety and improves memory.”

The not-for-profit community, owned by Aspen Valley Hospital, has just 15 total residences, providing a family-like atmosphere that feels warm and welcoming for residents yet offers privacy and autonomy for those who want it. 

Whitcomb’s current openings present a singular opportunity for Aspen Valley locals “to claim a rare spot at Aspen’s premiere place to age well,” said Whitcomb’s Director Maggie Gerardi, who has worked at the community for more than 18 years.

Timing is everything

Seniors and their loved ones often wait until daily chores and tasks become impossible before making the decision to move to an assisted living environment, but the time when seniors and their loved ones should start considering a senior living community is long before they think they “need” it.

“So often people move in, and love it so much that they wish they had made the transition years before,” Gerardi said. “People don’t realize the negative impact loneliness and isolation have on one’s quality of life.”

Meredith Daniel, activities coordinator at Whitcomb Terrace and a former, long-time performer at The Crystal Palace, said determining when this transition is an appropriate choice for a family member or loved one, or even for yourself, is understandably hard.

“However, we’ve observed there are benefits derived from giving the responsibilities of daily life over to a qualified and loving team,” Daniel said. “Quality of life is naturally enhanced by social interaction, activity stimulation, and the relaxation that comes with having your daily needs met.”

Your life, only better

The brain is just like a muscle that needs exercise — when it’s not utilized, signs of depression and dementia can worsen, Dr. Seymour said. The National Institute on Aging reports that social isolation and loneliness are linked to higher risks of physical and mental conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.

“Living in a communal environment with others — it just makes people happier,” he said, referencing both medical research and personal observations as medical director at Whitcomb Terrace. “Many mild types of depression and dementia can be lifted.”

While this type of living environment has been shown to lead to longevity, it’s never forced upon residents at Whitcomb Terrace. Not all residents want to participate in all of the activities or programs and that’s OK — residents can maintain their personal freedom and privacy while also taking advantage of the services and amenities provided, Gerardi said.

Grateful relatives

“In 1960, mom came to ski bum in Aspen and worked for Drs. Whitcomb, Oden and Gould,” said daughter Lisa Prior, who returned home to Aspen when it was time for her mother, Sharon, to relinquish some of the burdens of living independently. “‘Dr. Whit’ was our family doctor so it’s really wonderful to feel his care living on in this way. Because Whitcomb Terrace is a small community, mom knitted right in with the other residents. The quality of care is so personal, everyone there has different aging issues, and the incredible staff are very responsive. There’s really nothing like it. Having mom at Whitcomb has erased the eldercare anxiety my sister, Bailey, and I have been living with for a few years now. And the icing on the cake is that our time with mom is not taken up with chores — we hang out or head out to experience all the things we love about the Roaring Fork Valley.”

An engaged community

Positive energy permeates through the community, where residents encourage each other to attend art shows, go for walks outside, head to the theater or to any other activity that piques their interests.

“Residents get together daily to enjoy their shared interests, whether it’s through art, puzzles, bridge, Scrabble, movies, walking, music — they’re often creating their own experiences together,” Gerardi said.

With just 15 residents at maximum capacity, it really does create a family atmosphere — staff included. Residents have their private apartments, and they also have the ability to go out as often as they like, participating in the same activities they did before moving in.

“We provide a variety of opportunities for enrichment to encourage residents to remain active,” Gerardi said. “We have amazing meals and staff who cares for residents like family. We also acknowledge some residents choose to keep the same routines and independence they had prior to moving in. We treat each resident as an individual.”

The best care and the best value in the valley

Whitcomb Terrace’s 15 senior living apartments have been recently renovated, and the cost is more affordable than people might expect. There are four apartment styles, ranging from small studios to large one-bedroom units, ranging from $3,500 to $6,000 per month. The price is all-inclusive of services, meals, salon services and more.

Whitcomb Terrace has several rare openings right now. For more information about the community’s services and amenities, visit aspenvalleyhospital.org/Whitcomb-Terrace-Assisted-Living

To learn more about becoming a resident, contact Maggie Gerardi at 970-544-1530, or mgerardi@aspenhospital.org.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.