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The Bergen Bunch

Cedar Crest group cultivates connections

Created date

May 24th, 2011

You don t stop living when you move to Cedar Crest, says Joann West, who moved to the Pompton Plains community in May 2006 from Lodi in nearby Bergen County, N.J. Research shows that many older adults have reservations about moving to a community like Cedar Crest because they fear social change. However, like many people who live at the Erickson Living community, West continues to socialize with members of her hometown as well as new friends from Cedar Crest.

Fostering friendships

As a member of the Bergen Bunch, a 60-plus-member group of people who moved to Cedar Crest from Bergen County, West returns frequently to local landmarks and historic hot spots in Bergen County. Whether she s revisiting a distant memory or learning a bit of Bergen County history, she enjoys meeting with friends new and old. It s a great way to get together with old friends and make new ones, West says. And it shows that just because you move doesn t mean that you can t go back and visit. Founded by Fair Lawn, N.J., native Florence Thaler in May 2010, the Bergen Bunch invites folks from every corner of Bergen County and beyond to join. Thaler started the group at the urging of some Fair Lawn friends, but when people from other areas of the county heard of their common interest, Thaler expanded it to include anyone from Bergen County. Some people already knew each other, and others are making new friends, Thaler says. It helps newcomers get acclimated and feel comfortable in the community. Run by Thaler, West, and Teri Maciag, the social and general interest group meets roughly every two months either in one of Cedar Crest s on-campus classrooms or at one of Bergen County s many historic sites. We try to incorporate a history lesson into each meeting, Thaler says. Aside from socializing, group members learn about the settlement and growth of their hometowns and county aspects many may have overlooked during years of living there.

Historic Bergen County

Nestled in the upper right-hand corner of New Jersey, Bergen County is home to several 18th, 19th, and 20th century landmarks, from The Hermitage (c. 1760) to the Garden State Plaza (1957), as well as many personally memorable sites like churches, schools, and libraries. For the group s first meeting, West compiled videos and photographs of unnamed sites around Fair Lawn, such as the main street, railroad station, and local churches. To emphasize connections between group members, she asked people to name the site and then talk about their experience there. West says the exercise generated conversation and commonalities between neighbors, bringing people together. As big as Bergen County is, it s still a small town atmosphere, she says. Subsequent meetings have brought a trip to The Hermitage, an 18th century home originally owned by the wealthy Rosencrantz family; an armchair travel trip to Ireland; a slideshow and discussion by author and historian Jane Lyle Diepeveen, who discussed her book Fair Lawn, NJ Historic Tales from Settlement to Suburb; and a lively lecture on New Jersey Immigration by the Morris Museum s Michele Zarcone.

Upcoming Bergen travels

On June 9, the group travels by Cedar Crest shuttle bus to the Garden State Plaza. Originally built in 1957 as an outdoor market, the Garden State Plaza now encompasses more than 300 stores as New Jersey s largest shopping mall. People from Bergen County remember it as a small open air market, West says. We remember the original stores; we re going to go back to see how it s changed. It should be a fun trip. For more information about the Bergen Bunch, contact Florence Thaler atflorencethaler@aol.comor Teri Maciag