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‘Grandpa, you have a big house!’

Oak Crest’s kid-friendly campus makes entertaining grandkids a breeze

Created date

August 20th, 2014
grandchildren and grandparents in pool

When Gene Miller’s grandkids come to visit, they never have a dull moment. With dozens of kid-friendly amenities at Crest, the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community where Gene lives, entertaining is a cinch for this grandfather of eight. 

“There is so much to do,” says Gene. “We feed the fish at the pond, explore the nature trail, swim in the pool, eat in the dining rooms. There is also bocce, the putting green, horseshoes, and we even have the model railroad here, which the younger kids love.”

A widower, Gene sold his home in Harford County and moved to Oak Crest four years ago after he grew tired of living alone.

“When I first moved to Oak Crest, my grandson Joseph was only about three,” says Gene. “The first time he came to visit he looked around and said, ‘Grandpa, you have a big house!’ He’s right! The entire community is an extension of my apartment. There are fireplaces in the lounges where I can go sit and read a book. I can go swimming in the pool even when it’s snowing outside. There are different restaurants on campus, a medical center down the hall—it’s a fantastic concept!”

Gene is one of a growing number of retirees discovering the joys of grandparenting at Oak Crest.

Carol Ann Ruth, a grandmother of four, moved to Oak Crest in 2013. Like Gene, Carol Ann’s grandkids enjoy the many kid-friendly amenities that make a trip to the Parkville community feel like a vacation. 

“My grandkids love the pool, nature walk, fish pond, and eating at the Banners Restaurant here on campus. Their favorites are fried shrimp, pizza, soup, grilled cheese, and fruit,” says Carol Ann. 

Carol Ann (aka “Grammy” to Maggie, 8; Jacob, 6; Austin, 5; and 8-month-old Aubrey) occasionally hosts sleepovers at her apartment. 

“We have a good time.  They bring their sleeping bags, and we read together, play games, and do crafts,” says Carol Ann. 

Along for the ride

Riding the Oak Crest shuttle bus is Jane Gilpin’s youngest grandson’s favorite pastime when he comes to visit. A grandmother of 14, Jane says being a grandmother is one of the greatest joys of her life.

“I love having them around,” says Jane. “As a parent, you have all the stuff to do like making meals and doing laundry. As a grandparent, you get to focus more on the fun things, and you get to spoil them a little more.”

In addition to the joy grandparenting brings, a new study shows that there may be even more positive benefits for women to spend time with their grandkids. Researchers from the Women’s Healthy Aging Project in Australia tested 120 Australian grandmothers ages 57 to 68 and found those women who spent time with their grandkids one day a week ranked higher on cognitive testing, lowering their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders after menopause. 

But don’t overdo it! The study also revealed that grandmothers who spent five days a week with their grandkids experienced the opposite effect, feeling overworked and mentally drained.  

As for Carol Ann, she says the best part of being a grandparent is the unconditional love and acceptance she experiences with her grandkids.  

“I love it when they run up and hug me screaming ‘Grammy’ at the top of their lungs,” says Carol Ann. “When I look at them, it reminds me of how much they are like their parents, and it’s like I get to be a young mother all over again.”

Fun for the whole family

Sunday, September 7, grandparents across America will be honored on National Grandparents Day. Here are some fun ways to spend the day with your grandkids: 

Weber’s Farm 

Each year, Weber’s Cider Mill Farm celebrates the beginning of the fall season with their annual Johnny Appleseed Birthday Celebration. Enjoy hayrides, straw mazes, duck races, a hillside slide, make-your-own scarecrow, and bluegrass music. Log onto or call 410-668-4488.

Ladew Gardens

Celebrate Children’s Day: Caterpillars & Butterflies! on Saturday, September 6. There’ll be crafts, hands-on learning stations, sing-a-longs, magic shows, and self-guided tours of the gardens and nature walk. Visit or call 410-557-9570.

Marshy Point Nature Center Fall Festival

Held on the first Saturday of fall (September 27), the festival showcases animal shows, apple cider pressing, honey extraction, crafts, Native American games and archery, canoe tours, and the Marsh Mucker Obstacle Course for kids. Visit or call 410-887-2817.