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Lantern Hill takes the cake

Diane O’Brien enjoys the distinction of living at two Erickson Living communities

Created date

March 22nd, 2018
Location, activities, and community—those are a few of Diane O’Brien’s favorite things about living at Lantern Hill.

Location, activities, and community are a few of Diane O’Brien’s favorite things about Lantern Hill.

Diane O’Brien didn’t have to research retirement communities. Other people did the research for her.

“When I was working as a library director, many people would come in and research where they were going to live,” Diane says.

Through them, she discovered Erickson Living, a Baltimore, Md.-based continuing care retirement community (CCRC) developer that serves more than 24,000 seniors from Denver to Boston, from Detroit to Palm Beach Gardens, including three communities in New Jersey.

“I really liked the sense of community and the amount of activities. Erickson fosters that feeling of community with a lot of activities, classes, and trips,” she says. “I didn’t want to just live in a beautiful place and sit inside and watch television all day. I wanted to be active.”

New opportunities

Originally from Chatham, N.J., Diane decided to move to Cedar Crest, Erickson Living’s community in Pompton Plains, in 2014.

There, she became involved in SWAT—Senior Women Achieving Together—a group of professional women neighbors.

Initially a social group, SWAT was looking for opportunities to give back to the community and to young people especially. They found an opportunity to partner with the gerontology program at Montclair State University in a class that lets students learn insights of aging.

Today, gerontology students from Montclair State and William Paterson Universities have no-holds-barred Q&A sessions with the women from SWAT—an active bunch with a lot of personal and professional life experiences to share.

Diane enjoyed the group immensely.

But not long after she moved, she heard some news that changed things. She learned that Erickson Living was building a community in New Providence, not far from her old home and only eight minutes from her daughter.

While she had to give up her beloved women’s group, she saw an opportunity to start something new at Lantern Hill. She decided to move and did so in October 2016.

“It just made sense because Lantern Hill is closer to my home base. If it hadn’t been an Erickson community, I wouldn’t have come,” she says.

Smooth transition

Her positive experience at Cedar Crest transferred seamlessly to Lantern Hill. She has been even more pleased to join a brand-new community where everyone—and every apartment home—is new.

Diane chose a two-bedroom, two-bath Douglas floor plan “because I wanted one bedroom for a large office. It’s perfect,” she says.

Diane had already downsized 16 years prior when she moved to her Chatham condo, “so by the time I got here I had already gotten rid of a lot of stuff,” she says. But each time she moved, she whittled down her belongings to the things that really matter.

“It’s never too early to start [downsizing],” Diane suggests. “I did it one room at a time. It’s overwhelming if you think of your whole house. If you work on one room at a time, then you can close the door on that room and move to the next. After a while you feel successful.”

And you know what, she says, “I can say I don’t miss anything I gave away.” Her china, her crystal, her dining room table—all donated or sold, and she doesn’t miss a thing.

“I think a house or apartment is like a woman’s purse—whatever space you have, you fill it up,” she says.

Actively involved

Instead of filling her apartment with belongings, she’s filling her calendar with vibrant activities.

“I’m delighted to be here. I’m involved in a lot of things—all the exercise classes, book club, tai chi, yoga, current events, and we take lots of trips,” she says, rattling off a list of destinations like Broadway, Museum Mile, and local theaters.

“Here at Lantern Hill, we are right in the middle of the greater community. We are close to the train, the airport; there are lots of churches. Drew University [in Madison] has a marvelous Shakespeare festival that was covered by The New York Times. I also volunteer at Morristown Hospital,” she says.

For all of her excursions and activities, she enjoys staying in and painting in her home office (though art does take her off campus as well—she’s been taking a Chinese brush-painting class at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit).

As much as Diane has enjoyed settling into her new home over the past two years, she looks forward to seeing Lantern Hill welcome more new neighbors in Maple Glen and Oakwood Court residence buildings. She sees opportunity and excitement ahead.

“I look forward to this place growing and getting better as it grows,” Diane says. “There will be more people coming in and more residents to do things with, so I’m excited.”