That’s what friends are for

Community life is sweeter because of the friendships formed at Ashby Ponds

Created date

February 13th, 2020
Ashby Ponds community members (from left) Gloria Masters, Judy Erickson, Judy Hetu, Edie Bartlett, and Keith and Beverlee McCartney enjoy numerous opportunities to socialize with neighbors, including a party during the holidays last year.

Ashby Ponds community members (from left) Gloria Masters, Judy Erickson, Judy Hetu, Edie Bartlett, and Keith and Beverlee McCartney enjoy numerous opportunities to socialize with neighbors, including a party during the holidays last year.

One of the most significant benefits of living at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living-managed community in Ashburn, Va., are the numerous opportunities for social interaction, including dining with neighbors, participating in the more than 200 resident-led clubs and activities, and volunteering. In addition, Ashby Ponds community members enjoy weekly game and movie nights, happy hours, coffee socials, special trips to popular local destinations, and private parties.

These types of opportunities, according to several studies conducted by the National Institute on Aging, promote healthier living and longevity. 

“One of the greatest things about living in a community is that we can continue to encourage the people around us and draw joy from them,” says Jeff Watson, Erickson Living’s director of operations. “In the average Erickson Living-managed senior living community, we have hundreds of peers to appreciate, dozens of groups to join, and multiple causes to fuel.” 

Beginning from day one

The importance of being included within the Ashby Ponds community cannot be overstated. From day one, new neighbors are made to feel welcome, comfortable, and included. Since 2016, more than 50 resident volunteers extend a hand in friendship by partnering with new community members, sharing dinners, and attending parties together. 

“Moving can be an emotional time for many people,” says Faith Edwards, Ashby Ponds’ director of resident life. “Three years ago, we initiated several programs to help our newest neighbors feel welcome and appreciated. These programs were the result of several focus groups asking incoming residents what type of help they would like during their first few months at Ashby Ponds.”

In fact, these connections often begin prior to a new resident’s move, as their Ashby Ponds partners reach out, often by email, offering guidance. New community members are also invited to a newcomer’s dinner hosted by a resident volunteer.

Adele Knott hosted one of the first new resident dinners. 

“Before the meal, I let my friends know what I was doing and encouraged them to stop by the table over the course of our meal to introduce themselves,” she says. “Everyone enjoyed themselves very much. They shared stories, asked questions, and were receptive to offers of help and opportunities for additional get-togethers.”

Fastest way to a friend’s heart

All community members, regardless of how long they’ve lived at Ashby Ponds, enjoy socializing over a good meal. With seven on-site restaurants ranging from the casual Dogwood Tavern to the more formal Windows and 1912 restaurants, community members enjoy hundreds of delicious menu options as well as the opportunity to dine with friends. Some residents come to dinner with friends, while others opt to be seated with others, providing a unique chance to meet and talk with someone new.

Sharing gifts

The abundance of clubs and activities at Ashby Ponds also provide numerous opportunities for community members to volunteer. Each of the more than 200 clubs and activities are completely resident-run and exist solely thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers. 

Other opportunities include visiting residents at Maple Grove, Ashby Pond’s continuing care neighborhood; working at the Treasure Chest thrift store to raise money for the community’s Benevolent Care Fund; serving on the Resident Council; and working at the community’s in-house cable station.

“We all think of ourselves as one big Ashby Ponds family,” say Director of Philanthropy Elisabeth Longworth. “And because of that, we work to help each other in any way we can. Our volunteers do not act out of a sense of duty but out of a sense of love.”

Creating their own fun

In addition to communitywide opportunities for social engagement, many community members initiate their own parties and get-togethers, just as they did before moving to Ashby Ponds.

“I have always loved to entertain,” says Judy Hetu. “Before moving to Ashby Ponds, I lived in Florida and enjoyed a very active social life. When I made the decision to move, I was hopeful that I’d be equally involved. I’m pleased to report that everything is not just as good but better.”

Within days of her July 2018 move, Judy planned a Fourth of July party for her neighbors on the third floor of Cherry Blossom Square, one of the community’s 13 residence buildings. 

“Life is a joy; why not celebrate,” she says.

Following the success of the first gathering, Judy began making plans for a holiday party for her floor.

“The best part about throwing a party at Ashby Ponds is that your neighbors are literally just steps away,” she says. “It’s easy to get together often, if you so desire.”

Bigger and better plans

This past holiday season, Judy aimed higher, planning a bigger celebration.

“Neighbors began asking me in the fall if I was going to host another holiday party,” she says. “So, I thought, ‘Why not expand our guest list?’ My first thought was to invite my whole building. But for that I needed a larger gathering place.”

Working with Edwards, Judy secured Farmwell Hall, Ashby Ponds’ new, 300-seat meeting place.

“It’s a bright and beautiful space,” says Judy. “The perfect spot for a party. But it’s also very large, so I entertained the idea of inviting more people.”

Posing the idea to friends living at Birch Point, one of Ashby Ponds’ newest residence buildings, the idea for a two-building party took root.

“The more people included, the more people eager to help,” says Judy. Someone from each floor of the two buildings is responsible for a different part of the planning.”

Friends Edith “Edie” Bartlett and Beverlee McCartney eagerly accepted Judy’s invitation to help plan the party, distribute flyers, and purchase party supplies. 

“At Birch Point, we host a building party every other month as a way of helping new people get acquainted with their neighbors,” says Edith Bartlett. 

“I enjoy participating in the planning and production of get-togethers, especially at Ashby Ponds,” says Beverlee. “There are such talented people living here and parties are such a fun way to hear their stories.”

Looking to the future

With the coming of spring and summer, the Ashby Ponds community looks forward to new opportunities to socialize together. 

“You can do as little or as much as you want,” says Edwards. “There is never any pressure to get involved, but there are always many, many friendly neighbors with a warm smile and a bright hello. And sometimes it is that connection that makes all the difference in the world.”