SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Wesley Community celebrated its 50th Anniversary at the Saratoga Springs City Center last month with a fundraising dinner attended by about 150 people.
“It was a nice crowd with some folks who dated back quite a bit and it was a wonderful evening of reminiscing and acknowledging what Wesley has meant to the community,” said CEO J. Brian Nealon. “We got to catch up with a lot of board members from some years ago and also see some folks we don’t see enough of.”
Original board member Bill Dake spoke about the community’s earliest days and the trials and tribulations involved getting the project off the ground, Nealon said. The nonprofit organization has supported seniors in the community since opening its doors in 1972.
In 1966 a motion approval established what was called the Saratoga Retirement Center. Groundbreaking for the Embury Apartments took place in 1969 and the doors opened in 1972. Mrs. Selma Ogden was its first resident. The Victoria Building expansion came in 1985, the Wesley Health Care Center opened in 1973, an 80-bed expansion - the Hathorn building – was added 21 years later. Woodlawn Commons opened with 60 independent and 40 assisted living apartments in 1999.
In all, the Wesley Community is a 37-acre, not-for-profit agency which serves the needs of the elderly, as well as active seniors, adults and pediatrics. It is comprised of Wesley Health Care Center - the nursing home, Embury Apartments – subsidized senior apartments, and Woodlawn Commons - assisted living and market-rate senior housing.
“All told, that’s 11 buildings. A little over 600 folks live on campus,” said Nealon, who first began working in the community in the mid-1980s. He became the organization’s third CEO after succeeding Neil Roberts in 2003.
An aging population across the country has resulted in changes in both needs and services over the past half-century since the Wesley Community first opened its doors.
The life expectancy 50 years ago was just over 71 years of age in America, the National Center for Health Statistics reported. In the pre-pandemic year of 2019, life expectancy had increased to nearly 79.
Citing declining fertility and aging baby boomers by the year 2034 older adults are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, according to a 2019 U.S. Census report titled “The Graying of America.”
“As one of the largest generations in the country, boomers leave a substantial imprint on the population. They swelled the ranks of the young when they were born and then the workforce as they entered adulthood,” according to the report. By 2060, it is anticipated nearly one in four Americans will be 65 years and older, the number of 85-plus will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.
A larger number of people living longer is coupled with people expressing the desire to live on their own to a greater age.
“People are living at home longer and that’s a significant change,” Nealon said. “Now, folks are typically older and more frail than we were seeing 40 or 50 years ago. That’s also a trend nationally, and I do think that trend will continue as boomers want to be as independent as possible,” he added. “In housing at Woodlawn, an average move-in age is in the mid-80s, at Embury it’s a little bit younger, I would say mid-70’s, and the nursing home tends to be older.”
The continuum-of-care campus provides independent and assisted living for seniors, affordable independent senior housing, short-term rehabilitation and long-term care, as well as home care services and outpatient therapies available for people of all ages.
The organization is looking at meeting the changing needs of modern-day and future populations, which includes expanding certain practices, remodeling existing buildings and exploring services it can provide to help people remain independent as long as possible.
In conjunction with its 50th anniversary, a commemorative book and video that chronicle Wesley Community’s journey have been issued. For more information, go to: www.wesley50.org.