Behind the List with Melissa Nichols of Heath Village Retirement Community

Heath Village to build facility for care, rehab

As the population continues to grow and Americans live longer, the demand for special services and accommodations is on the rise.

Throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities providing a multitude of services for the elderly.

Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions is Melissa Nichols, community relations coordinator at Heath Village Retirement Community in Hackettstown, N.J., who disclosed that her facility this year will begin construction on a 90,000-square-foot building across from its campus.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Heath Village Retirement Community been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Melissa Nichols: Founded in 1966 in scenic western New Jersey, Heath Village Retirement Community is a not-for-profit, full-service retirement community. We offer a choice of lifestyle options, first-rate amenities, numerous social opportunities and the security of comprehensive health care services on-site.

We offer 164 independent apartments, 38 hotel-style studio apartments, a 40-bed residential health care facility and a 99-bed comprehensive skilled nursing center. We also provide short-term sub-acute and rehabilitation services to the senior population.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Heath Village Retirement Community has encountered throughout its years in business?

Nichols: Throughout the course of our more than 50-year history, Heath Village has encountered a variety of challenges and opportunities.

In the 1960s, when our founder, Clarence W. Sickles, proposed his vision for building a housing community for seniors that would provide retirees with an opportunity to remain active and independent while also offering nursing care on-site, it was groundbreaking. Very few communities, if any, existed that were offering this type of continuum of care.

Because we have forged our own path, we have had many opportunities to make Heath Village truly a unique retirement community.

Heath Village’s greatest challenge has been and continues to be the complicated and burdensome regulatory environment – both federal and state – that governs the senior living and health care industries.

The rules and regulations for health care and Medicare are constantly changing. The lack of predictably requires Heath Village to invest a significant amount of time and money in order to ensure compliance.

LVB: With laws in health care perpetually changing, what strategies does Heath Village Retirement Community implement to keep up with the change and provide services to its clientele?

Nichols: The Heath Village administration and employees have extensive experience in the industry. Their dedication to our residents motivates them to continue to seek new and innovative ways to ensure that Heath Village remains a progressive and vibrant community.

In addition, our employees – especially our nurses – regularly attend continuing education classes and in-service training so as to ensure that their skills stay current and that they are up-to-date on the most current patient care recommendations and housing trends.

Heath Village is also an active member of Leading Age-New Jersey, which is dedicated to advancing quality aging services in New Jersey through advocacy, education and fellowship.

LVB: How does Heath Village Retirement Community directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Nichols: With approximately 300 part- and full-time employees, most of whom live in the surrounding communities, we have a direct impact on the local economy in terms of goods and services.

Heath Village’s 250 independent residents also shop, play and dine in the region. For our residents who don’t drive, Heath Village provides transportation to area shops and medical offices. Our activities staff also plans frequent trips throughout the region.

The board of trustees and our administration feel strongly about supporting our local businesses, which is why so many of Heath Village’s vendors are located in northwest New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.

The Heath Village mission specifically “encourages interaction between Heath Village employees, its residents and the community at large.” We are very proud of our work in the community.

Located on our 100-plus acre campus is the Friendship Center, an intergenerational child care center, founded 25 years ago by the Heath Village board of trustees. The school is open to the community, and interested Heath Village residents can participate in the school’s award-winning pen pal program which pairs up a resident and a student. Throughout the year, the pen pals engage in activities together and become a part of each other lives.

Residents also volunteer at the school in many other ways. It is a great partnership between Heath Village and the local community.

Heath Village is also the premier sponsor of the Centenary Stage Company at Centenary University and is an active supporter of our local hospital, Hackettstown Medical Center.

We are also members of several area chambers of commerce and, when and wherever possible, we support as many of the area’s events and programs.

LVB: What does the future look like for Heath Village Retirement Community?

Nichols: The future for Heath Village looks very exciting. We are planning to break ground in 2018 for a new 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art health care and rehabilitation facility.

Heath Village West will include not only this new center but will also include the development of a 140-independent living cottage community.

We are very proud of the warm and wonderful community that is Heath Village.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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