Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lakewood Ranch gets first assisted-living facility

REBECCA BLUE
Bradenton Herald Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD RANCH - Over the past few years, family members frequently encouraged Mary Lee O'Neil and her husband, Joseph, to enter an assisted-living facility.

But leaving behind a six-bedroom ranch house in Lincroft, N.J., just wasn't something this 90-something-year-old couple wanted to do.

"We were afraid we'd have regrets about leaving behind our home of 32 years. We had wonderful neighbors and friends," Mary Lee O'Neil said.

When their nieces, both Lakewood Ranch residents, found out an assisted-living facility was coming to their neighborhood, they saw an opportunity.

The opportunity coincided with New Jersey's frigid 2004 winter season, which caused the O'Neils to change their thinking.

"We had to have our driveway plowed seven times. That did it. That was our last winter," Mary Lee O'Neil said.

The O'Neils moved into their 604-square-foot "Osprey" apartment at The Windsor of Lakewood Ranch on Sept. 14. In the two weeks they've resided at the new facility, they've quickly made themselves at home.

Joseph O'Neil is particularly fond of the relaxing atmosphere.

"I'm looking forward to the lack of chores," he said.

So far, the Windsor, 8220 Natures Way, is at one-third of its 86-room capacity. A good chunk of its residents are similar to the O'Neils. They have adult-aged children living in Lakewood Ranch, according to Jason Rosenberg, residence director.

"It's convenient and allows the family to be closer," Rosenberg said.

The average age of The Windsor's residents is 82. The facility allows its residents to come and go as they please. Transportation is provided but some of the residents still drive, according to Rosenberg.

The Windsor's owners, Pete Russell, Cathy Layton and Tim and Gail Buchanan, are all local residents and have been in the business for more about 15 years. They also own The Windsor of Bradenton and The Windsor Oaks, also located in Bradenton.

When they envisioned the Lakewood Ranch facility, they wanted to maintain a homey feeling, Russell said.

Two stories tall, the facility is surrounded by a wildlife nature preserve, complete with a lake on its west side.

The Windsor offers eight one-bedroom floor plans, ranging from 360 to 604 square feet and costing from $2,325 to $3,200 a month. The base service plan also includes a life-enrichment plan with several activities; weekly housekeeping, personal laundry and linen services; three meals a day; all utilities, except phone services; and 24-hour staff availability.

Residents can add on tailored services such as medication management, specialized diets and assistance with bathing, grooming and other personal-care needs. Companion service is also available to perform errands, escort residents to facility events or outside activities, and for additional housekeeping services.

The Windsor also offers a dining room with a view of the preserve; a living room with a 55-inch screen television complete with surround sound; media and game rooms; a library; a screened lanai and courtyard; a personal care suite for health and wellness evaluations and service; a therapeutic spa; and a beauty salon.

Rebecca Blue, Herald reporter, can be reached at rblue@HeraldToday.com or at 708-7919.

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