Sherwood Oaks, part of UPMC Senior Communities, is marking its 40th year as a premier
continuing care retirement community in western Pennsylvania. Spread across eighty-four
acres in a convenient Cranberry Township location, the campus is known for its beautiful
landscape, which features walking trails, abundant gardens, green space, and a lake.
“Resident-centered” is often used to describe senior living, but Sherwood Oaks takes this philosophy to a whole other level. Resident Frank Finley has served on the Sherwood board, the Sherwood Oaks Residents’ Association (SORA) board, and various committees for many years. He explains, “This goes back to the very people who founded this community. The residents are empowered to decide their interests and to determine how they want to go about it.”
Dynamic resident life is another way in which resident-centered living manifests itself. Residents
organize and direct a wide array of activities themselves. The current list of activities numbers more than fifty groups. Some residents are eager to try their hand at something new; others may be revisiting a lost enthusiasm.
Gary Brandenberger, president, Sherwood Oaks Residents’ Association (SORA) explains. “The
real beauty of Sherwood Oaks is bringing together all these people with so many talents and skills. Each of us has a role. If someone brings forward an idea for an activity, it’s understood that it will include a plan to execute it,” says Gary. “There is great satisfaction in watching it all unfold.”
Just beyond the campus’ summer house sits a fenced-in vegetable garden with forty-two raised garden beds. This area is tended by the resident garden group which consists of around thirty members, each of whom is responsible for one or two beds.
You can often find Betty Eichler tending to her area of the garden. She has called Sherwood Oaks home for the last 13 years. She recalls her parents having a sizeable vegetable garden – a victory garden of the WWII era. It was from this garden that her desire to turn seeds into food grew.
“I enjoy watching that tiny seed become a couple of leaves and a couple more leaves,” she explains. “I feel a connection with the Earth.”
Betty’s favorite vegetable to grow is butternut squash – a new venture since moving to Sherwood. She can grow between 10 and 15 squash from one plant, allowing her to share the produce with her neighbors. In fact, many of the gardeners share their harvest, often leaving extra produce in the mail room for anyone to take.
Technology is another interest around which Sherwood residents have been engaged. In late 2019, the community debuted the much-anticipated Sherwood Oaks App, or “SOapp” as its affectionately known. The app allows residents and families to see the daily schedule of events, access community resources, and interact with one another from their smartphone or tablet.
The app was developed by the community’s Technology Task Force, led by resident Jason Lyle, with the goal of better informing Sherwood’s nearly 350 residents. Not only did the technology keep residents better informed, but it also helped everyone stay better connected, especially when physical distancing was encouraged.
“Whether it was the pandemic or bad weather, the app has made life easier,” says Jason. “We can stay in touch and informed without leaving our home.”
The wood shop is also a hub of resident activity. Tucked away on the first floor, you will find an extensive workshop used and managed by the community’s residents. It sealed the deal for resident Dick Zuberbuhler when considering relocation to Sherwood in 2020.
“This is how I got through COVID,” Dick refers to his work in the shop. “There are around six of us who come down here regularly, but we hope more will join us.” The group encourages others to try their hand at creating simple projects such as picture frames, napkin holders, and book ends.
Resident Anne Ferguson experimented with woodwork in college but rediscovered her talents after moving to Sherwood. Over the last six years, she has completed many projects including the restoration of a broken mahogany dining room table that now sits in the center of her living room.
Madeline Clements is the quintessential Sherwood Oaks resident – vivacious and willing to try new things. In her more than 30 years living on the campus, she says she has tried her hand at most every club. Her experiences are varied, and her memories are fond, made even more so by the time spent here with her husband, Ace.
Ace and Madeline founded the drama club, which is still going strong today. Together, they
hosted memorable themed parties that spoke to the joy of living. They settled upon the
flamingo as the symbol of their life together. To this day, even though Ace is gone, Madeline
continues to mark May 1 as “Pink Flamingo Day” with special attire and treats.
Over the course of her years, Madeline has transitioned from the patio home she shared with Ace to personal care and now to skilled nursing. She feels this is a valuable feature of the Sherwood experience, along with the people she has met along the way. “The community has given me so much,” says Madeline. “The care and support from the staff and residents create a wonderful community.”
The Sherwood Oaks fitness program, which has evolved since its inception, is a distinguishing feature of the community. What started as an experiment has developed into a comprehensive package consisting of exercise machines, a variety of classes, and a swimming pool.
Bill Burtner, health and wellness promo manager, was selected to lead the budding program in 1999. “In the beginning, we would have some residents come to work out wearing high heels and other formal attire,” says Bill. “The program has certainly come a long way since its early days when we were working with Great Depression-era folks. Now we are working with Baby Boomers who have been involved in fitness centers all their lives.”
The program is also a learning opportunity for students of nearby Slippery Rock University (SRU). For nearly 20 years, students enrolled in the university’s Exercise Science program have been receiving firsthand experience through internships. This is the result of a longstanding affiliation agreement between SRU and Sherwood.
The internship program has proven to be mutually beneficial, helping undergraduates gain experience and receive their required 480 hours needed to graduate while Sherwood residents receive extra support in achieving their individualized fitness goals. Cassandra Kirsch, the program’s summer intern, enjoyed every minute of her experience at Sherwood. “Everyone is really friendly here,” she says. “I love working with this population.”
That collegial spirit translates to the inviting and welcoming atmosphere that makes residents, guests, and staff alike feel like they are part of something truly special. As SORA vice president
Jean Henderson describes it, “Sherwood Oaks is better than home. It’s a real community of friends and neighbors.”
Learn what makes Sherwood Oaks special. Visit Sherwood-Oaks.com or call 1-800-642-2217 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.