By Stacia Friedman
What is it about our community that makes seniors choose to move here over, say, Sarasota, Asheville or Scottsdale? We asked around Northwest Philly and got some interesting answers.
Laura Young’s career in the opera world has taken her from coast to coast. A New York native, Young, 70, earned a master’s degree in musicology, which launched her career as an accompanist for opera singers. Later, she obtained an MBA and worked in arts administration for prestigious opera venues, including the MET. So, why after working with the glitterati in San Francisco, D.C., Miami, Manhattan and, yes, Sarasota and Scottsdale, did Young choose Northwest Philly as her final destination?
“I first came to Philadelphia as the marketing and public relations director of the Pennsylvania Opera Theater,” said Young. When she decided to stop working full time, Young picked Philly. “The classical music scene here is second to none,” she said, “Philly is unpretentious, down-to-earth and a city of real neighborhoods.” She also likes its proximity to Manhattan.
Young initially was drawn to West Mt. Airy, where she lived for six years before moving to Roxborough. “I have a very strong connection to West Mt. Airy,” she said. “I still go there to shop and spend time with friends.”
Barbara Adolphe, 72, had deep roots in Northern Jersey. “I grew up in Bergen County, raised two children in a rural part of Sussex County and worked there as executive director of a non-profit for 25 years,” she said.
Adolphe’s first visit to Northwest Philly was seven years ago. “My daughter Aviva had moved to West Mt. Airy for a residency in general surgery along with her wife, Lisa, who was doing a residency in orthopedic surgery,” said Adolphe.
“I was thinking about retiring when daughter said, ‘Mom, your people are here.’ I looked around at the women carrying yoga mats and journaling at the High Point Cafe and decided she was right. I felt more at home with the values and lifestyle of West Mt. Airy than the conservative area in Jersey where I had been living.”
After trying Mt. Airy, Adolphe moved into an apartment at the top of the Hill, walking distance from the Avenue, the train station and, most importantly, her new granddaughter, 18-month old Sage.
“I’m a big hiker, and I love being near the Wissahickon trails,” she said. “I’m also a contra dancer and am looking forward to weekly dances resuming at the Commodore Barry Club.”
Since growing up in Nashua, New Hampshire, Betsy Riviere, 81, and her husband, Norm, have moved 13 times. “Each move was due to Norm’s work in the international lumber industry,” she said. They have lived in Massachusetts, Oregon and North Carolina, and they spent several years in Belgium and England. In June of 2019, they made Chestnut Hill their final stop.
“Over the years, we had often visited our daughter, Jessica, in Chestnut Hill. When I had a serious health issue in North Carolina, Jessica urged us to move into her large home in Chestnut Hill. She is an empty nester and works in the pharmaceutical industry. It has worked out well. We respect her privacy, and we love the neighborhood.”
The Rivieres also have three adult sons and eight grandsons, just one short of a baseball team.
Little Rock, Arkansas, native Linda Donovan, 70, wanted to retire in a culturally diverse urban environment that reflected her liberal values. She didn’t wait long before she set her sites on West Mt. Airy.
“I first visited in 2016,” she said. That is when she met with organizers of the Northwest Village Network, a non-profit volunteer community organization that enables active seniors to age in place with educational and social programs.
That checked off another box on Donovan’s list. She also wanted affordable property taxes, which she found in West Mt. Airy, walking distance to the Avenue. In January of this year she moved in with her Lhasa Apso mix and three cats.
“I have something in common with everyone on my block and feel more connected to this community than the house in Little Rock, where I lived for 60 years,” she said.
For Sandra Lentz, 80, moving to Chestnut Hill in 2018 was a homecoming. “I grew up in Mt. Airy, my husband Bob was from Chestnut Hill, and we both attended Germantown Friends,” she said.
Following her marriage and raising three children in Ohio and Massachusetts, the Lentzes moved to Detroit in the early 1980s. Sandra then went back to college at 42, earned a BFA and worked on her MFA in ceramics. “I exhibited my designs and worked as a gallery manager,” said Lentz. Her functional and sculptural ceramics sold quickly to private collectors while she also taught ceramics in her home studio.
After 19 years in Michigan, the Lentzes moved to Danville, PA, where they spent almost another two decades. During this time, they renovated a barn and helped launch a cooperative gallery in Bloomsburg, PA.
“After my husband died, my son Nathaniel urged me to move to Chestnut Hill, where he lives with his wife and children. I always loved the area and, over the years, returned here often to visit my husband’s family as well as my son. I love the small shops and the cultural venues in the City.” She also has a married daughter with children in Detroit and a married son in the Congo.
After renting a house for two years on Springfield Avenue, Lentz moved into a Woodward property in March of this year. To the delight of her neighbors, she turned a ho hum yard into a garden paradise. Currently, Lentz is studying piano with a 100-year-old instructor, taking daily walks in the neighborhood, doing yoga and tending her garden.
Stacia Friedman is a West Mt. Airy author and freelance contributor to newspapers and websites.