NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Lantern Hill senior living community in New Providence is reaching its one-year anniversary and is a success by every measure. Phase one is 100 percent full; Phase Two is 75 percent reserved and is scheduled to open in early 2018. With 400 people on the priority waiting list there is no doubt they are doing something, if not everything right. Lantern Hill will have 425 units when Phase 3 is finished in 2020.
If Lantern Hill most closely resembles a college campus (minus the midterms), then Patricia Swan-Jacobs would be the Dean of Residential Life. Swan-Jacobs, the Executive Director of the elegant senior living community situated on 20 meticulously landscaped acres, clearly loves not only her job, but considers providing for and interacting with her residents both a privilege and the best part of her day, “This is personal to us, we bring people together, but they’re creating the community,” said Jacobs.
Whether the residents are interested in film, bridge, canasta, mahjong, yoga or poker, Jacobs and her team are there to assist in helping get the club or activity going, not deciding what the activity might be, “We believe in being resident-driven as far as what we do -- the clubs, the activities and the programming, I don’t decide what they do, they decide,” added Swan-Jacobs.
She oversees the operations of the entire community and promotes a high standard of living for community members. The mission statement of Jacobs and her team resides on a wall within Lantern Hill, located outside the break room is a framed art installation of sorts. “It’s the ten words of our mission statement,” says Swan-Jacobs. It reads; “We share our gifts to create communities that celebrate life.”
There were ten employees in January of 2017, Jacobs marked out a space on the wall and each one took one word and created a small artistic expression of that word. “We painted it in whatever style we thought would communicate to the 250 people coming onboard what this mission means to us. Months later that wall would be knocked down, but just before demolition day, a few from the original team snuck over and literally cut it off the wall and framed it and there it hangs for all employees to see, “That’s the goal,” said Swan-Jacobs, “The goal is to share out gifts.”
Swan-Jacobs has become a big part of the New Providence community. She is a member of The Lions Club, the New Providence Business Community and the Chamber of Commerce. Before joining Lantern Hill, Swan-Jacobs owned a retail business for eight years, “So I know the value of those relationships and I know what a difference it makes to know the other small business owners and know the local government. It matters.” New Providence has become her home, she has already forged great friendships both personal and professional in her four years of living in New Providence. “I feel l could head into town to run errands, realize I forgot my wallet and still get everything done, that’s the kind of town this is.”
The residents of Lantern Hill participate in the community events such as the scarecrow contest and ‘trunk or treat,’ “The community of New Providence is wonderful, “ said Swan-Jacobs. They are also very plugged in, “We have never built a campus with this much technology,” Jacobs described the new app that can bring up menus, nutritional information, directories, activity calendars and details about programs as well as minutes of meetings. The residents are also very involved in the small-scale society that is Lantern Hill. “The management team has a partnership with the residents, this March we elected our Resident Advisory Council,” said Swan-Jacobs. The residents participated in a campus wide election complete with a candidate forum and debates and boasted a 90 percent voter participation dwarfing any state or general election. The residents then sat down and hammered out their own charter and now they meet once a month with management to address suggestions or concerns.
Her newly minted marriage also became a source of great interest to the residents of Lantern Hill, who wanted to be a part of the festivities after she returned from her honeymoon. “We basically had a wedding reception here, over one hundred residents came, they wanted to meet Larry (her husband) and congratulate me, it was just so heartwarming.” The interest in personal lives is mutual. Swan-Jacobs makes a point to have dinner each week with the residents. “I get to talk to people and find out how they’re feeling and how they’re doing, I hear their stories that are beautiful and would be otherwise hidden to me.”
Swan-Jacobs entered the senior living business from the other side of the equation when her mother-in-law developed early-onset Alzheimer’s Dementia, “I was on the other side of this desk for eight years, I was the person talking to the nurses, advocating for her care and going to places when she needed a new setting.” After her mother-in-law passed away Swan-Jacobs was closing her business and she had learned the industry well enough to work in it and wanted to make a difference, “I wanted to go home at the end of the day and feel like I had done something more than just make money for the company, I wanted to feel like I had contributed.” When asked what is her favorite part of her job as Executive Director, she answered without hesitation, “Absolutely hearing the stories from the residents, absolutely. It’s a gift to get to do this, I have the right job.”
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