In this week’s TALK series, McLean Today sits down with Maureen Davis, executive director of Sunrise of McLean Village. Located in the heart of McLean, the community continues the Sunrise tradition of providing high-quality care and service to seniors and their families across Northern Virginia. The nearly 90,000 square foot property will be home to more than 120 residents, offering assisted living, memory care services, and short-term stays.
Q. First we have to talk about your dog, Holly, with you above. What’s her role at the new Sunrise of McLean Village?
All Sunrise communities have a house dog so she’s our our honorary house dog right now until we get a dog of our own. She’s been coming every day. I don’t know that she’s giving up the gig anytime soon. I go to leave the house in the morning. She sits at the door now like, Okay, we’re going to work. I think she feels like she just won the doggy lottery.
Q. What type of services does Sunrise of McLean Village offer in the new community?
We have assisted living and memory care. Our assisted living is a little bit different in that we offer different levels of services so we have actually a lot of residents here who have joined us for the amenities. The dining and the housekeeping, the laundry and the transportation. We have a full-time driver and she will take residents wherever they’d like to go within about a 30-minute radius. We’ll take residents to get their hair done, get their nails done, go to the bank, go to the doctor, go to their daughter’s house, whatever they’d like to do. We also have a 14 passenger van for larger group outings to shopping centers or museums, things of that nature. We have an underground parking garage for residents who have cars and their family members. Then there are those who definitely need support with daily living. [If more care becomes necessary] we would just increase the services that we provide and offer additional care. We can bring in home health. We can also have hospice support residents on site here. Usually the residents can be with us through the end of their lives.
Q. You’re in the heart of downtown McLean, what does that offer your community ?
Back last summer when we first started giving presentations about McLean Village, we would try to tell people where it was located and we would say, We’re just down the street from McLean High School, about a block from the Giant, across from McLean Racquet Club. People would kind of look at us like, I kind of know where you’re talking about. Then we started to say, Okay, we’re like a block and a half from Total Wine. Then people would say, I know exactly where that is! Apparently, one of the major benefits of the Sunrise of McLean Village is being walking distance to Total Wine. But [we’re also walkable] to the Giant and McLean Racquet Club and Lewinsville Park and the banks and the restaurants in the heart of McLean, Starbucks. Seniors, particularly in this area, want to continue to be a part of the community and many seniors do choose to stop driving. Living at a community where there are still lots of things that are accessible even if you don’t drive has become a priority to lots of seniors.
Q. Have you found a favorite place to go outside when you go out the doors of Sunrise?
My favorite place is actually the Heritage Garden, which is our enclosed outdoors area with walking trails, a gazebo and places to sit. It is spectacularly beautiful just to sit out there for a few minutes. You have the preschool at the Redeemer Lutheran Church right across the lawn. You hear the kids playing and there’s the park. It’s just such a great feeling. That’s probably my favorite spot when I need to get away.
Q. Do you have a gym, offer any fitness classes at the new development?
We have a fitness center and our fitness center has equipment in one area and then we also have a space for group classes. Chair Zumba has been quite popular here over the first few weeks. As well as, believe it or not, salsa dancing. We have a 92-year-old resident who has taken an interest in salsa dancing since she came here.
Q. Is there an age requirement for living at the community?
No, we do not have an age requirement. At this point we have residents joining us as young as their mid-70s and then we have residents in their late 90s. So, there’s quite a span of ages here right now.
Q. Besides the Chair Zumba, what other activities do residents enjoy participating in at Sunrise?
We have nice room where residents can enjoy reading the paper and having coffee in the morning but at 3:30 it becomes the bar and happy hour. We serve beer and wine every day at 3: 30 before dinner and that has probably become our most popular activity. We’ve got residents trying lots of other things but happy hour stays pretty full.
Q. Where are the residents who are moving in coming from and what brings them here?
About half of our residents have lived in McLean a very long time. They maybe bought a mid-century modern house in the mid-50s and they’ve lived there a very long time and have now moved to us. The other half of our residents seem to be coming because their children are here in the area. So we have a lot of adult children who live within walking distance to the community as well. We do have a lot of residents from New York but we also have a resident who grew up in North Dakota and then a resident who is from China originally.
With 90,000 square feet across the whole community, Sunrise McLean offers a lot of shared spaces indoors and out for residents to relax outside of their apartment homes .
Q. Is there a goal or a desire to integrate your residents into the McLean community?
We definitely have that desire and have already begun to form some of those relationships. Dr. Ellen Reilly, the principal of McLean High School, has been extremely supportive of our community. She offered the the band to play at one of our grand opening events. We had some seniors who in lieu of taking final exams, spent two weeks with us as interns. That happened to be the first two weeks that we were open. It was a win-win for everyone. We had some extra sets of hands to get residents a little bit more attention and the kids got to experience what it’s like to open a business and see how that goes — the customer service that is so important in running any successful business. That was a great experience. We’ve also had the opportunity to connect with Gina Thorson, who’s the director of the preschool at the Redeemer Church. She is very eager to start some joint programming activities for her kids and for our residents. There’s definitely a desire to really integrate within the community.
Q. While you’ve just been with Sunrise eighteen months, you’ve been in the industry for many years. How has it changed?
Our residents are demanding more amenities, which I think is wonderful. Our industry has had to change, which is a good thing. What I tell our team members when we’re training them is, we should never be using the word allow in terms of our residents are allowed or are not allowed. Our residents are adults and they call the shots. And they do what they want, when they want. They’re in charge. I think that’s really been a shift in this industry over, say, the last ten to fifteen years, is that whole resident-directed experience. And that’s really what McLean Village was designed to provide — individualized experiences in a smaller setting, one hundred to one hundred twenty five residents, and we’re that size so that we really can cater to the individual.
Q. What do you like best about working in these communities?
Definitely the residents —their life stories and their experiences and their wisdom and being that resource for families too, because we as staff often meet families at their worst. Mom or dad has had a crisis and maybe there was some talk of plans, but nothing was solidified. Families come to us, not knowing what to do, and we can really guide them through what can be a very challenging season of life. The most rewarding part is hearing a few weeks to a few months after a resident moved into a community, I wish I’d done this five years ago, and that’s often what I’ve heard over the course of my career. When seniors see what what senior living can add to their lives. There’s that element of the unknown, and then once seniors join a community and begin to experience the life that we can offer, it’s often met with a lot of relief, and that’s nice to see.
Grand opening ribbon cutting at Sunrise of McLean Village on May 10, 2023.
Gayle Jo Carter is the editor of McLean Today.
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