Living on the Lake

As you enter the tastefully appointed foyer at 260 Lake Street, the first thing you notice is how quiet and serene it is. The carpets are thick, the furniture plush and the walls are painted in restful shades. As you are welcomed at the concierge desk, a saltwater aquarium gently bubbles nearby; you watch the fluttering angel fish and admire the exotic coral. Turn the corner and the view down the spacious hallway leading to the Grand Lake Room is lawn leading to lakefront. The crackling fire and comfortable couches invite you to stay and enjoy the view. If a resort, as quoted from Merriam Webster, is “a place visited by people for relaxation and recreation; a customary or frequent gathering place,” 260 Lake Street, a Senior Resort Community in Rouses Point, more than meets the definition.

Mark and Lee Anne Lawrence, owners of ProCare Hearing (with offices in Plattsburgh and Malone) successfully ran the business for 25 years. Wanting to re-establish roots in their home community and looking for a different business opportunity, the Lawrences relinquished the day-to-day operation of ProCare to their well-trained staff and returned to the Champlain area in search of a facility that could accommodate their vision.

“Being from the hearing aid industry, we knew there we was a need for senior services. We were looking for senior housing, but when we saw this place—fully equipped, well laid out and located on the lake in Rouses Point, we came up with a whole different idea,” explained Mark. “There are many wonderful assisted living communities in the area that provide a nursing staff, but this resort is for seniors who have no serious health issues. They may no longer want to live alone so they come here to join a safe, nurturing, senior-centered community. Living here is like being in their own home and residents can have whatever services they want.”

The property that inspired the Lawrences’ vision was the former Cedar Hedge Nursing Home. Closed in 2005, it was abandoned for seven years and eventually went into foreclosure. Mark and Lee Anne purchased the property from the bank in October 2013. “The building was still fully equipped right down to the hospital beds,” explained Mark “We donated two tractor-trailer loads of medical equipment to the Mission of Hope that shipped it to a hospital in Nicaragua. It was a definite win-win.”

“Once we cleared everything out, the first thing we did was open this place up,” said Lee Anne. “We installed a picture window across the entire front giving the Grand Lake Room spectacular views of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s snow-capped Green Mountains beyond. In addition we installed a fireplace and removed as many hedges as we could. The village (of Rouses Point) has been awesome through the process of preparing the facility for our residents. They even helped remove the hedges.”

The facility currently hosts 18 residents and, with the completion of a new wing, 260 Lake Street will have room for 14 more residents. Generous in size and painted in neutral colors, every room has a view, its own thermostat and a pull cord (a light goes on over the doorway as well as at the concierge desk). Every closet has a lockbox, and each room is equipped for a wall-mounted, flat-screen television. The well-equipped, private bathrooms have built-in shower seats.

“We welcome only one new resident a month,” Lee Anne explained. “We have to make sure the person likes it here. Many seniors are used to living alone. It can take 3-4 weeks for them to adjust to their new lives and decide if this is the place for them.” “There’s no lease here,” added Mark. “It’s month to month. We want everyone to be happy.”

Besides the Grand Lake Room, indoor common areas include a room with an exercise bicycle and treadmill, an activity room stocked with games, a sitting room, a hair salon and barber shop (a local cosmetologist comes in as needed), and the dining room. “We have been operating for nearly two years and we find that people spend most of the day in the common areas,” Mark said. “They like a private place to relax and unwind among their personal possessions, but most prefer to spend the day socializing, exercising, enjoying the view, and participating in various activities. In the new wing, we are adding a spa with Jacuzzi tubs and a massage table.”

One recent Sunday, residents Wendy Wardrop, Pauline Bonneville and Julie Sventeck could be found playing Spinners (a form of dominos that uses a full set of double-9 dominos plus 11 “spinner” tiles). According to the rules, players can enter or leave the game after every round—making it a popular activity among socializing seniors.

“One thing that makes living here nice is wherever you look it is satisfying to the eyes,” said Pauline. “I love having my own thermostat in my room,” said Julie. “Mark keeps this place at 75 degrees, but everybody’s different.” Agreeing with Julie and Pauline, Wendy added “If you have a smart TV, you can get Pandora. I go to sleep listening to it every night. My favorite musical artist is saxophonist John Coltrane.”

In addition to Spinners, Erica Lefebvre, Activities Director, organizes three activities a day (Chair Chi and Chair Aerobics are popular) and arranges for outside entertainment such as pianist and singer Ed Schenk twice a month. There is a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres every Saturday evening.

As we continued our tour past the kitchen, we saw a signboard announcing the menu for the day. Dinner was Shrimp Alfredo over Linguini with Asparagus. While the chef’s special changes every day, traditional comfort food is always available. Breakfast is served from 8-9 each morning, and there is a lighter supper and snacks served later in the day. The Lawrences employ three chefs, and there is one on hand between 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ready to prepare whatever a resident requests. Families are always welcome to dine when they visit. Laurelle Montpelier, 260 Lake Street’s first resident, confirmed, “Everything is great, especially the food, ‘cause I love to eat.”

Outdoor space begins with a covered patio on the lakefront, decked with cushioned chaise lounges. Barbecues begin as soon as the weather warms and continue through late summer. Vegetable and flower gardens, planted in raised beds and tended by residents, decorate the courtyard. 260 Lake Street’s village setting means there are sidewalks — maintained by the village all year — for easy walking everywhere. Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches are all within blocks as is Lakeside Coffee, Stewarts and Angelo’s Restaurant. A dentist and shops are also nearby.

Although 260 Lake Street does not offer nursing care, residents can rely on Cornerstone Drugstore to deliver prescriptions, administer immunizations and do blood pressure screening. Residents may create a monthly tab and create “grocery lists” of health and beauty aids and have those delivered too. And if a resident needs emergency medical care, the Rouses Point EMS (captained by Chief Sebastian Barie) is right up the street.

“Donna Boumil (from the Dodge Library) comes every week with books and magazines. Scouting groups visit frequently. The Brownies were coming to make bird seed balls with the residents the week after SB visited. “We have become a community focal point,” Lee Ann observed.

“This is a labor of love,” said Mark. “My own mother lives here.”