Case Studies

David Crowell – Duncaster Retirement Community

Amenities with ears bring life to Duncaster Retirement

You’ve heard home is where the heart is, but as you grow older, you may want more than that.

Duncaster Retirement Community, located in Bloomfield, Connecticut, offers everything from painting and golf to transportation services and physician visits, says David Crowell. When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the nation, however, many of those service became off limits.

“Outside shopping was no longer an option, but we thoroughly disinfected our vehicles and ensured our residents still made it to their doctor’s appointments,” says Crowell, vice president of facilities management.

With meals being as important as medication, Crowell also worked closely with the culinary department to minimize changes in the menus and dining experience. Two dedicated venues allowed residents to either dine in or take food back to their apartments, and the culinary staff delivered packaged meals to at-risk residents.

“Our facilities services support staff—culinary, housekeeping and transportations—helped me stay focused, because we all wanted to provide residents with a sense of normal,” Crowell says. “We strictly enforced masking and state protocols, allowing us to continue providing necessary services.”

Planning as fine art

Yet, Crowell’s focus isn’t just on the necessities, even though he joined Duncaster during the pandemic in October 2020. For example, he says adding to Duncaster’s existing amenities is paramount, says Crowell, especially its common spaces.

He says a library is be reworked and a gallery is being added, creating more space for exhibits from residents and outside artists. The gallery also will give more room for residents to create art. These additions not only improve life for residents but simultaneously function as marketing tools to interest new ones, he says.

“The 37-year-old Duncaster is a wonderful community that just needs some refreshing,” Crowell says, adding the governing board must always have three residents on it according to its rules. In addition to the improved library and new gallery, there will be a new bistro added and a 7,000-square-foot addition to the aquatics and fitness center built 10 years ago.

“We already have large existing regular and therapy pools that even those outside the community can use by obtaining a membership,” says Crowell. “This expansion will allow us to enhance salon services and also our wellness services.”

The new aquatics center will allow for more physical therapy through massages and rehab pools. For some of those health services, including fitness programs like planking or yoga for seniors, Duncaster partners with Hartford Healthcare service, which provides on-site physicians.

“I have a lot of health care family members, and as they age, I gain a new perspective from them on what services will help make life not only more comfortable but also fun,” Crowell shares. “It’s been a challenging environment in these times, but I get to see the fruits of my labor come to fruition here.”

The picture of health

Duncaster provides differing support to residents as their health needs change. This means a resident can comfortably shift from one of the 192 independent apartment complexes to one of the 40 assisted living apartments; or the separate building providing skilled nursing, memory care and rehab.

In each living circumstance, Crowell helps determine the amenities, technology especially.

“We want to provide an easy, efficient living environment for our current residents while also appealing to potential residents,” Crowell says. “Upgrading existing tools such as our Wi-Fi is our way of forecasting and predicting the needs of future residents.”

Potential upgrades include smart thermostats, faucets and lights that are voice activated—no more bumping into furniture while trying to find a light switch or slipping on a wet bathroom floor. Crowell also wants to add digital calendar menus and transportation schedules.

Residents can pick their furnishings and features—hard surface countertops and high-end cabinetry to name a few. Crowell also makes sure they have their choice of paint colors as well as floor materials, from tiles to hardwood to the heated bathroom floors.

“Many retirement communities provide one cookie-cutter option. We let the residents drive and inform our construction and customization,” Crowell says.

A blank canvas

Crowell understand all too well the importance of providing full service comfortable retirement communities. Right before COVID-19 ushered in a year-plus of lockdowns and quarantines, Crowell helped his parents move into a new home in December of 2019. He didn’t know he wouldn’t be seeing them again until April of this year.

Apart from his parents, he’s always been concerned about helping those in need, regardless of age. For nearly 30 years, since graduating with a master’s in healthcare administration, he’s worked at many healthcare companies, including spending nearly 15 years at a large teaching hospital.

As larger companies began moving into hospitals and other medical companies, they consolidated operations, leaving less room for Crowell to directly help patients, he says. He decided to enter the senior living industry about five years ago. Now, even though COVID-19 has thrown a momentary wrench into his plans, projects are picking up.

“Right now, it’s a time of rejuvenation, everywhere, not just within the community,” Crowell says. “Many people are interested in moving to Duncaster, and my goal is to ensure they feel they’ve made the right decision.”

That rejuvenation extends to Crowell’s home, where his daughter recently graduated. He’s also been keeping up with his golf.

“I’ve been playing with the same group for nearly 17 years and have a tournament coming up,” says Crowell. “It’s kept me sane amidst the pandemic.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VIII 2021 Edition here.

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