Phil Starr“I very much enjoy serving on the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board.  My mother lived to be 105 and she left all of her money to charity.  As Chair of the Trustees for her charitable trust, it is my hope that I can do as much good for her charitable interests as she did during her lifetime.”    – Phil Starr, Trustee and Plymouth Harbor Resident


Phil Starr served for 35 years in the insurance industry as a broker in Kansas City, where he earned his CLU designation.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton and an MBA from Wharton.  His long list of volunteer service includes President of the Board of a local private school, the Senior Warden of a Kansas City Episcopal Church, and the President of the Board of the Kansas City Boy Scout Council.  His scouting activities are vast, having earned the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope (for outstanding service to youth), Eagle Scout, and the God and Country award as a youth.

Phil and his wife Barry became Florida residents in 2003 and own a condo at Sands Point on Longboat Key.  They have been residents of Plymouth Harbor since 2011.  As his main hobby, Phil is a videographer, and has produced videos for two major Plymouth Harbor productions of late:  The Stash on the Seventeenth Floor and Broadway and Beyond.  He also produced a beautiful slideshow of the environs of Plymouth Harbor, which he donated to Plymouth Harbor; it now runs outside of the Marketing Department for all to enjoy.


Want to save energy and work on your fitness at the same time?  Perhaps you can use the stairs – not the elevator.  How often do you take the elevator only one floor?  Say, from the ground floor to the lobby or to visit a friend one flight up.  If you have tried the stairs at Plymouth Harbor you have likely seen one of these inspirational signs.




It started last Spring and there are a growing number of residents and staff who are choosing the stairs.  Provided your doctor approves, you can join them. Walking up a flight of stairs each day saves energy, frees up our over-burdened elevators, and firms up your body while burning calories.   Walking down stairs is a high impact activity and for most of us taking the elevator down is a good idea.

How about dusting off that old bike?   To prepare for those stairs, try biking. There are many bicycles gathering dust in the garages.  To prepare for those stairs, ask your doctor if it is okay for you to take short rides around the property.

Many of us, as we get older, are afraid of falling when mounting or dismounting our bicycles.  They now make bikes with the pedals moved forward toward the front wheel.  (They call that changing the geometry of the bicycle.) With that pedal placement you can mount or dismount the bike with both feet firmly on the ground.

If riding a bike is out of the question, how about riding one of the stationary ones in the new Fitness Room?  Opportunities for fitness are all around us.  So get some energy, save some energy and start walking!

There is a palpable sense of excitement in the air as the finishing touches are placed in Plymouth Harbor’s new Wellness Center.   The grand opening, scheduled for September 12th, will highlight the residents who envisioned this Center, the generosity of donors whose financial support made it possible, and the hard work of those who put their hearts, minds, and hands together to bring the vision to life.

It was four years ago that we began to strategically re-define ‘Wellness’ at Plymouth Harbor.  To describe this phase of the journey, we tip our hats with respect and gratitude to residents Lois Droege and Paul Groen.  Lois, with a background in fitness education, taught a popular resident exercise class at Plymouth Harbor for many years.  She and “Dr. Paul,” a retired orthopedic surgeon, were instrumental in helping to develop the plan that would take Plymouth Harbor’s fitness program to a whole new level.

Two things were non-negotiable.  First, the program must meet the highest possible standard for senior fitness programming and, second, the program must be led by someone with the credentials and expertise to develop and maintain it.  Enter Chris Valuck, who was recruited to join the Plymouth Harbor staff as Wellness Director in September 2011.

Chris Valuck and Amanda KirkChris holds a master’s degree in Exercise Science and has spent her career working with a wide range of individuals, mostly seniors, with chronic diseases and disabilities.  She is certified as a Clinical Exercise Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CES) and a Certified Worksite Wellness Specialist (CWWS) through the National Wellness Institute (NWI).  She also is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and an Aquatic Fitness Professional, Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA).

In addition to excellent credentials, Chris has experience in cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan.  She has also worked in high-end, exclusive health clubs, and operated her own personal training business for 16 years.  Many of Chris’s clients were referrals from physicians familiar with her success in working with persons with chronic diseases and disabilities.

As soon as she arrived, Chris set to work establishing protocols, developing a variety of new classes, and establishing the framework for future program expansion.   Within 18 months, the fitness program had grown to the point that a second staff member was warranted and Amanda Kirk joined the department as Wellness Program Assistant.

Amanda earned her bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science at Coastal Carolina University.  Prior to accepting the position at Plymouth Harbor, Amanda worked at The Lakes at Litchfield, a premier retirement community on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where she regularly taught a variety of classes to all levels of care, including IL, AL, Skilled and Memory Care.  In addition to teaching classes at Plymouth Harbor, Amanda assists with administrative duties and in the development of the employee wellness program.

Another memorable event was a visit in July 2013 by Jan Montague, an internationally recognized expert in the field, who explored the concept of “Whole-Person Wellness” with residents and staff.  In thought-provoking presentations, Jan shared, “Life is a constant journey for balance to stay well, and staying well is really an inside-out endeavor.”  She emphasized that negativity is actually dangerous, and urged all of us to be careful with the words we use when describing our health, as they tend to be self-fulfilling.  In other words, we get what we focus on. 

As the new vision for Wellness and fitness programming was progressing smoothly, a serendipitous visit by resident Joanne Hastings to President/CEO Harry Hobson sparked the next step in this Wellness journey, a beautiful new 10,000 square foot Wellness Center, now completed.

You’ll see as you enter the Wellness Center the Activity Alcove, a lively space in which to exercise, play, and socialize.  It features a ping pong table and a large flat screen TV with an xBox 360 Kinect gaming system for residents to ‘virtually’ play tennis and golf, bowl, dance and engage in other sports.

Continuing down the corridor, you’ll find the Therapy Pool with a freshly refurbished deck.  The pool, frequently used by residents for therapy and mild exercise, has a brand new hydraulic chair lift to assist when entering and exiting the pool.  An added convenience are the bathing suit spinners located in the restrooms across from the Therapy Pool; no need to wear or carry a wet bathing suit back to your apartment!

Next to the Therapy Pool is the re-configured and updated Wood Shop that now includes an exterior door for easy access and delivery of wood and materials. There’s also an adjacent Hobby Shop for residents who enjoy craft work.

You’ll notice along the flowing corridor two perfectly lighted display walls designed to feature resident art work on a rotating basis.  A bit further and you’ll discover The Commons, a beautifully appointed social area with comfortable furnishings, perfect for chatting with friends or taking a break after your workout.  The nearby Creative Wellness Studio provides a private room for health/fitness assessments and confidential consultations with Wellness Center staff.

To the north of The Commons is the spacious Art Studio featuring 20 artist stations, each equipped with a new table and taboret. Enhanced track lighting, studio lighting for artist models, a teaching area, and a dark room complete this creative new space.

Just south of The Commons is the Group Fitness & Dance Studio.  Natural light pours through floor-to-ceiling windows along the entire south wall, offering a spectacular view of Sarasota Bay.  With a cushioned floor, mirrored walls, and an audio system, this handsome studio is the dedicated space for group fitness and dance classes.  With ample space to move, residents will enjoy Line Dancing, Tai Chi, Sit Fit, Functional Fitness, Total Body Challenge, Better Balance, Body Moves, Yoga, Meditation, Feldenkrais Method®, and more.  The more includes Zumba Gold® and ballroom dancing with professional instructor Jim Helmich.

More floor-to-ceiling windows wrap around the southwest corner of the Wellness Center, allowing that beautiful bay view to serve as a backdrop for the Fitness Room.  Here you’ll find a wide range of brand new cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and Nu-Steps.  Also in this space are two special pieces of equipment by Biodex, a UBE (upper body ergometer) suitable for individuals with limited use of their legs, and the Biodex Balance System for individual balance testing and training.  Keiser pneumatic strength training equipment is in place as well. These special (and easy to use) machines are safer and gentler on the joints than traditional weight machines, making them ideal for a senior population.  Many of the exercise pieces are equipped with televisions and ports for tablets, cell phones, MP3 players, readers and other electronic devices to make workouts enjoyable.  Add mirrored walls to help you monitor proper form during workouts, and, we think you’ll agree—this is beyond compare.

The Plymouth Harbor Wellness Center is a physical embodiment of an entire culture of wellness that has taken root and will continue to evolve at Plymouth Harbor. In fact, there’s more in store with VoyAges, an exciting new, wellness-related program – more to come in the near future!

zumba-gold-logo-horizontalZumba® is a dance-infused fitness craze that is now a world-wide phenomenon. Over 15 million people are taking a Zumba® class in 200,000 locations in 180 countries around the world.  Plymouth Harbor has joined the party with weekly Zumba Gold classes every Monday from 3:00 – 3:45 pm in the new Group Fitness and Dance Studio.

The original concept of Zumba combines a dance workout with a party-like atmosphere. Zumba Gold takes the popular Latin-dance inspired workout of Zumba and makes it accessible for seniors, beginners or others needing modifications in their exercise routine. Zumba Gold builds cardiovascular health by challenging the heart and working the muscles of the hips, legs and arms with dance moves.

Zumba debuted in 1999 as a series of infomercials and quickly spread into a full-fledged craze with classes offered in health clubs across the country. Zumba Gold came about because certain populations found some of the dance moves too intense and fast for their abilities. Classes last from 30 to 60 minutes.

Zumba includes a medley of dance styles, including merengue, cha-cha, cumbia, belly dance, rumba, tango and salsa. Zumba Gold breaks these dances down to address the anatomical and biomechanical needs of active older adults or the unconditioned beginner. Nonsupported moves and chair-based options are available to participants in Zumba Gold. Zumba Gold stays true to the original Zumba concept in that it does not rely on typical aerobics-style 32-count beats for movement and, instead, is inspired by authentic music. Instructors are encouraged to create their own choreography while staying true to the guidelines put forth in Zumba Gold instructor training.

As we age, exercise continues to be of critical importance to weight management, heart health, balance and injury prevention. Zumba Gold falls under the category of endurance training, which keeps the heart healthy and the circulatory system strong. Zumba Gold develops coordination and burns calories to stave off the weight gain that often accompanies aging.

The design of the class introduces easy-to-follow Zumba®choreography that focuses on balance, range of motion and coordination. Come ready to sweat, and prepare to leave empowered and feeling strong. Class focuses on all elements of fitness: cardiovascular, muscular conditioning, flexibility and balance!

Join us each week for this easy-to-follow, invigorating dance-fitness class that lets you move to the beat at your own pace!

 Every Monday, 3:00—3:45 p.m.


 No sign-up necessary!

With the opening of the new Plymouth Harbor Wellness, Sarasota’s premier continuing care retirement community features one of the most comprehensive wellness programs in the region and has the distinction of being one of the few communities that includes residents and employees together in a universal culture of wellness.  Evolving research shows that activities in seven dimensions – physical, intellectual, social, vocational, environmental, emotional, and spiritual – are the key to aging people keeping their health, their mental skills, and their quality of life.1  Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay has broadened this view to embrace these seven dimensions of wellness in programming for its staff as well as residents.

7-elements-of-wellnessThe wellness dimensions overlap and coordinate to provide rich environments for living.  Seen in this light “Wellness” becomes a framework for serving the wants and needs of a person engaged in life.  The Council on Active Aging defines the seven dimensions as follows:

Feelings are the lens through which people view the world, and the ability to be aware of and direct one’s feelings helps to create balance in life.  Coping with challenges and behaving in trustworthy and respectful ways signal emotional wellness, attributes that can be encouraged through peer counseling, stress management, humor/laughter, and personal histories.

Engaging in creative pursuits and intellectually stimulating activities is a proven approach to keeping minds alert and interested.  There are many ways to stay intellectually active, including taking college courses, journaling, painting or joining a theater company, and challenging oneself with games and puzzles.

The goal of living independently is one shared by many people, and physical wellness is necessary to achieve this.  Lifestyle choices that can maintain or improve health and functional ability include engaging in physical activity, choosing healthy foods with adequate nutrition, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, making appointments for check-ups, and following medical recommendations.

Work that utilizes a person’s skills while providing personal satisfaction is valuable for society as well as the individual.  Participating in the paid and unpaid workforce means maintaining or improving skills, and helping others.  Older adults contribute to society as experienced professionals, caregivers, mentors, teachers, and volunteers.  Leisure-time vocations in the arts and through hobbies maintain vocational skills.

Social interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and chosen peer groups can be valuable for maintaining health.  Personal contact by joining clubs, traveling, visiting friends and family, and engaging in intergenerational experiences like making quilts with elementary school children is beneficial for everyone it touches.

Living with a meaning and purpose in life, guided by personal values, is key to feelings of well-being and connection to the larger world.  Group and individual faith-based activities, personal meditation, mindful exercise (yoga, tai chi), and experiencing nature can create the opportunity for spiritual growth.

Surrounded by natural and man-made environments, good stewardship means respecting resources by choosing “green” processes that re-use and recycle goods.  It also means ways to bring people into the natural environment and encourage active living through urban and property designs emphasizing walking paths, meditation, vegetable gardens and similar options.


2014_HeartWalk11Caring is a natural part of life at Plymouth Harbor.  When describing the caring bond that exists between residents and staff, we often speak of ‘the Plymouth Harbor Family’.  Many residents express their caring through their commitment to social issues and support of worthwhile initiatives in the Sarasota community and beyond.  Many of our dedicated and caring staff members are also actively involved in supporting local charities and causes.

Giving back . . . paying it forward . . . whatever you choose to call it, it’s a personal commitment to doing what you can to improve the lives of others.  What better way to express that individual commitment to community service than by residents and staff uniting together as the Plymouth Harbor Family in support of worthy causes?

Please join us in our first resident/staff united effort to “give back” by participating in the American Heart Association’s September 20 Heart Walk.  We all have a shared interest in the Heart Association’s mission to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Cardiovascular disease is preventable, and with our help, the American Heart Association can provide educational and prevention programs to help more Americans control blood pressure, cholesterol, and receive appropriate cardiac care.

The Heart Walk takes place at Payne Park—Sarasota on Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 7:30 am.

If you would like to participate talk to one of our team captains: Jack Denison,  Bert Adams, Amanda Kirk, Fran Vancil or Chris Valuck.


Tom Hopkins“Plymouth Harbor is an important Sarasota gem that I am proud to serve.  Its distinguishing quality is its interesting and active residents who continue doing significant things.  I have been enriched by knowing them.”

Tom Hopkins
Trustee, Plymouth Harbor Foundation
Chair, Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees

In addition to being a Trustee of the Foundation, Tom is also Chair of the Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees, and has served in that role for four years.  A shareholder and former President of the Icard Merrill law firm, Tom has practiced with the firm since 1977 and has concentrated in real estate, probate, estate planning, and business law. His professional affiliations and positions have included serving as President of the Sarasota County Bar Association and the Bar Association Legal Aid Society, Inc. Tom also has served as President and board member of the Sarasota County Civic League and President of the Ivy League Club. A graduate with an AB from Dartmouth College, Tom also earned an MS from the University of Southern California and his law degree from the University of Florida. He and his wife Wendy live in Sarasota and have three children and three grandchildren.

Amanda Kirk_Employee of the Month AugustCongratulations to Amanda Kirk, the Plymouth Harbor Employee of the Month for August 2014.  She joined the Plymouth Harbor team in April 2013 and has truly made her mark as the Wellness Program Assistant working closely with Wellness Director Chris Valuck during a period of tremendous productivity. She has progressively taken on additional responsibilities as Wellness programming as expanded during the past year.

Originally from Aliquippa, PA., an old steel mill town in the metropolitan area of Pittsburgh, where her sister and parents still live. While studying at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC, a pleasant change of locale, Amanda was a member of the Exercise & Sport Science Club and a Student Tutor to students in the Exercise Sport and Science majors. After graduation she worked as a Life Enrichment Leader/Wellness Associate with The Lakes at Litchfield Senior Living Community in Pawleys Island, SC.

Now that she is in Florida she can enjoy her favorite beach and water sports and now has her own kayak in which to explore Sarasota Bay. She loves animals, too, and currently cares for a Siamese cat named Thai and two turtles named Sprinkles and Duke.  She has had the turtles since she was a little girl and they still go anywhere she goes; from Pennsylvania to South Carolina, to Florida.

In her spare time, Amanda enjoys entertaining and cooking for friends, and is a big fan of amusement and water parks. She knows Busch Gardens well.

Vivacious and energetic, Amanda has brought a fresh, fun approach to group fitness at Plymouth Harbor.  The residents enjoy her classes very much; her enthusiasm is contagious.

She has a natural, positive attitude and comes to work willing to put her best foot forward each day, even in challenging situations.  Speaking of challenges, Amanda has been an inspiration to many staff members by encouraging their participation in the recent Stairwell and Walk/Jog/ Bike Challenges.

Her tenure has just begun at Plymouth Harbor and we all look forward to many years of expanding wellness encouraged by Amanda’s ready smile and growing expertise.