Balance is an extremely important part of wellness, especially in the senior population.  Seniors tend to have falls more frequently than the younger population because functions such as their reflexes, reaction time, muscle mass, and vision have changed. An alarming one third of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year and over half of seniors over the age of 80 fall each year2.  These shocking statistics could be lowered by practicing balance through exercise to decrease the chance of a fall.

Tai Chi Helps Reduce Falls in Senior PopulationAt Plymouth Harbor we offer two beneficial balance classes to help improve overall balance and reduce the risk of falling for our residents.  The two classes that we offer are Better Balance, which meets every Monday and Friday from 10:45-11:15 a.m. and Tai Chi, which meets every Thursday from 9:00-9:30 a.m.   Better Balance is a fall prevention class that combines static and dynamic balance exercises to improve coordination, posture, and balance. Tai Chi is a form of exercise that combines slow, controlled, meditative, standing movements that improve posture, coordinated movement, and balance.

A study performed in one senior living community looked at the benefits that Tai Chi had on its residents1.  There were 17 residents that participated in a 60 minute Tai Chi class 3 times a week for 12 weeks1.  All residents were 65 years of age or older, 7 residents used walkers and 10 residents used canes1.  The residents’ balance and strength were assessed one week before starting and one week after finishing the Tai Chi program by using four assessments.1

Results showed that the residents performed significantly better on the post test compared to the pre test, concluding that Tai Chi can increase a person’s balancing capability and decrease their risk of falling1.

Balance is an important skill to practice and it cannot be practiced enough.  All residents are welcome to join us in the group fitness room during Better Balance and Tai Chi to help improve their balance and minimize their risk of falling.

Reference List

1. Hao L, Connors M, Grando V, Liu H, Wedam L, Blake H. Tai Chi intervention for older adults using assistive devices in a senior living community…including commentary by Wedam LM and Blake H. International Journal Of Therapy & Rehabilitation [serial online]. March 2012;19(3):136-143. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 18, 2013.

2. PR N. Independent Living and Safety For Seniors – Guidebook Offered by American Senior Services, Inc.  PR Newswire US [serial online]. June 14, 2013: Available from: Points of View Reference Center, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 19, 2013.


On first glance one might not see that the finest continuing care retirement community located on the shores of Sarasota Bay stands like a sister next to the internationally renowned Sarasota Music Festival.  Of course, Plymouth Harbor residents number a good many of those enjoying the concerts performed by famed classical musicians and the extraordinary students who come from all over the world to vie for the limited opportunities at this all-scholarship chamber music festival.  But there is really more to it than that.

It all starts with the visionary individual, the Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil.  In the same year that he negotiated the fundamentally essential financial support of the United Church of Christ for the establishment of Sarasota’s New College, he set his congregation on course to build “a retirement community of distinction.”  It was 1961.

By 1966, the first New College students were in their junior year of studies when the community gathered to dedicate the beautiful new building on the bay front.  Just a few months before, Dr. John Elmendorf had been installed as the New College’s second president.  According to his widow, Dr. Mary Elmendorf, herself a pioneering anthropologist, when her husband was interviewing for the position at New College, he was asked if he would support the concept of a new chamber music festival that was in the making.  “Not only did he say he would support it, he told them that he wouldn’t take the job UNLESS they started this music festival!” shares Mary with obvious pride.

The New College Music Festival held its first concerts in 1965 during Dr. Elmendorf’s first year in office and within two years was a three week festival drawing exceptional students from across the United States.   In 1984, renamed the Sarasota Music Festival, it was transferred to the administration of the Florida West Coast Symphony. 

What the visionary leaders of Sarasota set in motion 50 years ago is still enriching the community.  Dr. Mary Elmendorf, a Plymouth Harbor resident since 2001, is joined by many of her fellow residents as subscribers, regular concert attendees and financial supporters of this longtime musical gem.  For three weeks every June, music fills the air and Plymouth Harbor reaps the benefits.

Please join us in congratulating Nancy Baldwin, our Plymouth Harbor Employee of the Month for June 2013.

Nancy Baldwin is June's Employee of the Month!Nancy has been with Plymouth Harbor since December, 1987, when she was hired as a resident sitter. In April of 1990 she was promoted to a Certified Nursing Assistant in the Smith Care Center, where she consistently received “exceeds standard” remarks on her appraisals in several areas including Job Knowledge, Quality of Work, Efficiency, Attitude, Relationships with People, and Personal Conduct.

Her supervisors and nominators commented:

  • Nancy knows her job well.  She arrives to work ready to work and works well with coworkers.  Nancy goes the extra mile to assist others.
  •  Nancy is a pleasure to work with.  She takes excellent care of her residents and is helpful to others when needed.  I am glad to have her as a member of the night shift.  She is an asset to Plymouth Harbor.
  • Nancy takes a lot of pride in her work.  Her residents are always well taken care of.  She has a positive attitude and works well with others.
  • Originally from Cairo, Georgia, Nancy attended Washington Consolidated School.  She moved to Sarasota in the late 50’s where she graduated from Booker High School.

Congratulations, Nancy, on this recent honor, that comes from your loyalty and hard work.

Nancy Cressotti, LPN, is has joined Plymouth Harbor to serve as Admissions Coordinator at the Smith Care Center. Nancy says when she first started working at the young age of 14 in a nursing home; she knew her life-long calling was in health care. She will be responsible for the Smith Care Center (SCC) admission process and coordination of residents moving into the SCC in a manner that is supportive of the Center’s mission and values. As the Admissions Coordinator, she is accountable for all Smith Care Center admission activities.

Nancy Cressotti is the new Admissions Coordinator at Plymouth Harbor's Smith Care Center. “I am thrilled to have Nancy join our team. She will help improve our accessibility to residents of Sarasota and provide the medical community with information about Plymouth Harbor’s Smith Care Center,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

As the Admissions Coordinator, Nancy will be the first point of contact to build relationships with future families and patients that will come to the Smith Care Center. She looks forward to taking personal care of each family member and patient to make them feel comfortable during this crucial time in life.

Prior to joining the team at Plymouth Harbor, Nancy was with Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, FL as a Case Manager. She has an impressive career of over 30 years of experience in the areas of direct patient care, patient evaluation, coordination of care, and verification of health services.

Some of Nancy’s other experiences include an External Care Coordinator at Skilled Nursing Facilities in Hartford, CT, and Admissions Director at Evergreen Health Care in Stafford Springs, CT.  Nancy started her career at Johnson Memorial Hospital, also located in Stafford Springs, CT, as a Staff LPN Nurse, Continuing Care Coordinator, and Placement Coordinator.

Nancy was born in Morrisville, Vermont, before moving to Enfield, Connecticut.  A Connecticut nursing home provided that first experience for Nancy who later graduated from Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, CT, and Thompson School of Practical Nursing in Brattleboro, VT.  She relocated to Florida only one year ago with her husband. Now that their children are grown they love to spend their vacations cruising.

“With all my years of experience in nursing homes and hospital settings, none can compare to my new position at the Smith Care Center. Everyone has warmly welcomed me and it is a pleasure to come to work every day,” says Nancy. “I look forward to a long and rewarding career with Plymouth Harbor!”

Karen Novak, RN, MS, says that her daily goal is to touch the life of another and make things better.  Stepping into the role of Clinical Mentor as part of the excellent Health Services team at Plymouth Harbor, she will be responsible for training of all the nursing and ancillary personnel associated with health services.  In addition to continually assessing and polishing the clinical skills of the entire health services team, Karen will provide direct service in assessing potential residents and monitoring all infection control and skin condition issues.

Karen Novak is the new Clinical Mentor at Plymouth Harbor. “I am thrilled to have Karen join our team. She will help continue to raise the level of our staff competence, which will directly translate to even better resident care,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

Karen has experience as a staff development and training director and was the Account Clinical Director at Hill-Rom Industries, Inc. Karen has an extensive background in the health care industry, and has received several prestigious awards for her services during and including the years 1981-2006.

“I have been a nurse for over 33 years. To this day, I can gladly say that I am as dedicated to helping others as the day I received my nursing pin from Col. G, (the army nurse that taught me well),” says Karen.

Prior to Hill-Rom Industries, she was with Shands Lakeshore Regional Medical Center as the Infection Control Officer/Patient Representative and at Hillenbrand Industries, Inc. as a Clinical Consultant. At the Gainesville Healthcare Center she was the Director of Corporate Compliance.

At the Shands at Alachua General Hospital in Gainesville Florida, Karen wore many hats, including Nurse Educator for Subacute Nursing Unit, Nurse Educator for the Clinical Support Office, Clinical Practice Coordinator, and Staff Development.

Clearly, as Karen points out, “Nursing has always been my calling and my passion.”  In 1980, she started her career at Tampa General Hospital as a Pediatric Intensive Care Registered Nurse while she completed her first degree at the University of Tampa in 1982.  She continued in this field at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center until 1987 and soon after completed a graduate degree at Concordia University in 2003 for Health Care Management.

Karen is a proud mother of three daughters. One daughter is a Program Director for the Children’s Miracle Network, another is an Elementary Kindergarten Teacher in Mississippi, and her youngest daughter attends University of Florida.

As a family they enjoy making creative pizza on the barbeque. Time and laughter with her daughters are always a priority for Karen, especially as they grow into their own lives. Karen feels that laughing comes easy when you do things fun and inventive with your family.

About that daily goal, she says, “I have yet to have that day where I didn’t touch someone’s life and make something better!” And for someone who is in the midst of career in the nursing field with a lot of time invested in Pediatric Intensive Care research in Food Science and Human Nutrition and Nursing Education, that’s saying she’s really dedicated.

Please join us in congratulating Maggie Mendoza, our May 2013 Employee of the Month!

Maggie has been a full time Housekeeper at Plymouth Harbor since August of 2011.  Prior to joining us at Plymouth Harbor, she was employed by Heartland and Sarasota Memorial Hospital in housekeeping.

Maggie Mendoza is Plymouth Harbor's Employee of the Month.From day one with Plymouth Harbor, Maggie has received “Exceeds Standard” remarks on her appraisals for Job Knowledge, Quality of Work, Efficiency, and Attitude.  Her supervisors say of her:  “Her quality of work is outstanding.  I often received phone calls from residents telling me what a nice job she does.  She definitely goes above and beyond their expectations.  She will not leave an area without making sure that everything looks nice and clean.”

Maggie’s nominators commented:  “Maggie is very efficient.  She has great enthusiasm.  It is very obvious that she enjoys her job very much.  I have never seen her without a smile on her face.”

Originally from Mexico, Maggie moved to the area in 1996.  She and her husband Eric (a former Security Officer) have three beautiful children, Eric Jr. (13), David (7), and Hailey (3), who keep them very busy.

Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your talents with us here at Plymouth Harbor!

 Jay Scott Pike is an artist and has been a professional artist almost since the day he was 16 and enrolled in the Art Students League in Manhattan. His connection to Sarasota is early, too.  He finished his art school training at the Ringling School of Art before going back to the northeast for the remainder of his career as a professional artist.

Retired now and living at Plymouth Harbor in Sarasota, Florida, where he had first arrived as a student in 1948, Scott still paints every day. He has a studio in his apartment, which he shares with his wife of well over 50 years, Margie, and also keeps an easel at the ready in the Plymouth Harbor art studio open to all residents.

Scott’s professional work spanned from commercial art for big name brands to comic books and pin-up art. While in the Marines at the end of WWII he even took commissions to paint lovely ladies on the sides of bomber aircraft. For fun, you might enjoy learning more about his career on Wikipedia where the page on Jay Scott Pike reveals even more.

But now he has a new series he has been working on for almost 6 years.

Scott Pike has painted portraits of his neighbors in Plymouth Harbor, but they are not the standard portrait you may imagine. Each individual is portrayed as a character that either plays off an actual trait or runs directly counter to the individual’s real personality. Whatever it is, Scott just saw the right way to capture his friends and we’ve all been delighted by the results.

His first was to capture the ebullient and musically talented George Heitler as a deadly serious gunslinger in Gary Cooper High Noon style.

Retired physician Dr. Jim Griffith was portrayed as a sea captain during a terrible storm.

For some, the portraits were created only shortly before their passing and have remained as a cheerful reminder of dear friends and the qualities that all loved. 

The list goes on. Not only do his portraits remain the “talk of the tower” at Plymouth Harbor, but also have become a meaningful gift and moments in the lives of those he has portrayed.

Gunslinger – George Heitler
Drill Sarge – John Knox Hess*
Riverboat Gambler – Dr. Richard Kessler*
Sea Captain – Dr. Jim Griffith
Coach – Marlow Cook
Spanish Dancer – Jill Wilson
Aviatrix – Wendy Underwood
Showgirl – Francie Jones
Seer – Marty Buenneke
Plymouth Harbor Gothic – Jean Lions and George Doty
Truck Driver – Larry Coffey

* deceased

Spirit of Philanthropy

By Becky Pazkowski

I am happy to say that I have met with a total of 130 residents at Plymouth Harbor since last June (just about half of our total population).  Meeting all of you continues to be my favorite part of my job . . . learning about you, your family, your career, your travels, your hobbies and passions, and what led you to Plymouth Harbor. 

I always ask if I can update you on the Foundation, and you always say yes.  Comments that I frequently hear are, “I don’t have much money to give away.”  “I know you are looking for large gifts.”  “I have a big family.”  “The poor market has eaten away at my nest egg.”

My answer is always the same . . . not everyone can make a $1,000,000 gift, but every single gift is significant.  Gift giving is very personal, and should be self-fulfilling.  When you make a gift to a cause, you should feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth having given it. 

My husband and I give to several different causes, and probably the most fulfilling for me is what we give to the music series we helped to establish in Michigan.  It’s personal and it’s emotional, and it should be for you, too.  We have received gifts from many of you recently for various causes; three in particular that I have listed below.  Individual gifts toward these three items alone range from $5 to $500.  Adding them all together, more than 70 individuals made gifts that total over $6,200.David Houle at Plymouth Harbor

Support for the David Houle book “Entering the Shift Age” where $5.00 of each sale benefited the beginnings of a library in the Smith Care Center.  This amounted to $120 total and will go a long way toward the purchase of books and audio books for our nursing and rehab residents.

dance floor at Plymouth Harbor senior living community

Support for the purchase of a portable dance floor at Plymouth Harbor, which will be used  throughout the campus.  The total amount needed is approximately $6,700 and we have support for $5,575 so far.  Only $1,125 is needed until we can purchase the portable dance floor. 

Pianist at Plymouth Harbor senior community

Support for the CD made by Ted and Fran Rehl of Ted’s most recent concert “A Romantic Piano” which featured selections by Schubert, Liszt, Brahms, Grainger, Gershwin, and a group of pieces by Chopin.  The Rehl’s very generously offered this CD for a donation of any amount to benefit the improvement of the arts in Pilgrim Hall, including repair and maintenance of the Steinway piano that they donated.  As of this writing, $580 has been donated toward this cause. 

Now I ask that you consider the number of people that will be touched by the gifts in just these three examples. That would include every single resident now and into the future here at Plymouth Harbor. 

Think what would have happened if each of those 70 people decided not to donate because they thought their gift might be insignificant.  Well, we are very glad that didn’t happen.  We are grateful for every gift that is given, and we hope you will continue to feel the warmth that your gifts have generated.  Thank you for your continued support.

P.S.  If you are interested in support for the improvement of the arts or the portable dance floor, we welcome your gift of any amount.   

monarch butterfly at Plymouth Harbor When the sun and the weather are just right, it’s easy to imagine the peace to be found in a well-appointed butterfly garden.  Sarasota abounds with these delightful creations filled largely with native plants and the 170 species of butterflies that find their homes here at one time of the year or other (that’s nearly a quarter of 740 species found world-wide!)

Tillie Bessemer appreciated the delicate natural beauty of butterflies and the restorative powers of a garden in which to appreciate them. For this reason she designated a gift from her estate to provide for a butterfly garden to be maintained on the grounds of Plymouth Harbor after her passing.

Resident Fran Rehl became a member of the Grounds Committee very shortly after arriving at Plymouth Harbor in 2006. Fran never knew Tillie personally; however, she and her fellow committee members have kept her wishes in the years since.  But the labor of planting every spring, not to mention weekly weeding and pruning, can be difficult to maintain.  Butterfly gardens take loving care and attention. This is where Girl Scout Nichole Peal steps in.

Nichole, a junior at the Sarasota Military academy, is a hardworking and high-achieving young lady. She’s been in Girl Scouts for 11 years and is now an Ambassador Scout working on the coveted Gold Award, which is the highest ranking Girl Scout award one can achieve.  She got the idea to develop her service project around the Plymouth Harbor butterfly garden last autumn when she met resident Ann Brackett and VP of Philanthropy Becky Pazkowski on a visit to the Girl Scout Headquarters.

“I had just finished my Harvest Award where I had learned about butterfly gardens on a visit to the Florida Native Plant Nursery in Myakka,” says Nichole referring to another prestigious Girl Scout Senior award.  “There are so many elaborate rules for butterfly gardens like the number of plants and which ones are for the butterflies to eat and which are for laying their eggs.”

Nichole was no stranger to Plymouth Harbor having visited several times for Christmas caroling and the idea of creating a project that would have a lasting impact on this community was appealing. In fact, in her words, “It sounded cool.”

With the support of the Gulfcoast Girl Scout Council and executive director Sue Stewart, Nichole was ready to go to work.  And it’s a lot of work required to earn the Gold Award; work that she has to fit in between classes at her high school as well as at State College of Florida where she has started early, and her part-time job!

First she had to conduct serious research and prepare her plan following the first five of seven required steps – identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, get help and build your team, create a plan, and then present the plan and gather feedback.  She’ll be purchasing the plants and getting ready for planting in mid-May. 

Be on the lookout for updates on Nichole’s progress and the rejuvenation of a beautiful butterfly garden for all to enjoy.