'All our needs are met constantly': New senior living community helps meet a need in Westport

WESTPORT — When Jean Denholtz decided to make the Residence at Westport her new home she found the facility offered something more important than ever during the pandemic — a sense of community, and more importantly, safety.

“I feel more protected here than I would be at home right now by myself,” said Denholtz, a longtime Westport resident who joined the Residence at Westport in October.

She said after her husband died, her son Peter began weighing the choices of having her stay in her home or finding another place. But when he saw the new location he knew it was immediately for her, and upon coming to the facility she agreed.

“It’s like a resort, dormitory and a little health clinic all in combo working in sync,” Denholtz said. “It’s great. All our needs are met constantly.”

The Residence at Westport is located on Post Road in the heart of town and is currently the town’s only senior living community, according to Michele Piskin, executive director of the Residence.

The need for senior housing in town has long been discussed at several Zoning Commission meetings, with residents highlighting the importance of allowing seniors to age in place.

It is now one of three LCB Senior Living Communities in lower Fairfield County, including the Residence at Selleck’s Woods in Darien and the Residence at Summer Street in Stamford.

“The Westport community is a very tight-knit community and people’s roots are well ingrained in this community,” said Piskin, a Stamford resident, adding for many it was important to stay in a community they love as they age.

The Residence at Westport has 70 apartments throughout the community that are either independent or assisted living. By the end of the week the facility will have 23 residents, Piskin said.

The facility has a variety of offerings for its residents including Mediterranean-style cooking, music and theater, and Italian class. The building follows COVID protocols and checks visitors’ temperatures.

Each room also comes equipped with a smart device that can let residents know what’s for dinner, play music, and connect them to the front desk.

Piskin said the Residence at Westport is also an attractive option with it being located in the heart of town. She said this allows residents to still take advantage of what the town has to offer.

“When people walk in here it feels like home,” she said. “When you walk around and talk to residents a lot of them know each other, but when someone comes from outside the community they are incredibly welcoming.”

Andrea Ellen, of AE Communications, said the community consists of residents with an array of talents and professions — from retired teachers and lawyers, to artists and actors.

“Because of this community and how dynamic and diverse and culturally involved some of the people are often times they’ve built the community here,” she said. “For them to be able to remain here is important.”

Piskin said while hiring staff she found it most important that anyone hired had emotional intelligence. This would help ensure residents and staff equally felt part of a community.

“That’s something you can’t teach,” she said. “You can teach the fundamentals of a job, but you can’t teach the emotional factor.”

Piskin said the philosophy of this senior living community is that the residents matter, and their lives matter.

“We come to work for the residents, we’re here for the residents, and we’re here to support them,” she said. “It’s more than a job. You have to be passionate about working with older adults otherwise you can’t be in this business.”

For Denholtz, a retired teacher who taught music in Stamford for over 20 years, this philosophy was evident through her interactions with the community.

“I’ve been in a lot of situations where there are a great community of people working together,” she said. “I have never, ever been in a situation where the staff is this extraordinary...there’s nothing to complain about.”