Public breakfast spot opens at Brooklyn Heights senior center

When Willow and Clark, a breakfast and lunch spot, part of The Watermark Retirement Community, opened its doors to the public in Brooklyn Heights in New York on May 28, 2024, its goal was to become part of the community . Why should seniors live isolated from the public, and why shouldn’t Brooklynites, always busy and on the go, have the opportunity to mingle with seniors, who are an integral part of their neighborhood.

Jennifer Tapner, executive director of The Watermark in Brooklyn Heights, says, “Many seniors move into the community because they want to be part of the fabric of New York City and embrace the opportunity to connect with the neighborhood in the broad sense. »

She admits, however, that it is rare for a senior center to open its doors to the outside community and that only a few of its 60 Watermark retirement communities do so. But “the model works particularly well in an urban area where there is a lot of foot traffic,” Tapner notes, such as Brooklyn Heights with its proximity to the busy Clark Street subway station and not too far from Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Limited hours but open to the public

Willow and Clark, open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, serves coffee, pastries and juices for breakfast and salads and sandwiches for lunch, via counter service.

A senior center in Brooklyn Heights has opened a cafe open to the public, which it hopes will create interaction between the public and its guests.

Since opening, it’s been difficult to pin down its external clientele, but Tapner hopes it will attract “adults who come for coffee and pastries before the work day, and parents with young children who come to treat themselves afterward.” school”.

Seniors blend into the neighboring community

Tapner likes the ideas of his senior residents integrating into the community. “It’s important in a big city to have social centers where people can sit down, slow down and have a cup of coffee and chat together.” And they can mingle with a “group of older people who have led fascinating lives and are happy to share their wisdom with their neighbors.”

When asked if there are rules that guests must keep their voices down so as not to disturb elderly residents, Tapner says, “No, we want our guests and members to have fun. »

Calls to 3 types of residents

Watermark at Brooklyn Heights consists of 385 apartments spread over 15 floors, which were formerly the Leverich Towers Hotel. It offers three levels of care: independent living, assisted living and memory care. Residents can be between the ages of 62 and become centurions.

Staying at Watermark Nursing Home starts, its website says, at “just $10,105 per month.”

But when this reporter visited Willow and Clark for a cup of coffee on a warm June afternoon, he was a little surprised that the signage was so inconspicuous. There was a sandwich board outside the senior residence, with writing saying “Willow and Clark,” but it was neither visible nor easy to spot.

Once inside the retirement home, the coffee bar was immediately to the left of the entrance. The server, Tanji Jarvis, was effervescent and welcoming, the perfect personality to welcome the crowd. There was a resident having lunch, who had recently moved from Camden, Maine, to have dinner with her daughter, a New Yorker, which is why she moved to New York.

There is seating for 12 people, so it is compact but has an upscale look, which suits a refined resident like the Watermark. The library area was also elegant and quiet, and a resident was reading the New York Timeswhere if you dropped a coin you would hear the sound.

Residents who participate in independent living benefit from its flexible spending plan and have access to meals at the public cafe and therefore are not charged for meals. Their friends or family pay for coffee or lunch in bundles. Residents of assisted living or memory care follow a three-meal-a-day plan and pay for their items at Willow and Clark.

Tapner adds that “opening the cafe to a wider audience will naturally increase our revenue a bit, but that’s not the reason behind it. »

Sahar Ben Edaleti, associate executive director of Watermark, interviewed in its library, described its residents as mostly down-to-earth and not snobbish. When asked how residents pay fees starting at $10,105 a month, he said they finance their stay at Watermark “through a combination of pensions, long-term care insurance and benefits from the sale of their home and other real estate and some rely on income generated from tuition revenue. investments. »

Edaleti gave the example of a resident who bought her New York brownstone many years ago for $40,000, resold it about 40 years later for $10 million and used the money to pay The Watermark.

Plus, he says, its population is diverse and includes former teachers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives. For example, its residents include a Brooklyn College speech pathology professor, an architect, a flight attendant, a TIME magazine editor, and a photographer of indigenous people.

While many residents are New Yorkers, some of their New York children convince their parents to live in Brooklyn so they can be nearby, like the parent from Camden, Maine.

He also said his fee covers everything, including meals, chauffeured trips to hospitals or concert visits, treatment and physiotherapy. These costs, he suggests, can add up for seniors who choose to live at home.

He also explained that many of Willow and Clark’s customers are children of residents who bring their children there for lunch. He acknowledged that signage could be improved to attract more outsiders.

Willow and Clark combines coffee, pastries and sandwiches, both for its residents and the public, and reaches out to the community in a way that few senior centers have done in the past.

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