In 1986, Duke took over as the programs and events manager.
“I don’t think anybody in the early days realized the importance of an activities program,” said Duke. “I had a lot of tutoring and learned to listen when someone made a suggestion. The people here were all my teachers, and the program benefited from every resident.”
Implementing an activities program was just one part of the learning curve. Lenbrook itself was creating a new way of looking at retirement that included independent living, medical services and activities all under one roof — a continuing-care model that was novel in the early 1980s.
“In those days, when you talked about retiring, it meant going to a nursing home,” said Duke. “The founder, Jack Clark, started this new concept because his mother and father needed a place to live, and they weren’t ready for a nursing home. People were glad to be at Lenbrook and were so social, there was a bit of a party boat atmosphere.”
Duke formed an activities committee to get residents’ input. The group meets monthly to come up with more than 100 classes, field trips and events every month. They have organized visits to the High Museum and Stone Mountain, arranged for guest speakers and lecturers, hosted entertainers and choral groups, and held programs on health and fitness, but bingo and bridge are still big. They also encourage residents who want to speak on a favorite topic to get involved. All of the programs are recorded so they can be shown to residents who could not attend.
Today, Lenbrook is double its original size. It is home to about 450 residents who enjoy a fitness center, indoor pool, on-site restaurants, a library, an events center and gardens. The entire operation, said Duke, runs like a well-oiled machine that he can’t imagine leaving.
“Once I got to know the people here, my job got to be a calling,” said Duke. “They are inspiring. I don’t look forward to the drive in some days, but I so enjoy being here with them. There is never a dull moment. It’s a great place to be.”
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