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March 31, 2020

How Design Group manager Sue Seiple turns house to home and campus to community at Country Meadows

There are a range of details that come to mind when you think of home: favorite furniture, picture frames, flowers from a loved one in a vase on the table, trinkets and personal items arranged to be perfectly in place.

But what are the feelings that accompany the thought of home? For many of us, they include peace, comfort, family, and security.

The design group at Country Meadows thinks beyond the details that make up a residence, looking at the bigger picture of how residents can have the best sense of home. And with this goal in mind comes continual creative opportunities to deliver the best senior living experience possible. This is part of the Home Sweet Home Promise that Country Meadows offers.

The idea of continued creative opportunity played a significant role in bringing Design Group Manager, Susan Seiple, to Country Meadows many years ago. With her near two decades of experience in the retirement community industry and many more in design, Susan has been devoted to delivering the Home Sweet Home Promise to Country Meadows residents by turning house into home and campus into community. And while she’s dedicated to current projects and needs, she keeps a keen eye on where the independent living and retirement community industry is moving to next.

Recently we caught up with Susan and asked her a few questions about her role at Country Meadows.

Tell us about what you do for Country Meadows and the Design Department:

I wear many different hats, and every day is challenging and exciting. In a dynamic role like mine, nothing is the same from day to day, and I think that’s a fascinating aspect of our department that I enjoy and appreciate.

On the surface, you might think I’m only an interior designer, but that’s just one part of my job. My role begins with interior design, but I also manage the design department as a whole. We work on capital project improvements and with each project, we take what we’ve learned and apply to future projects. One great thing about my role is that I’m able to see projects from start to finish – from concept to planning, product selection and ordering, and tracking of all products ordered. Then we manage the process of bringing those items into the warehouse, then to the campuses to coordinate installation – it’s a little bit of everything!

Susan Leid, my co-designer of the Design Department, and I split these responsibilities across all 12 campuses. We make sure everything is always well maintained and looking great. We support our co-workers and our capital projects team in the field.

What training did you undergo for this role before Country Meadows? What previous jobs have you held in this industry or others?

Before working for Country Meadows, I tended to stick to people-oriented jobs, which helped me strengthen my customer service skills. I worked in interior design for many years doing residential design projects and spent time working on commercial design as well. My experience with both types of design certainly helped prepare me for my work at Country Meadows. When you’re working with visual elements, you can’t always learn from a textbook – you have to “have an eye” to b able to visualize what the results will be, and you can’t teach that. I do hold an associate’s degree in interior design from Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts. Between Susan Leid and I, we have about 60 years of experience.

Why did you decide to pursue a career within this industry?

I always had a love for art, and I enjoyed being creative. I attribute that to my grandmother. She encouraged me to take my passion and turn it into something more. From there, interior design was where I felt my abilities were best matched. Country Meadows offered constant development and challenges, so it felt like the right place to be to keep growing and stay motivated about design and management.

Within the environment here, I’ve been able to take my love of residential design, commercial design, project management, discovering industry trends and put them all together in one role. Combining those tasks with working in a team setting to serve others was just the perfect fit for all of my passions. I get to design but still be people-oriented. I may not have known that I would end up working in the retirement community or personal care industry, but it has all of the elements I was searching for in a career and industry.

This job was something that I happened upon, and I’m thankful that I did! Sixteen years later, I consider it one of the best career choices I ever made.

What are you the most passionate about?

Our design team gets the opportunity to see how our work enhances the daily life of residents at Country Meadows. This is because we’re an in-house design department, and we work with the campuses we serve every day. We’re able to see in real-time what works and what needs to be adjusted for the standards of senior living. Our motivation to improving our retirement communities, I find, is much greater, because we see the impact right away. Other retirement communities typically don’t have an in-house design team. They use an architectural or design company to plan and implement their project; then they move on to the next project. But we get to work in the environment we serve, and I believe this makes our commitment and dedication to each detail stronger and customized to our residents’ needs.

What sets Country Meadows apart from other retirement communities? And what would you say is the main reason seniors choose Country Meadows?

I think Country Meadows offers its residents something that separates it from other retirement communities, and that’s being family-owned and involved. Country Meadows is a third-generation family business, and I’ve now worked for two of those generations. This family really has a vision for what senior living should be. That family-minded and compassionate feeling is passed down through every design element, every service, and every decision we make at Country Meadows. We get to interact with residents and see our work unfold firsthand, so the whole organization really functions in this ongoing design. We care for our residents like they are family. The same goes for how we treat each other as co-workers, it does feel like one big family! Everything here is very homelike and we go above and beyond for our teams and residents. I think our residents can sense this, and they know we’re here to make senior living a wonderful experience for them. That is definitely a reason that seniors should and do choose to live at Country Meadows.

I also think that seniors choose to live here because we aren’t cookie cutter. The design team works hard to ensure that all our locations have that home sweet home feeling. We do this by taking inspiration from the community when designing each campus. They differ in architecture and interior design based on where they’re located. For instance, our Pittsburgh campus looks different from our Hershey campus. Each location focuses on community expectations and the lifestyle of the residents we’re serving. When our Leader Heights campus was renovated, the land around the property was part of the inspiration. The main building on that campus was redesigned with wall-to-wall windows so that residents could enjoy the open environment around them. This is a crucial design element to make residents feel more at home and bring a feeling of nature indoors.

How have you seen Country Meadows change over the years? And how do you see retirement communities changing in the future?

Some of the most exciting new technology being used in the construction of Country Meadows properties is within biophilic design. To put it simply, it’s a new way to bring outdoor elements of greenery and natural lighting indoors. This can help create a positive and relaxing environment. Advancements such as circadian rhythm lighting is a design element the senior living industry has been working with to help residents feel energized during the day and more rested at night. This is especially helpful for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. My team and I feel very excited to bring this unique development to our Allentown campus soon so we can see the positive impact on the quality of life of our memory support residents.

In addition to technological advancements, we’ve also seen an emphasis on wellness amenities. Anything we can do to make our residents feel more comfortable, healthy and strong is high on our priority list. I think that the wellness amenities are just as crucial as the new technology integrations for the future of the industry, in my opinion.

Aesthetic updates are always in the works at Country Meadows as trends come and go. As I mentioned, we’ve remodeled buildings to reflect the lifestyle preferences of the community there built-in. We’ve gone to great lengths to add more outdoor elements to our campuses as well, with new walking trails and raised flowerbeds due to the trend of more active senior living. The bread and butter of the impact we bring, however, is within those forward-thinking advances that improve the quality of life for residents. These are the finishing touches that turn campuses into communities and apartments into homes. And it all leads back to our Home Sweet Home Promise.

In your own words, what is the Country Meadows mission?

To me, the Country Meadows mission is very simple. It’s our mission to provide a senior living environment that supports health and wellness and purposeful living for seniors. Everything we do revolves around that. Everything we design revolves around that. And I look forward to all the challenges and rewarding moments that come with it.

If you or a loved one are thinking about retirement communities in the Lancaster, Hershey, or York areas and would like to see the design team’s work firsthand, our staff would love to host you for a tour. To schedule a tour of our campus or to learn about our independent living options, retirement community, or personal care services, contact us for more information. Our staff welcomes your questions and looks forward to assisting you as you plan for your senior living arrangements.


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