Westminster Winter Park celebrates our organization’s 70 years of service to older adults

Residents, team members and local civic leaders marked the occasion with outdoor evening celebration

WINTER PARK, April 18, 2024 – With an outdoor festival and a special pronouncement of congratulations from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Westminster Winter Park celebrated Westminster Communities of Florida’s 70th anniversary of serving older adults with more than 250 attendees and guests.

The organization, first established as a ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as Presbyterian Homes of the Synod of Florida, began its service when the Life Plan Community today known as Westminster Manor opened in 1961. Westminster Winter Park, its second community, was founded in 1965. Today Westminster Communities of Florida has 23 communities spanning the state of Florida, serving more than 7,000 residents with 2,300 team members.

Scott Cairns, Executive Director of Westminster Winter Park, thanked the attendees with a word of welcome. “Thank you to all of those who will be celebrating today for being a special part of our first 70 years,” Cairns said.

“I think every year is special here at Westminster, but this year is our platinum anniversary year! I am so happy to be here and celebrating with you tonight,” said Chief Executive Officer Terry Rogers.

Demings brought a special congratulatory congratulating Westminster Communities of Florida for the occasion. “There’s a great group of people who work here and who live here to make this a wonderful place,” said Demings.

Attendees also enjoyed an invocation by the Rev. Jeff Parkkila, Chaplain at Westminster Winter Park, and the Rev. Maynard Pittendreigh, a retired minister, and a program featuring congratulatory remarks from Betsy Gardner, President of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and Residents’ Council Chairperson Sandy Dooley.

Following the ceremony, residents, future residents and team members enjoyed an evening of outdoor live entertainment and games under the shade of one of the community’s majestic trees. Attendees enjoyed a variety of delicious appetizers provided by the Westminster Winter Park Dining Services team, including a trio of sliders, crab cakes, pretzel bites and special-made desserts.

Westminster Communities of Florida, the state’s largest not-for-profit provider of active senior living, emphasizes whole-person wellbeing for its older adult residents. With communities in Bradenton, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Orlando, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee and Winter Park, the organization serves more than 7,000 residents statewide with a lifestyle featuring active living, wellness and lifelong learning.

‘God put us here for a reason’: Serving the residents during Hurricane Idalia is part of our Mission

When a hurricane or tropical storm threatens Florida, like Hurricane Idalia this week, team members at Westminster Communities of Florida have a top priority: Ensuring the safety and well-being of the residents we serve. Our Mission is to serve from the heart and inspire older adults to enjoy happy, healthy and purposeful lives.

What impact has Hurricane Idalia had? Some of our dedicated team members are living out our Mission, today, by evacuating with residents or sheltering at their communities through the storm. Regardless of their normal jobs, their principal responsibility right now is to provide for the residents’ needs.

Today we caught up with five of these team members to learn about their experiences, why they chose to stay at their community or evacuate with residents, and what is inspiring them to stay hard at work during a storm.

Jackie Walker Ellison, Cook, Westminster Shores, temporarily at Westminster Winter Park

In St. Petersburg, Westminster Shores was forced to relocate residents out of the path of the storm. Jackie Walker Ellison always knew she would be with the residents, from the moment she first heard. “The residents said to me, ‘Jackie, are you coming with us? I know we’ll be OK if you come with us.’ So I had no doubt,” Ellison said. “I knew for sure I would be evacuating, I called my husband and my mother and I told them, ‘I’m going with my residents, I’ll see you whenever.’ ”

The group of 24 residents was accompanied by Ellison to Westminster Winter Park, where they’re enjoying the hospitality of the residents and team members there. The Westminster Shores team is occupied with providing for the needs of the residents during Hurricane Idalia. “I think it brings everyone together as a team,” she said.

Ellison has worked at Westminster Shores for 29 years, and “I love my residents. I wouldn’t have been here so long if I didn’t love this place and my residents. God put us here for a reason,” she said. “Right now, the residents are happy, we’ve been watching movies and playing games, and everything is going smoothly.”

Michele McCann, Assisted Living Activities Coordinator, Westminster Palms, sheltering in place

“I choose to be with the residents during the most emotional time, like a hurricane, because that’s my quality as a caregiver,” said Michele McCann, Assisted Living Activities Coordinator at Westminster Palms. “Challenging times like this bring out the best in people, and I get to see it and share it.”

McCann was sheltering in place at the community in St. Petersburg, along with residents from Westminster Palms and residents from Westminster Point Pleasant in Bradenton. She has lived in Florida for more than 7 years, and has experienced three hurricanes in St. Petersburg so far. McCann said she feels that the way the team bonds, whether through an evacuation or sheltering in place, makes the team stronger. “We are going to come out better on the other side of this! We always do. We are so lucky that we are here, in our home, together, instead of relocating like so many had to. I have come to feel like this is my home, too.”

Carlos Santiago, Maintenance Engineer, Westminster Point Pleasant and Tiffany Mestre, Administrative Assistant, Community Support Services, temporarily at Legacy Pointe at UCF

A group of residents from Westminster Point Pleasant were also with Maintenance Engineer Carlos Santiago and Tiffany Mestre, an administrative assistant at our Community Support Services office in Orlando. The residents had evacuated from Bradenton due to the risk of storm surge and flooding, and were enjoying the hospitality of Legacy Pointe at UCF.

Santiago, the maintenance engineer, said that he had been through the worst in 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. “We were there with no power for 60 days, and we weren’t able to do anything,” he said. By comparison, he felt that everything was under control and being well maintained for the residents through both of his hurricane experiences as a Westminster team member.

“This job is personal for me,” Santiago said. “The residents are my family and I want to make sure that they are well taken care of.” In 2022, Santiago was recognized as Westminster Point Pleasant’s Team Member of the Year for his dedicated service to the residents. He said it was his honor to serve the residents.

Evacuating with the residents is just another extension of his commitment to the community, Santiago said. “This is my second time evacuating with the residents, and it doesn’t matter how many more. I will always volunteer to be there for them. We are here for each other and for the residents.”

Countless storms had also affected Mestre, a Florida native. But she had never had an experience like today’s. “It’s wonderful to help the residents and hear about their interests and stories. This is a great way to see how the residents live,” Mestre said. “I am getting to know what a day in the life of a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and an ADON (Assistant Director of Nursing) are like. It has opened my eyes. Bless their souls for doing all of this.”

The effects of the storm had been mild in Orlando, but Mestre said that nevertheless, she and the residents felt more secure and had been brought closer together by the experience – and the residents were thankful for the security. “This has really brought our Mission to life for me in a way I had not experienced it,” said Mestre.

For Santiago, part of living in a hurricane zone meant more practice – and that he had found that the team is getting stronger through the experience. “The more we do this together, the more we become comfortable with each other, and the better organized we become. When you send a group of people together for one purpose and for our Mission, we get the opportunity to grow together and learn from each other,” said Santiago.

Beth Szabo, Services Coordinator, Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, sheltering in place

Another part of the Westminster Mission is to serve residents with low to moderate incomes, in our affordable Rental Retirement Communities. Beth Szabo, services coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, was sheltering in place at the community to ensure that the residents were well cared for throughout the potential effects of the storm in Jacksonville.

“I’ve lived in Jacksonville since 1976, so I have lost count of how many hurricanes I’ve been through now. In 2004 they were coming so frequently we all said, ‘I’m over it, just let it go,’ ” said Szabo. “We have had to evacuate a few times over the years, like for Hurricane Matthew in 2016. But we did not have to this time.”

For Szabo, serving during a hurricane is a natural extension of her choice to work at the community, because the residents are like her extended family. “I have a heart for seniors, and the residents here mean a lot to me,” she said. “If something happens then I want to be here to help them.”

Szabo added that she feels safer riding out a storm at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments than at home. “Here at the community, I know that we have a great team looking out for everyone. We’re very small but we support each other.”

A facet of our Mission

While a hurricane is unexpected, serving the residents and supporting their fellow team members wherever we are and however we can is just another facet of the Mission of Westminster Communities of Florida: We serve from the heart and inspire older adults to enjoy happy, healthy and purposeful lives.

Be sure to learn all about how you can make a Westminster community your home to live or to work – find a community near you or follow us on Facebook and on LinkedIn!

3 Common Fears of Assisted Living and How to Address Each with Your Parents

Making the move to an assisted living facility is not easy for aging parents or their children. There are a lot of fears that surround these communities, and this can prevent your loved one from enjoying their stay. 

If your parents will be moving into one of the high-quality Orlando retirement communities soon, it is time to talk to them. Follow these tips to make independent living near Orlando a positive experience for your loved ones. 

1.      Feeling Lonely

Many older adults feel upset, betrayed, and anxious when transitioning into assisted living. They worry that they will be alone and their loved ones will not check up on them. 

This could not be further from the truth. Assisted living communities have wonderful networks of residents that spend their days socializing and enjoying activities together. 

How to Address It: Show Them a Calendar of Events

If your parents are scared of feeling lonely in assisted living, show them the facility’s calendar. Plenty of events and community classes will connect them with other residents. 

This will help them feel better about the social aspect of moving into independent living. They may even become excited about the move!

2.  Losing Communication with You

Your parents may express the fear of losing touch with you and your siblings once they move. This is an understandable fear. Some older adults feel that they are a burden, and that is why they must move into assisted living. 

How to Address It: Make Plans to Keep in Touch

Reassuring your parents that you will stay in touch with them may not work. Instead, try to make solid plans with specific timelines to prove that you will keep in touch once they move. 

For example, you could set aside a specific day of the week to call them. This will show your parents that you have a plan and will follow through on it. 

3.  Losing Their Dignity

Many aging adults fear assisted living will take away their freedom and dignity. This is a common misconception. Any high-quality retirement community will be filled with enriching activities and allow for your parents’ healthy level of independence. 

How to Address It: Discuss What They Can Do

Instead of focusing on what they are losing, talk to your parents about what they will be able to do once they move. Assisted living facilities have numerous amenities and free activities to enjoy. Your parents will not lose their sense of self and purpose. 

Enjoy Orlando Retirement Communities to the Fullest

Your parents can happily retire and enjoy their lives as older adults at a nice assisted living facility. Their medical needs will always be met, and they can socialize with other friendly residents. 

It is normal to have fears, but once you discuss them with your parents, everyone will feel better about the move. 

Thinking About Moving When You Retire? Here’s Why Orlando Is So Popular

Deciding where to move during retirement is a big decision. There are many great options for retirees, no matter their hobbies or goals. Orlando has been a popular choice for seniors for years. 

Orlando retirement communities are some of the best in the country, and more seniors choose this part of the country every year. This article will discuss why Orlando is so popular for retirement.


Weather is a huge factor when it comes to retirement. Warm weather makes it easier to stay active and get outside throughout the year, and it’s easier on the joints and bones. Orlando is home to pleasant weather year-round. 

While summers can get quite hot, winters are mild with plenty of sunshine. Retirees can enjoy outdoor recreation all year and never worry about extreme winter storms.


Retirement is a time for seniors to enjoy themselves, explore new hobbies, and have fun. Another reason Orlando is so popular is because of the ample activities for seniors in the community. Whether seniors are looking for a highly active lifestyle or to embrace a leisurely retirement, Orlando has activities that can fit their preferences. 

The community features a variety of spaces and activities for recreation, including:

  • Open spaces
  • Parks
  • Hiking trails
  • Biking trails
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Golf

In addition, the Atlantic Ocean is just an hour’s drive away, making a beach day very accessible for most seniors.

Health Care

Access to quality health care is more important than ever during retirement. Even seniors in good health never know what the future holds. Orlando is home to several high-quality medical centers and hospitals that cater to seniors. 

The hospitals are home to experts that know how to diagnose and treat the most common senior ailments. Whether it is managing a chronic condition, handling regular checkups, or providing emergency services, there are quality health facilities in Orlando.

Abundance of Orlando Retirement Communities

Finding the right retirement community can make it possible to enjoy retirement to the fullest. Orlando is home to some of the country’s leading retirement communities, and seniors have many communities to choose from. 

For seniors looking to stay very active, there are Orlando independent living retirement communities that offer an abundance of activities. For seniors looking to relax during retirement, there are communities that focus on leisure and wellness.  No matter what a retiree is looking for in their senior years, there is a community in Orlando that can meet their needs. These are just a few reasons Orlando is a popular choice. To learn more about Orlando, you can contact a local retirement community to learn more about your options.

3 Tips to Help Older Adults Maintain Healthy Habits

As you get older, it can be difficult to maintain good health as easily as you may have in the past. Older people can be more susceptible to getting sick, and illnesses can often be more severe in old age than in youth.

Ways to Stay Healthy and Happy in Orlando Retirement Communities

Staying healthy into your golden years can be a challenge, but when you’re a resident of Orlando retirement communities, there are many more resources at your disposal when it comes to keeping up good habits. 

Here are 3 tips for seniors who want to keep prioritizing good health as they enjoy independent living in Orlando, Florida.  

1. Keep Up an Exercise Routine

Most people know that regular exercise is a key part of a healthy routine. Exercise can provide a huge variety of benefits, including better mobility, deeper sleep, and a healthier heart. 

Did you know that regular exercise can also boost the immune system? As you age, keeping up some physical activity can help your immunity fight against infection and keep you healthy. Even if you can’t participate in strenuous exercise, regular walks and stretching can have significant health benefits.

2. Find Mentally Stimulating Hobbies

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the best way to keep your mind healthy as you age is to stimulate it regularly. There are so many enjoyable ways to expand your mind, including:

  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Playing or listening to music
  • Socializing with friends
  • Taking a class
  • Playing word games like crosswords or Sudoku
  • Playing board games like chess or checkers

Fortunately, many of the best ways to keep your mind healthy and active are also great ways to enjoy some free time or connect with your community. Maintaining multiple hobbies that you enjoy can help to reduce stress, which can cause a variety of health issues.

3. Eat a Balanced Diet

Even if you keep up a regular exercise routine and find multiple ways to keep your mind stimulated, good health will be difficult to maintain if you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet. 

Easy access to plenty of healthy, nourishing food is one of the most important benefits of independent living communities — many older folks struggle to cook healthy meals for themselves on a regular basis. 

Make sure you include plenty of vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and protein sources in your diet to stay healthy and enjoy your retirement lifestyle.

3 Ways to Make Daily Walks More Fun This Fall

Staying active is one of the most important parts of retirement. Whether you’re on your own or taking advantage of the many perks of Orlando, Florida, independent living, it’s critical to get some exercise every day.

Walking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy, but it can sometimes get a little dull. Here are three ways to make your daily walks more stimulating this autumn.

1. Listen to a Podcast

Putting on a podcast while you’re walking can make the time fly by.

There are millions of podcasts out there covering just about every topic under the sun. From art to gardening to celebrity gossip, there’s literally a show for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to your daily walk just so you can listen to your new favorite podcast.

2. Try Bird-Watching

There’s so much to do on an outdoor walk other than just moving your feet.

The great outdoors is teeming with animals and wildlife to ooh and aah over. Start researching the birds in your area and see how many you can spot on your walk. You might be surprised at how much wildlife there is all around you.

Giving yourself a new focal point is a good way to distract yourself from the mundane nature of a walking routine. If you start bird-watching during your walks, you’ll begin to learn more about these fascinating creatures, including their habits and routines.

3. Take a New Route

One of the main reasons walks get boring is that many people follow the same path day in and day out. While it’s normal to find a route you like and stick with it, there’s no harm in switching things up.

Take a left instead of a right, go the long way for a change, or try walking in a different part of town. A new route will refresh you and allow you to take in new sights and sounds. You never know — you may even find a route you like better than the old one.

Staying Spry in Orlando Retirement Communities

Orlando retirement communities offer wonderful amenities and opportunities for seniors to explore new ways to stay active. Whether you decide to join a walking group or simply explore new routes on community grounds on your own, making sure your daily walks are invigorating is easier than ever.

Alzheimer’s Care: How to Prevent Wandering

When a loved one develops Alzheimer’s, wandering can become a significant concern. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that up to 60% of those with dementia will wander at some point. Unfortunately, wandering can increase a senior’s risk of falling, injuring themselves, or experiencing illness due to elemental exposure. 

The only way to ensure your loved one doesn’t wander and injure themselves or others is to provide full-time supervision. Orlando retirement communities can offer a comfortable, home-like setting while providing the necessary security to keep those with dementia safe. 

If you care for your loved one who’s experiencing dementia at home, there are technologies and strategies to reduce the occurrence of wandering. And if they do wander, they will be more likely to return home safely. 

Prepare Your Home

You can take steps to deter your loved one with dementia from leaving your house unsupervised. These steps include:

  • Installing door and window locks and alarms
  • Hiding keys, purses, and wallets
  • Camouflaging doors that lead outside
  • Labeling interior doors to explain the purpose of each room

Many of those with Alzheimer’s may wander outdoors looking for a kitchen or bathroom. Labeling the interior doors to show the available rooms clearly can reduce outdoor wandering and provide a safe indoor space.

Reduce Confusion

Overstimulation can increase confusion in those with dementia. Loud noises, chaos, and new environments can lead to agitation, causing your loved one to feel like they need to escape the situation. Instead, try to create a calm, soothing atmosphere, especially during times of day when they’re more prone to wandering.

Plan Ahead

Preparing for your loved one to wander can ensure they return home quickly and safely. You can mitigate the dangers and locate your senior before they get too far or experience an injury by:

  • Asking your neighbors to call you if they see the person wandering
  • Keeping a recent photo in case you need to contact the police
  • List places where your loved one may go while wandering
  • Buy your senior a wearable GPS tracking device

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program, formed in partnership with the MedicAlert Foundation, can help you quickly track down your loved one if they’ve wandered away. Consider enrolling them in this nationwide emergency response service.

Consider Orlando Retirement Communities

At some point, your loved one will require full-time supervision, especially if they develop a habit of wandering. Unfortunately, most caregivers aren’t capable of providing that level of care. 

Facilities providing memory care in Orlando can support those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by providing them with support and security at all times. 

How Do Our Nutritional Needs Change as We Age?

As we age, our nutritional needs change. A healthy diet in our younger years may be inadequate for maintaining good health as we age. This is because as we age, our bodies undergo many changes, including:

  • Decreased digestive function
  • Lower Calcium absorption   
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Increased risk of disease and infection
  • Changes in hormone levels

The older we get, the more sensitive our bodies become to certain nutrients and vitamins. 

Vitamin B12 is a common example of this. Vitamin B12 is essential for normal nerve function and red blood cell production. As we age, our ability to absorb vitamin B12 can decrease, so many older people take supplements or eat foods fortified with the vitamin.

Since our nutritional needs change as we age, it’s important to know how to meet those needs to stay healthy and avoid many common age-related health concerns.

Increase Dietary Protein and Exercise

Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair tissues in the body. It also plays a role in transporting substances through the bloodstream and is needed for healthy hair, skin, nails, and muscles.

As we age, muscle mass decreases due to less physical activity and muscle protein synthesis. Increasing your dietary protein intake, exercising, and stretching help to prevent this muscle mass loss. Protein helps build and repair damaged tissue, making it an essential nutrient for people over 50.

Increase Vitamin and Micronutrient Intake

You may have trouble absorbing certain vitamins and minerals because of dental problems or medications that interfere with digestion (like antacids). You might also have trouble digesting food properly if you’re taking medications that affect the kidneys or liver function.

Your body processes vitamins and minerals differently than it did when you were younger. As we age, our bodies are less able to absorb nutrients from food such as vegetables and fruits. That’s why older adults take vitamin supplements or multivitamins daily.

Decrease Sodium Intake

As we age, our kidneys might not work as well as they once did. This could make it more difficult for your body to remove extra salt from your diet — especially if you’re eating processed foods high in sodium.

Watch out for these hidden sources of sodium:

  • Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and sausage
  • Canned vegetables and soups
  • Frozen dinners such as pizza or chicken nuggets
  • Salty snacks like chips and pretzels

Opt for low-sodium foods whenever possible. Carefully check nutrition labels when shopping for groceries.

Maintaining Good Nutrition as You Age — Tips from Orlando Retirement Communities

Eating healthy as you grow older is achievable. With a bit of planning and an open mind, you’ll be able to meet your nutritional needs without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change — it’s about making small changes for long-term gain.

Choosing from the area’s Orlando retirement communities can make it easier to maintain good nutrition as you age, as independent living near Orlando offers dining options and wellness programs that make it easy to maintain a healthy diet. 

What Makes Orlando Retirement Communities So Popular?

It’s practically a cliche at this point: Are you looking to retire? Then move to Florida — specifically, Orlando! There’s even a famous Jerry Seinfeld routine about it

Here’s the thing, though… Orlando retirement communities are incredible. The best thing about independent living facilities in Orlando is that, well, they’re in Orlando. And why is Orlando an awesome place to retire? 

No Snow

Check out any pictures from an Orlando retirement community, and you won’t see a flake of snow. A winter with temps below 50 is an outlier. All year you can take in the sights and enjoy everything that Orlando has to offer! You can truly live your best life, staying active and getting involved without getting trapped by a blizzard.

Theme Parks

Even if you’re not a theme park fan, chances are your kids and grandkids are. Want them to visit? Tell them you live minutes from Disney World, Universal Studios, and Seaworld. And if you enjoy theme parks yourself, you can live minutes away. Some parks even offer discounts to residents, in addition to any senior discounts you may already enjoy.

Low Taxes

Florida taxes are low — and not just income taxes, which probably don’t apply to you as a retiree. Sales tax in Florida is only 6%Laws also state that tax assessment values for Florida homes can’t increase by more than 3% per year. 

How about state inheritance or estate taxes? Not in Florida. If you want to leave possessions or income to the next generation, Florida is the place to do it.

A Large Retiree Population

People like to be around others who understand them. Orlando has millions of retired residents who call the city their home. If you’re looking for plenty of like-minded people in the same phase of life, Orlando is it. Tourists may come and go, but your fellow retirees have found a new home.

Services that Cater to Specific Needs

Because of the high influx of retirees, businesses cater to their needs. Medical providers abound in the city. And the entertainment is better than anywhere else. Do you want to see that band you love? They’ll probably be playing nearby at a venue with assigned seats. Do you like golfing? You’ll find the best golf courses in the world in Orlando. 

Finally, and unsurprisingly, Orlando has an impressive number of beautiful, spacious retirement communities!

What’s the Best Age to Move into a Retirement Community?

If you or a loved one is considering moving into a retirement community, you may be wondering what’s the best age to move. There’s no magical age to transition. Some seniors are eager to settle into a community, while others prefer to stay at home.

The decision is ultimately up to you, but there are a few factors you should consider that can help you make your decision.

Daily Activities

If daily activities are becoming more difficult to complete, it’s time to start thinking about assisted living or independent living facilities in Orlando. 

You should spend your retirement enjoying hobbies and socializing with friends and family, not struggling to complete daily chores like cooking and cleaning. Moving to an assisted living community can free up your time and take some of these responsibilities off your plate.

Home Maintenance

One of the most important factors to consider is at what age home maintenance becomes too overwhelming. For seniors living alone, home maintenance can easily become too much to take on. 

Between cleaning the inside of your home and maintaining the outside with landscaping and routine repairs, there’s a lot to stay on top of. If home maintenance is starting to become a burden, it may be the right time to transition.


In most communities, driving is a big part of independence and also necessary to complete daily tasks like grocery shopping and getting to medical appointments. If it’s becoming unsafe for you to drive, transitioning to assisted living is a good option. 

Many Orlando retirement communities offer transportation options that still allow seniors to travel wherever they need to go.

Moving into Orlando Retirement Communities

There’s no perfect age to move into a retirement community, and the right time is ultimately up to you. Talk to friends and family and the community you’re considering before making your decision.

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