The Forum at Brookside keeps residents’ calendar full of activities

| December 22, 2011

A warm pool on a cool day eases joints and adds energy!

With activities and meals that rival those of a cruise ship, The Forum at Brookside might someday weigh anchor from its 40-acre campus and steam down the Ohio River.

Not really, of course; but Kentucky’s first and largest full-service retirement community, located off Shelbyville Road near Middletown, maintains a full calendar of festivities for its 350 residents, especially this time of year.

“December is our busiest month,” said Executive Director Bill Hulsey. “Mark Clifford, our director of program services, sleeps about two hours a day. We’ve had community groups entertaining our residents, a merchants’ bazaar, and a ‘12 Days of Christmas’ open house. From cookie-decorating to trips to see Christmas lights around town, there’s a lot going on.”

The Brookside Chorus, which comprises about 30 residents, is a much-anticipated annual treat in its own right. Its Dec. 8 concert was standing room only.

“They practice half a year for their Christmas concert, then half a year for the spring one,” said Susan Dobina, director of resident services.

“We have such talented people. They’ve been involved in the arts or have talent in musical fields.”

Brookside, as it’s often called, welcomed its first resident in 1985. Accommodations and care range from Independent Living garden homes and apartments to a health center providing Skilled Care. On-site therapy and rehab services include a heated indoor swimming pool.

Even though the “neighborhood” has a lot of people, the residents make every effort to know one another.

A hospitality committee accompanies new residents to several meals and helps them get to know other residents. Additionally, there are monthly New Nesters’ luncheons, hosted by Bill and Susan.

“We also have a different group of residents eating at the Captain’s Table each week, like on ‘The Love Boat’,” Bill said. “Even with 350 people, it’s possible to get to know everyone.”

Brookside residents soon will look forward to the 2012 Mardi Gras festivities.

“I used to live in Mississippi, close enough to New Orleans that Mardi Gras rubbed off on me,” he said.

“There can be a post-holiday let down after Christmas, so we start planning it right afterward. Everyone elects a king and queen, and we have a day-long celebration complete with beignets in the morning, a Creole dinner — our chef trained at The Greenbrier — and dancing to jazz.”

Pets are welcome, and the summertime Brookside Dog Show is a perennial hit. Prizes are awarded in off-the-wall categories such as longest tail and the pooch that most resembles its owner.

The calendar also includes luaus and a gigantic Labor Day picnic, which attracts around 600 people.

Residents can even take cruises — real ones — to destinations such as Alaska or the Caribbean. Bill admits that he aspires to lofty standards.

“You’re only as good as your weakest link. I interviewed each of our 230 employees to be sure that their hearts, not just their heads, are right for working with seniors,” he said. “We have low turnover — I’ve been here going on 27 years, and I think some staff members have been here even longer — because they see this as a mission, not just a job.”

That perspective also is encouraged in the high school students who work in Brookside’s wait staff program.

Approximately 50 students, who must maintain at least a B average, work in the dining room after school, until about 7 p.m.

“The kids get so much life education from the residents,” Susan said. “Many of the students don’t have grandparents around, and the residents treat them like surrogate grandchildren. It’s a great experience for everyone.”

Each June, the residents have a graduation party for the students, after passing the hat to give them farewell funds.

“The kids read about World War II at school, but they can hear about it in person from a man who was on the beach at Normandy, or from people who survived Auschwitz,” Bill said. “Here, there is living history.”

For information about The Forum at Brookside, located at 200 Brookside Dr., visit www.theforumatbrookside.com or phone 502.245.3048.

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