Senior Nation: Introducing “Ask Irma” on Aging and Senior Life

As we age, change is our constant. Our bodies, our minds, and our relationships are all affected with the passing of time. These changes can be scary for us, and for our family and loved ones, too. The key to making the most of our later years is acknowledging these changes, asking for advice when needed, and developing strategies to work through our options.

Irma Toce

Senior Nation is committed to offering resources to help us deal with the challenges and opportunities of aging. To that end, we are launching a new monthly column called Ask Irma, where we focus on all topics related to aging.

Our guest contributor is Irma Toce, CEO of Londonderry on the Tred Avon. Irma has over 25 years’ experience work with seniors. Her years of experience in the field is accompanied by BS in social work and an MA in health management, Irma not only leads the dynamic community of Londonderry, but she is also nationally recognized as an expert in the field of aging. Most recently she presented at the Leading Age Conference in New Orleans.

Irma welcomes your aging-related questions via email, All questions submitted will be handled in confidence. Are you a senior, an adult child of a senior or a friend or neighbor? Ask Irma will do her best to answer your questions, providing the support you need to deal with the challenges of aging.

Inside the Sandwich: Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals and Annual Giving By Amelia Blades Steward

During the 1960s and 70s, it wouldn’t be summer if we didn’t hold a Muscular Dystrophy Carnival in my neighborhood near the high school in Easton. A group of about 10 kids from my neighborhood looked forward to these backyard carnivals, to benefit “Jerry’s kids.” The Muscular Dystrophy Carnival kits came in the mail and included tickets, posters and an idea pamphlet to help us raise the funds to help find a cure for the disease. It was an important and noble cause. We had watched for hours the Jerry Lewis Telethons on the television and wanted to do our part to help the kids we saw in the images on the screen. We didn’t have many children in wheelchairs in our school, so it seemed particularly important to reach out to those who were unfortunate enough to be in that situation.

We used each other’s backyards to host the carnivals and rotated from house to house each year, based on the parents who agreed to having their card tables placed in the grass outside and their clotheslines strung with sheets, providing backdrops to the games we played. The O’Briant family’s yard was the most popular one in which to hold the carnivals. We each had aluminum wash tubs to contribute for bobbing for apples or for the floating duck game, where you picked a duck and got a prize based on the number on the bottom of the duck. There were magic shows, fortune-telling booths, and Kool-Aid stands. Everything required a ticket and the tickets cost about five cents each.

We assembled our props and got the carnival set up, borrowing from each other’s households. An alley connected our backyards, so it was easy to get things from one place to another. There was Kool-Aid to be stirred, cookies to be baked, and we had to get out the word so people would come to our carnival. The nearby

Elks Club pool provided the perfect place to share our news. Word spread among the kids when the carnival would take place. Of course, we counted on our mothers coming – they helped fill out our numbers and usually donated extra money.

The carnival started around 11 a.m. and went until 1 p.m., when the pool opened. We didn’t like to miss our pool time. We took our carnival jobs seriously, whether running a game, performing, or selling drinks or food. We knew the more we smiled and encouraged our patrons, the more money we would make. As the day wore on, however, so did we. The sun shone high overhead and the humidity rose. Some of the excitement waned and my friends and I grew weary.

Once we had drunk the Kool-Aid and eaten the cookies, we were ready to pack up the games, return the tables, chairs and props and head to the pool. Before we did, however, it was exciting to see how much money we had raised. If we made over ten dollars, we were excited! We weren’t old enough to have checkbooks, so one of our parents would deposit the money and write a check to be mailed to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We waited anxiously for the return “thank you” letter in the mail from Jerry. It confirmed our hard work had paid off and showed we did something meaningful with our summer. These backyard carnivals instilled in us a compassion for helping others, something that still rings true today as the annual appeal letters arrive in the mail. While I no longer get that personal letter from Jerry, I still find satisfaction in anticipating the “thank you” after my annual donations are made – a confirmation that we can still make a difference, no matter how small the gift.


Londonderry on the Tred Avon CEO Presents at National Aging Conference

Irma Toce, Londonderry on the Tred Avon CEO, presented at the Leading Age Annual Meeting and Expo in New Orleans, La. on October 31st. The event is the nation’s largest gathering of executives, experts and professionals in the aging services field and was attended by more than 7,000 individuals.

Toce’s presentation, “Creating an Amuse-Bouche Hospitality Culture,” focused on establishing and embracing a hospitality culture in senior living communities. Inspired by the “amuse-bouche” concept in fine dining where a chef will prepare a special surprise appetizer for guests, Londonderry has adopted this strategy across the entire organization as part of their commitment to a hospitality-focused approach. From time to time, residents will be presented with an unexpected gesture from various departments to enhance their experience at Londonderry.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to share our approach and success stories with other professionals in the field,” said Toce. “Hospitality is our philosophy at Londonderry. It means going above and beyond the expectations of our residents to provide an exceptional experience and create stronger feeling of community. This initiative has made a significant impact on the atmosphere at Londonderry, and I hope my fellow professionals can achieve similar success.”

Toce has been Londonderry’s CEO since 2014. Under her leadership, Londonderry has reached capacity and is currently expanding its facilities to accommodate additional demand for residences and recreational amenities. Toce has more than 20 years of executive level experience in the aging services field and is a well-respected expert and mentor in her community of professionals.

About Londonderry on the Tred Avon

Londonderry on the Tred Avon is an intimate residential cooperative community for adults ages 62 and over, offering a variety of housing options from convenient apartments to spacious cottages among 29 acres, including 1500 feet of waterfront shoreline. For more information, visit

Senior Nation: Preparing for One’s Second Life with Transition Training

While the goal for many who have migrated to the Eastern Shore for retirement is to enjoy a more relaxed phase in their lives, the reality for many former professionals and business executives is that they are experiencing a significant transition in their lives.

In many cases, these men and women who enjoyed career success in their work lives, or thrived as volunteer leaders in their former communities,  are now confronted with how to constructively spend the next three or four decades.

That is one of the reasons the Spy has been particularly interested in life coaching that focused on this kind transition.  And we, therefore, took special notice when Gerri Leder, a resident of St. Michaels, alerting us to her upcoming workshops in St. Michaels and Oxford in November to focus on this very issue.

And that was all it took for us to invite Gerri to the Bullitt House to talk about this process.

This video is approximately two minutes in length.

Midlife Transition Workshops in St. Michaels and Oxford are scheduled 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 9 at Etherton Hall, 103 Willow St., St. Michaels, or 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Nov 13 at the Oxford Community Center.  For more information go to here or call (443) 279-7901.

Londonderry on the Tred Avon Celebrates 25 Years

Londonderry on the Tred Avon celebrated its 25th Anniversary at a gala event on October 4th on the grounds of the Londonderry Manor House. More than 200 residents and community members attended to commemorate this important milestone in the life of the cooperative. Maryland State Senator Addie Eckardt and Delegate Johnny Mautz presented citations in honor of the event.

Established in 1992 as Londonderry Retirement Community on some of Talbot County’s most historic land, Londonderry on the Tred Avon has grown from its initial 15 individual cottages and 17 residents to a vibrant community of over 97 cottages, 26 apartments and more than 150 residents. The cooperative independent living retirement community is resident owned and operated and was the first of its kind on the Eastern Shore.

Pictured is Senator Addie Eckardt presenting a Maryland Senate Resolution to Londonderry. L-R: Londonderry CEO, Irma Toce, Easton Mayor, Robert Willey, Londonderry President, Pat Lewers, Talbot County Council Member, Al Silverstein, Senator Addie Eckardt, Talbot County Council Member, Chuck Callahan, Delegate Johnny Mautz and Talbot County Council Member, Jennifer Williams.

“Londonderry serves an important need in our community. The location, beautiful facility and grounds, and quality of staff really make it an ideal place to call home. It’s wonderful that they are celebrating their 25th anniversary,” said Al Silverstein, Talbot County Councilman and President of the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce.

“This event celebrated our past and future,” said Irma Toce, Londonderry CEO. “It was a special opportunity to reflect on our history as we move into an exciting time with the construction of our new Clubhouse slated to open next year. Big things are happening and it was important for us to celebrate where we began.”

The celebration, planned and designed by Kari Rider Events, featured food from Blue Heron Catering, live music from Guy and Dolls from Rockville, and dancing with Schafers Swing Dancers from Baltimore, Md.

“It was a very enjoyable party and we were thrilled to be invited,” said Judy Geoghegan, event guest. “The people (at Londonderry) are always friendly and so interesting to talk to and, we loved celebrating with them”,

About Londonderry on the Tred Avon

Londonderry on the Tred Avon is an intimate residential cooperative community for adults ages 62 and over, offering a variety of housing options from convenient apartments to spacious cottages among 29 acres, including 1500 feet of waterfront shoreline. For more information, visit

Spy Minute: Londonderry Toasts 25th Year Anniversary

It’s always a great moment when a respected community turns 25 years old. That quarter-century mark is one of the best indicators that the organization being celebrated has reached a point of maturity which promises a long healthy life to come, and there is no better example of this than Londonderry on the Tred Avon birthday bash this week.

While Londonderry has always had a sense of rock-solid stability, mainly since has been anchored by a 19th century Gothic Revival manor house, with now over 97 cottages and 26 apartments along the Tred Avon River, it is also true that for the first ten years of its existence, the then revolutionary new retirement community struggled against many odds to keep from closing, including revised partnership agreements, legal entanglements, and more recently, the unchartered waters that came with the Great Recession of 2008.

All of that is now ancient history as Londonderry is currently experiencing a waiting list for future residents, expanding its cottages and adding a large clubhouse this year.

As David Hazen said at the end of his comprehensive history of Londonderry noted, “Londonderry On The Tred Avon, nee The Retirement Community of Easton, Inc., can face the future knowing that it has been a great home for its residents of the past, while looking forward to being an even greater one for those of the future.”

The Spy was there a few nights ago to capture the scene as residents and friends gathered to toast Londonderry and its future.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Londonderry on the Tred Avon please go here


Profiles in Philanthropy: Trey Rider Joins Hospice’s Drag Race for the Women in his Life

While Trey Rider, a former lacrosse player, and now busy real estate executive at Meredith Fine Properties, might seem to be one of the most least likely candidates for Talbot Hospice’s annual crossdressing Drag Race, the more you listen to his rationale for becoming involved, you realize how surprisingly appropriate it is for him to don a dress and high heels on September 24.

For Trey, supporting Hospice started early. From elementary school forward, he would help his mother, Peggy Rider, in setting up the Tidewater Inn’s ballroom for the popular Festival of Trees fundraiser for Talbot Hospice. And while he didn’t have a full understanding of what Hospice was when they started their mother-son volunteer work, over the years the importance of that cause began to sink in.

That early awareness came in handy several years later when he and his wife, Kari, faced the early and profoundly sad passing of his close friend and mother-in-law, Jan Pinkerton. And it was during Jan’s care through Talbot Hospice that Trey was reacquainted with how important it is for end of life support.

The Spy talked to Trey at the Bullitt House last week about his decision to join the Hospice Drag Race and his effort to raise $10,000 for Talbot Hospice, or even more if he can find the right dress.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. To support Trey Rider in in Talbot Hospice Drag Race please go here.  Trey will also be guest bartending at Brasserie Brightwell on Thursday September the 21 starting at 5 pm.

Senior Nation: Finding the Unexpected at Londonderry

When Beatrice Conrad met Richard Robertson, finding a husband was the last thing she expected.

Bea and Dick Robertson are pictured in 2014 on a cruise to the Bahamas

An Easton native and resident of Londonderry on the Tred Avon since 2006, Bea spent her life as a nurse, serving with the United States Air Force for 12 years and in the Veterans Administration Hospital for 22. Dick, a pilot by trade and native of New Jersey, came to Londonderry six or seven years after her.

For a time, Bea and Dick never crossed paths — she attended dinners in Londonderry’s Tred Avon Tavern, while he favored lunch. But one evening, when a mutual friend brought Dick to dinner with him and the three shared a table, things changed.
“He started coming every night (after that),” Bea said. Shortly after they met, Dick asked Bea on a lunch date to Ocean City.

“I about fell out of the chair,” Bea said. “It took me by surprise, it really did.”

Not long after the first date, Bea and Dick were officially a couple — spending every day together enjoying each other’s company and doing quite a bit of traveling during their five years together. The couple visited Syracuse, New York; Williamsburg, Va.; and Hershey, Pa. — “and then the cruises started,” Bea said. They also bought a condo in Sarasota, Fla., splitting their months between Florida and Londonderry for about two years.

The next big step for Bea and Dick came on March 7 of this year, when Bea finally agree to marry Dick.

“He asked me over and over early on, but I’d been single all my life and I just couldn’t see any reason for it” Bea said. “Finally, when we got back this past February from Florida, he said ‘It’s time to get married,’ and I said, ‘Oh, what the hell; why not?’”

Ultimately, their marriage was to be short lived — Dick passed away on May 12 of this year. But Bea has no regrets.


“Even now that it’s more or less all over, I still feel that when he came to the table that first time … I was plucked up and taken out of my routine life,” Bea said. “I was in a different world — a very enjoyable world, I might say. “It was a very unexpected love story on my part. You just never expect that”

Londonderry on the Tred Avon is an intimate residential cooperative community for adults ages 62 and up, offering a variety of housing options from convenient apartments to spacious cottages among 29 acres, including 1500 feet of waterfront shoreline. For more information, visit

Senior Nation: Over Five Thousand Dollars Raised to Feed Talbot Seniors

Upper Shore Aging received a check this week for $5,644.00, from GIVE 65, a community service program of the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation. The money raised will be used to provide congregate meals for seniors in need at the Senior Center in St. Michaels, located at the YMCA. It is estimated that over one thousand meals will be provided because of this effort.

Receiving the check on behalf of Upper Shore Aging, Childlene Brooks said, “We’re just so grateful for the dozens of generous citizens here on the Eastern Shore who made these financial gifts and for Home Instead Senior Care’s Foundation for matching those gifts, dollar for dollar!” Gary Gunther, also with Upper Shore Aging, joined Brooks in receiving the check from local Home Instead Senior Care Franchise Owners, Ben & Jenna Marchi who were on hand to present it. Gunther echoed Brooks comments and added, “Because of this effort, seniors who might otherwise go hungry will have these needed meals, and our kind neighbors here on the Eastern Shore can take pride knowing they played a role in it.

The online giving event earns its name from the period of time, 65 hours, from July 11 to 13, that donors could give gifts to be matched by the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation. Upper Shore Aging was selected to participate this year, in the event whose goal is to help nonprofit organizations serving seniors raise funds online and increase awareness. Ninety nonprofits from 36 states and the District of Columbia participated this year.

“GIVE65 allows us to help our seniors while raising awareness of the critical need for private sector partners to play active roles in their communities and financially assist the programs and services that so many seniors rely on,” said Ben Marchi, the Franchise Owner of Home Instead Senior Care, whose office is in Talbot County.

The 65-hour GIVE65 Event began at 7 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, July 11 and concluded at midnight on July 13. The virtual event is an initiative of the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation® and the nation’s first and only crowd-fundraising platform focused exclusively on helping nonprofit organizations across the country raise funds for programs and services benefiting seniors.

To learn more about GIVE65, visit All donations are 100 percent tax deductible in the United States.


Bayleigh Chase Offering “Family is Forever” Program in September

Integrace Bayleigh Chase, a forward-thinking life plan community based in Easton, will recognize National Assisted Living Week September 10-16 with a week of special programming to celebrate the community’s assisted living residents, their loved ones, and the Bayleigh Chase colleagues who care for them.

Established by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), National Assisted Living Week is an annual observation that provides a unique opportunity to recognize the role assisted living plays in caring for America’s seniors. The theme for this year’s National Assisted Living Week is “Family is Forever,” inspired by a quote from poet Maya Angelou:

“Family isn’t always blood, it’s the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.”

In honor of this year’s theme, Bayleigh Chase has planned a week of engaging programs and activities that celebrate familial bonds – both traditional and non-traditional.

On Sunday, September 10, in celebration of Grandparents Day, residents will enjoy coffee and pastries, as well as special readings about the importance of grandparents or grandparent-like figures for younger generations.

On Monday, September 11, colleagues will help residents celebrate their family trees by creating a triptych-style three panel tree with family photos. Colleagues will also lead residents in an activity to draw their own family trees.

On Tuesday, September 12, the residents will enjoy animal therapy as the Talbot Humane Society brings kittens for a visit.

On Wednesday, September 13, colleagues will lead residents and their families in an art therapy program as they create their own family portraits.

On Thursday, September 14, colleagues, residents and their loved ones will come together for a family cookout, as well as a discussion about family traditions.

On Friday, September 15, the residents and colleagues will enjoy friendly competition in a game of “Family Feud,” incorporating Bayleigh Chase’s iN2L (It’s Never 2 Late) interactive computer system.

On Saturday, September 16, residents will be treated to a special musical performance by a local pianist.

“We always look forward to National Assisted Living Week, as it gives us the opportunity to create new and fun experiences for our assisted living residents,” said Louise Montgomery, Director of Recreation and Engagement, Integrace Bayleigh Chase. “This year’s programming is all about reinforcing the meaningful connections in their lives, including their families, as well as the colleagues and friends who have become like family within our community.”

Located on a 35-acre campus in historic Easton, Bayleigh Chase is a not-for-profit life plan community that affords residents a lifestyle of flexibility and choice to live life on their own terms. Bayleigh Chase offers independent living options in its villas, cottages and apartment homes, as well as a continuum of supportive living services, including assisted living, memory support, outpatient and short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing and diagnostic and treatment support through the Samuel and Alexia Bratton Memory Clinic. For more information, please call 410-763-7167 or visit