Pathway to Living news room

Our News Room

Victory Centre Seniors “ON-THE-GO” Art Exhibit Is Rolling Through The South Suburbs On Their Bus

South suburban Victory Centre seniors armed with paintbrushes and some inspiration from a modern day abstract artist, painted a colorful mural to add “bling” and personality to the sides of the bus that transports them.

Artist from Victory Centre communities in Country Club Hills, Park Forest, Joliet and River Oaks put their personal stamp on the bus by creating custom-artwork for the sides and back of the bus that sends a positive message to others about the type of active and creative older adults who live in their towns. 

 “Not only did the residents enjoy getting together to paint the banner and create art for a purpose, but now they are proud to ride around town in a bus that showcases their artwork for all to see!” says Nicole Bartecki, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Pathway to Living, owner and operator of the Victory Centre supportive living communities.  

 For the bus’s design, the seniors mimicked the work of modern abstract painter Chris Johanson. Inspired by his color field technique, they used all of the primary colors to create a vibrant, eye-catching abstract banner. The senior artists can be seen in a photo on the back of the bus. The bus art project stems from Victory Centre communities’ signature ArtPath program, which provides regular and ongoing opportunities for beginning and experienced artists-at-heart to express themselves in meaningful ways through various art modalities.

Older Rescue Dog Gets a “New Lease on Life”: Labrador Retires with Victory Centre of Vernon Hills Seniors

Teddy, an 11-year-old Labrador mix, moved to Victory Centre of Vernon Hills, a supportive living community for seniors, in August and is adjusting well. Victory Centre residents and staff adopted Teddy from Fortunate Pooches and Lab Rescue.

Pathway to Living, the owner and operator of Victory Centre of Vernon Hills and other senior living communities, encourages dog adoptions because pets create a home-like environment and bring many health benefits to their people. Dozens of older dogs throughout Chicago and the suburbs have “retired” in comfort thanks to Pathway’s See Spot Retire program, which offers older dogs like Teddy new chances at life with seniors who get to share the benefits of pet ownership.

When adopting shelter dogs, many people often overlook the older pooches in favor of puppies. Not so for the seniors at Victory Centre of Vernon Hills who find that Teddy, the older, more mature dog, is a perfect match for their retirement lifestyle. Teddy was the first dog they met, and they picked him on the spot.  

“We all knew he was the perfect dog for our community right away,” said Mirka Biegunska, Community Life Manager.  “He loves the residents, and they love him!” Although they thought Teddy was about 7 years old, a veterinarian told them he’s closer to 11! Now residents give Teddy a naptime break each afternoon, so he can keep up with them.

Not as Old As I Thought I Was

Georgia Hansen remembers camping when she was 10 as a Campfire Girl, but that's a long time ago. She is 85 now and living at Oak Hill Supportive Living Community on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach.

Pathway to Living, which manages Oak Hill, takes elderly campers to Sunrise Lake Campground in suburban Bartlett. On Aug. 19, the organization took about 30 seniors from around the Chicago area to the campground, including Hansen and Ron Jaworski, 78, another Oak Hill resident.

It's part of Pathway's Camp Viva! program.

"Camp Viva! challenges the way we think about aging," Pathway's Lynn Bunnell said in a news release.

If that was the goal, it appeared to have worked for Hansen, a Chicago native. She said she wasn't sure whether she could handle camping again, noting she is hard of hearing and legally blind.

"I found out I'm not as old as I thought I was," she said.

She and the campers stayed overnight, sleeping on cots.

"I found the cot comfortable," Hansen said. "I had a heck of a time getting out of it. Getting in it was no problem."

Read the full story

Pathway to Living Earns an ALFA “Best of the Best” Award for Innovative Care Partnerships that Keep Seniors Well

Pathway to Living’s VIVA! Plus coordinated care model has earned a 2014 “Best of the Best” Award from the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) for its network of select preferred providers who serve as an extension of Pathway’s residential care team to provide truly synchronized care that means better care for residents. This national award honors programs that are advancing business excellence in the senior living field.
 “With VIVA! Plus we are able to offer a seamless, coordinated care model focused on wellness and keeping our residents well, and having access to care in their homes and really minimizing opportunities to leave that home for the hospital,” said Maria Oliva, Pathway’s Chief People Officer, who received the honor at the ALFA 2014 Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, from ALFA CEO Rick Grimes. 

VIVA! Plus connects Pathway residents to trusted providers such as physicians, skilled nursing providers, therapists, social service professionals, psychiatric nurses, pharmacists and hospice care providers. Each partner is committed to taking a team approach. Since VIVA! Plus began, residents are more likely to make and keep appointments. There is less opportunity for missed diagnoses or confusion about care plans, and medication management is more effective, Oliva said.  In 2013, Pathway reported a 33 percent decrease in 30-day hospital readmissions and an 8 percent decrease in the number of hospitalizations. Pathway also saw a 7 percent decrease in falls and a 4 percent decrease in falls resulting in injuries.

Program submissions were judged for their uniqueness in the industry, innovative use of ideas from outside the industry,  impact on residents, their families, staff and operations,  embrace of industry core principles, the strength of quantitative and qualitative results and strategic vision. 

About Pathway to Living


Pathway to Living is a privately held, Chicago-based senior living company managed by an experienced team that is dedicated to improving the lives of older adults. The innovative, award-winning company develops, owns, operates, and/or manages market-rate and mixed-income independent living and assisted living communities in the Midwest. 

About the Assisted Living Federation of America


The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) is the largest national association exclusively dedicated to professionally-managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the seniors and families they serve. Since 1990, ALFA has advocated for choice, accessibility, independence, dignity and quality of life for all seniors. ALFA’s programs promote business and operational excellence through education, research, publications, professional networking and online tools designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurism in the field of senior living.

Oak Hill’s “Green” Efforts Receive National Recognition

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL, was one of only two senior communities in the nation to be recognized by the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) for being “green.”

Oak Hill received an honorable mention in the 2013 ICAA Innovators Green Award category for its green construction and livable community. A leader in green building for senior living, Oak Hill was the first Assisted Living community in the United States to meet ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ criteria and earn “Gold” Certification from the National Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council.

The green building materials and practices used in the construction of Oak Hill provide a more comfortable, healthier living experience for its residents who are senior citizens as well as a positive environmental legacy for future generations.

Southland Seniors Delight in Afternoon at Lyric Opera

Seniors from Calumet City’s Victory Centre of River Oaks enjoyed a sneak peek of the heartbreaking tragedy, “Madama Butterfly,” as guests of the Lyric Opera. The complimentary performance was thanks to an annual Lyric community engagement program that invites underserved Chicago area seniors to attend a dress rehearsal.

“There’s nothing that we of Lyric enjoy more than welcoming seniors into our opera house. And having them experience Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ with an all-star cast only heightens our satisfaction. For Lyric and for the Victory Centre seniors, Friday’s dress rehearsal was a very memorable event,” said Jack Zimmerman. Subscriber Relations Manager, Lyric Opera of Chicago.
From life-long opera aficionados to first timers, the thirteen Victory Centre seniors studied the Lyric’s online Madama Butterfly audio commentary and hopped a Victory Centre bus for their afternoon at the opera.

“I’m delighted to get the chance to go to the opera again,” says Victory Centre resident Ruth Buckner, 78, a retired licensed private duty nurse, who many years ago regularly escorted a former client to the opera.

Singing has always been a passion for one Victory Centre resident Irma Coleman who studied voice at Chicago’s Musical College back in the 1940s. She did not pursue a musical career, but listening to opera music became her favorite pastime. “I love the stories and the music,” she says.

At 70, Eddie Bailey, one of six seniors who will experience the opera for the first time, is looking forward to expanding his horizons. He jokes saying, “I’m such a good singer, I expected that they’d probably invite me to go up on stage!” 

“Older adults can gain many wonderful benefits from pursuing new experiences and reliving old ones,” said Joy Shields, Victory Centre of River Oaks Executive Director. “Thanks to Lyric Opera’s initiative, we’re delighted to be able to facilitate this experience for our residents.” 

Victory Centre of River Oaks, located at 1370 Ring Road, Calumet City, IL, is a Pathway to Living Supportive Living community that provides assistance for area seniors by offering quality residential accommodations, amenities, life-enrichment programs and support services at affordable prices.

Chicago Tribune

Oak Hill Supportive Living Community Celebrates 1st Anniversary

One year after the hard work of constructing, landscaping, and decorating the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community at 76 East Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, IL, it was time to celebrate. And that’s exactly what the more than 250 attendees, including residents, their families, staff, dignitaries, development team members, and owners did on Tuesday, September 10, with champagne, toasts, hors d’oeuvres, awards, speeches, dinner and, of course, cake.

There was much to celebrate. In 2012, the development became the first senior housing community in the country to meet the International Code Council (ICC) 700 National Green Building Standard™ criteria and earn the “Gold” certification from the National Association of Home Buildings (NAHB) and the ICC, enabling ownership to pass on the cost savings to tenants.

In August, the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition announced the winners of its annual Photo and Testimonial Contest, awarding first prize for a photo of Oak Hill resident, June Sphen, helping Sebastian Reyes read at the ongoing program Oak Hill has with the kindergartners at the Early Education Center in Round Lake, IL.

Awards were presented to Oak Hill’s Elaine Brown, Audrey Roettiger and Lucia Mazulis whose referrals resulted in new residents. Oak Hill’s state-of-the-art theater with its twinkling-stars ceiling, comfy chairs and popcorn machine served as the venue to introduce a new promotional video illustrating life in Round Lake Beach.

Among the guests was nine-year-old Caleb Vackar, grandson of resident, the Rev. Lynn Vackar, and his father, Neil Vackar of Engleside. “We visit Oak Hill too many times to count. I like all the dinners, but my favorite is the prime rib,” said Caleb. He also likes the fact that all the activities at Oak Hill are well planned and enjoys the walking path, the game room, bingo, and the playground. In addition to their regular visits, the Vackar family also attends special events such as the anniversary party. On September 18, the family and their friends had their own special event when they celebrated Lynn’s 75th birthday at Oak Hill.

Also in attendance were Dorothy and Frank Lutchen, who have been married for 65 years. They moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Oak Hill in July. When asked why they decided to move, Frank, 91, answered, “I didn’t decide. My boys did.” According to Frank, he had lost his strength, and his wife could not take care of him. “The boys helped us a lot and would even deliver a week’s supply of sandwiches,” said Frank, a former Chicago police officer.

“I like the routine at Oak Hill the best. All the meals are on time, and I don’t have to cook. It’s also more fun to live here – lots of people to talk to,” said Dorothy, 88.

Dominick Salvato, 81, who was a dental technician for 53 years, lost his wife at Christmastime last year. “We were so happy living in our home, but when she died, it was like all heaven broke loose,” he said. “My son introduced me to Oak Hill. I moved here in August and have liked it ever since. It’s a great place to hang out. All the people here seem very happy. All of my new friends are elderly, but then, so am I, although I don’t feel like it,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“One of the biggest advantages to living at Oak Hill is the social life. Our goal is to make sure nobody feels lonely or left out,” said Martin F. Jablonski with Landmark Realty & Development, one of the Principals of the Oak Hill ownership entity, Round Lake Beach, L.P., along with Principals, Mark Lambert, CCIM, SIOR, CPM, President, and Craig Whitehead, CCIM, CPM, Executive Vice President, both with Hoffman Estates, IL-based The Crown Group, Inc.

“We offer a wide spectrum of programs and encourage the participation of our residents,” he said. One example is “Walk Across Illinois,” a free health and fitness program, instituted in 2012 by the State of Illinois to get people moving and improve overall health. The challenge is to walk the 167 miles across Illinois, which is equivalent to walking from the Mississippi River in Rock Island to the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago. “Our residents can complete the challenge right here at Oak Hill using our walking path that surrounds a beautiful native prairie. They log in the number of feet they walk online at, and when they complete 167 miles, they receive a certificate of achievement from the state,” said Jablonski, who points to this and many other programs, designed to provide Oak Hill residents with experiences rather than just activities. 

View the story as it was run in the Daily Herald

Seniors Become

Wedding bells will soon be ringing for Pat Hensley and Dawn Morgan of New Lenox. On the wedding day, July 27th, Pat will head to work at Victory Centre of South Chicago, where he has been the Maintenance Manager for two and a half years. This day Pat will pay meticulous attention to the cleanliness of the grounds, as his workplace is the same place where he will marry his bride.

“I’m excited,” said Pat, who has been engaged for seven years. It is indeed the long engagement that led to his boss’s kind suggestion –or more like insistence—to once and for all set a date.

“I met Dawn at a Christmas party and knew the two made a great couple,” said Jean Alexander-Whitaker, the Executive Director at Victory Centre of South Chicago.

“Jean sat me down and said we’re setting a date today,” Pat said. “You’ve been telling me for over two years that you’re getting married, so let’s do it.” On a calendar, Jean pointed to Saturday, July 27, 2013, and it was done.

Discussing the wedding plans, Pat revealed that he didn’t have many family members left and felt like the senior residents and his co-workers were like his family now. “That really touched me,” said Jean, who added, “if you feel like we’re your family, then let’s have the wedding here.”

A Community Affair 
Pat and Dawn gladly accepted the generous offer, and the wedding plans went into full swing. A “Guess Who’s Getting Married?” contest ran in the community’s newsletter. The residents were excited to learn it was Pat and even more delighted that he chose to have the wedding at the community. “They just couldn’t believe it,” Jean said.

Soon, the entire community caught wedding fever. The bride-to-be chose the color purple and folks ran with it. Julia Milne, Life Enrichment Manager, printed invitations on her computer and is baking and decorating the wedding cake.

Residents are busy making favors for the guests, which will be a “sweet” surprise to the bride and groom. They are chocolate molded candies in the shape of intertwined hands. Residents are lovingly wrapping them up and tying them with ribbon. Another resident has agreed to be the greeter and will be in charge of making sure all attendees sign the guest book.

The nuptials will take place at 2 p.m. in the community’s outdoor courtyard by the labyrinth, a fitting symbol of eternity for the couple. The ceremony will be officiated by Pastor Green, a local minister who says weekly prayers at Victory Centre of South Chicago and has been a spiritual support for Pat.

Together, Pat and Dawn have seven children and one grandchild. All but one, who couldn’t make it, will be standing up at the wedding with the guys in kakis and purple polo shirts and the girls in purple sundresses. With two children in college, the workplace wedding venue, is also a budget friendly option, said Pat, who is supplying beef and chicken for the party, drinks, outdoor tents and a DJ. Pat who twirls around with the residents on a regular basis wanted to make sure there would be music for dancing. 

“I’ve had a humongous wedding before, but Dawn has never been married. I want to make this memorable and special for her,” Pat said. And apparently so does Victory Centre of South Chicago’s 100 residents and Pat’s co-workers!

Victory Centre of South Chicago, a Supportive Living and Senior Apartment Community, provides an enriched and engaged lifestyle and supportive services for its older adult residents. Victory Centre of South Chicago features newer, private apartments with call systems, three meals a day, support services as needed, activities and outings and other social opportunities at an affordable monthly rate.

Oak Hill Seniors and Kindergarteners Make Great Reading Team

Chances are that when June Sphen, Lillian Ramirez and Olive Merchant went to school, they learned to read with the help of the McGuffey Readers, the best-known series of books in the 19th century. But today, they were among the seniors who are helping the five-year-olds from the Early Education Center in Round Lake, IL, learn to read once a month at the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL.McGuffey Readers, the best-known series of books in the 19th century. But today, they were among the seniors who are helping the five-year-olds from the Early Education Center in Round Lake, IL, learn to read once a month at the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, IL.

The program was started by Early Education Center teacher, Lana Ryba, and Shannon Wagner, Community Life Manager at Oak Hill. “Lana and I think this is a win-win program. The kids get mentors who read to them and listen while they read, and our residents get to enjoy the company of children and feel a sense of accomplishment. Actually there is another big win — everybody has fun,” said Wagner.

Oak Hill is operated by Des Plaines, IL-based Pathways Senior Living, LLC, whose operating philosophy is called VIVA™, which means ‘Long Live!’ “VIVA is at the heart of everything we do here. In our social programs, we want our residents to have experiences rather than just activities, and helping children learn to read is a great experience,” said Wagner.

At 10:30 AM on the day of a recent reading session, 26 excited and chattering kindergarteners filed into the Community Room at Oak Hill carrying brightly colored paper flowers they had made for the seniors who were waiting for them. After a brief instruction from Ryba, they dispersed into activity groups. Some went to tables set up with crayons, colored pencils and work sheets designed to help them print words, spell words and color in line-art characters.

Others curled up on couches with their seniors, presented them with flowers and began reading. If they couldn’t read a word or pronounced it wrong, their mentors gently assisted them. When the session was over, the kids formed a line and filed out of Oak Hill, waiving goodbyes to their new friends.

Driver taking seniors on ‘World Tour’ in Round Lake Beach

In February, when Robert Oliver, took the job as a bus driver for Des Plaines-based Pathway to Living, LLC, he never dreamed he’d be taking residents on a world tour. But that’s exactly what he is doing once a month at the new Oak Hill Supportive Living Community in Round Lake Beach, one of the communities the company operates.

Pathway to Living recently instituted a program called “World Tour,” which focuses on learning about traditions, language and foods of different states and countries.
I just love working for this company, because I believe I have finally found my niche. I am doing what I do best: driving, cooking and caregiving. My mother always taught me to be compassionate and patient. Those lessons help me work with my seniors. And to tell the truth, when she died, I guess I was looking for a replacement mother. At Oak Hill, I found lots of them. Perhaps I can become a replacement son to them, too."

Read the full article