Erickson Retreat Aims to Mentor Retirees

Erickson Retreat Aims to Mentor Retirees

Industry mogul John Erickson has expanded his seniors housing empire once again. The latest project: Point Lookout, a retreat in Maine where retirees and soon-to-be retirees can get help with planning the next stage of their lives.

The Erickson Foundation, a nonprofit group separate from Erickson Retirement Communities, bought the 380-acre Point Lookout conference center on Penobscot Bay last December and is converting it into a retirement resource center.

Originally built by MBNA America Bank as a corporate meeting place, the center had been closed for the last three years. Listed for sale at $26.4 million, the property was sold to Erickson for $12 million, according to Jack Driscoll, town administrator for the City of Northport, Maine.

Erickson reopened Point Lookout April 1. The property features two meeting centers, one atop Ducktrap Mountain, and 106 cabins to accommodate about 200 people. The property also includes a fitness center, gym, bowling alley, tennis courts and hiking trails.

"Point Lookout is very much a part of John Erickson's desire to change the perspective of senior living in America and improve quality of life," says Rick Grindrod president of developing enterprises for Erickson Retirement Communities, based in Catonsville, Md. "It will be a national destination and resource center for the advancement of positive aging."

Point Lookout will offer programs and classes about retirement and general interest topics. Visitors can stay for a day or longer.

So-called life coaches will be available to help visitors assess their personal situation and then develop goals for the next stage of life.

Visitors can enjoy outdoor recreation such as hiking and kayaking during their stay. The conference center will also be available for outside groups to rent.

Erickson is developing a curriculum in conjunction with the University of Maine, and other schools, according to Neal Williamson, director of marketing and public relations at Point Lookout.

Williamson envisions classes on everything from financial planning to anthropology. One-day programs should be ready by this fall. Longer programs are slated to start next spring.

One program being offered is the Viva Initiative, already available at several Erickson communities. Seniors are screened for health problems to develop wellness regimens that improve health. "The idea is to give the person a holistic view of where they are and their opportunities to improve," says Williamson.

An operator of 23 retirement communities, Erickson's goal is to become the most trusted name in aging. John and Nancy Erickson established the Erickson Foundation in 1998 to focus on research and best practices related to active aging.

The foundation runs another retreat property, NorthBay Camp, an environmental education center on Chesapeake Bay for young students.

Erickson keeps expanding its reach into the mature market. It runs Retirement Living TV, a cable network seen in New England, the Mid-Atlantic Coast, and in Denver.

Erickson Health, the health care arm of Erickson, offers insurance plans, home care and on-site care for residents. The group will open its first clinic in August for seniors outside the walls of an Erickson campus.

Four years ago, John Erickson donated $5 million to start the Erickson School at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs on aging issues, business management and public policy. Point Lookout will also serve as a satellite campus for the Erickson School.

Point Lookout won't be used to drive business to the Erickson communities, Williamson says. No property brochures will be stacked in the conference center's lobby. The programs will be marketed, to a degree, to current Erickson residents, Williamson says.

Point Lookout will be marketed as a meeting place for the hundreds of groups that focus on aging, says Williamson. "We hope to make this a national center for issues on aging."

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