When Friendship Village of South Hills opened in 1984, Linda McCaig was on staff as its first activities director.

“Before our opening, the other directors were busy researching which high-tech computer or the best bus or food system to purchase,” she recalled. “I had the most important task of finding the biggest and the best bingo machine.”

On Oct. 22, she helped to celebrate the Upper St. Clair retirement community’s 35th anniversary in conjunction with a major milestone: the completion of a two-year, $39.5 million expansion and redevelopment project.

Now Friendship Village’s resident association president – she also worked in marketing for more than a quarter of a century before moving in – McCaig participated in cutting the ceremonial ribbon for an addition featuring 50 assisted-living apartments, 32 memory-support suites, three distinct dining venues and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

“With the opening of our new building today, I believe we’re securing our future in the marketplace, and I’m very excited about the opportunities we also have for ourselves should we need assisted living or memory care,” she said. “These are benefits we weren’t expecting.”

Joining McCaig as a speaker for the ceremony was Dr. Sarah Hamm, senior vice president of successful aging and health services for Lifespace Communities Inc., Friendship Village’s Iowa-based parent company.

“As you walk through and you tour the community this afternoon, I think you will all agree that this does not look like a typical health center or hospital in the United States, and that was very purposeful. We did not want this to be a medical model with any heavy nursing focus,” she explained. “We very much wanted this to be a very comfortable residential, homelike setting that focuses on social engagement and social interaction.”

Hamm spoke about the growing need for memory care services, noting that Alzheimer’s disease impacts more than 400,000 individuals in Pennsylvania, alone.

“Research indicates that about every 66 seconds in the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” she added.

As such, Lifespace leadership has planned accordingly for Friendship Village.

“We have invested in a wide variety of technology to improve resident care and quality of life,” Hamm said. “We have done extensive training with all of the team members who will be working in this community, not only in the nursing department. Your culinary team members, housekeeping, maintenance: Everyone who works in this community and touches the lives of our residents has undergone specialty training.”

Bryan Welty, Friendship Village of South Hills executive director, discussed what the retirement community now has to offer.

“These new levels of living will provide residents and their families greater peace of mind, knowing that Friendship Village is now committed to the full continuum of care, and it’s all on-site,” he said.

Attending the ceremony were numerous residents who were able to participate in various rounds of ribbon cuttings, after McCaig was the first to use the scissors.

She recalled the topic of discussion at one of her meetings with fellow staff members back in 1984.

“What could we do to make Friendship Village live up to its name? And you know, it’s really, really exciting to see that actually happened.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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