Jennifer Stratton became the new executive director of Starling at Nocatee on April 1. She has worked in long-term care/senior housing for most of her career, spending time in several states and opening multiple communities. She and her family live in Nocatee.
Can you please briefly tell us about your background?
I am originally from Iowa and attended Cedarville College in Ohio and then the University of Kansas in Lawrence in a master’s program. We lived in Wisconsin for 15 years prior to moving to Southeast Georgia eight years ago. I spent most of that time on Saint Simons Island with Marsh’s Edge Senior Retirement Community, and more recently, Thrive at Frederica. I was fortunate several years ago to open The Windsor at Ortega here in Jacksonville, so I am familiar with the Jacksonville market.
I currently am Florida Core-trained, a certified director of assisted living and a board-certified instructor with the National Institute of Dementia Educators. I have family members with both Alzheimer’s and Dementia, so I feel that the more I can understand the process, the better resource I can be. I have been active with the Alzheimer’s Association in Southeast Georgia, as well as a volunteer in fundraising for Coastal Georgia Honor Flight, a nonprofit honoring veterans.
With our children both now in college, we are empty nesters. I was looking for a new opportunity and was thrilled to move to Nocatee and become part of the Starling community!
What’s the story of Starling at Nocatee? Can you please walk us through its development?
Starling at Nocatee is a multi-phased senior living community located in the heart of Nocatee. We are across from Nocatee’s central amenity center and down the street from the Nocatee Town Center.
The first phase of Starling at Nocatee is a premier assisted living and memory care community that opened December 2017. The second phase is a luxurious, full-service independent living community opening in the coming months that will feature unparalleled amenities (state-of-the-art fitness studio, yoga lawn, a saltwater, wade-in pool, restaurant style dining at multiple venues, full service bistro and bar, spa and salon, multipurpose room for movies, social and events, pet park, arts and crafts studio, game room, and much more). The community features expansive apartment homes with high-end finishes, and first-class, personalized services. Even more, Starling at Nocatee is a rental community that doesn’t require steep, up-front entry fees, and our residents have access to Nocatee’s world-class amenities.
What do you enjoy most about your role as executive director?
The opportunity to lead a team that serves people and impacts lives is rewarding. We make a difference every day serving people and building relationships. We do this with our team members in learning what support they need to succeed, with our residents in getting to know each of them and learning what is important to them, and with the involved family members in finding out what gives them peace of mind. There is never a dull moment, or a mundane day. The personalities, community needs and challenges bring variety to each new day and keep it exciting.
What is most challenging about your job/industry?
Over the past three decades, I have watched the industry change significantly. So often what our elders envision in assisted living and memory care options is not what is inside our community today. We all picture in our minds what we can relate to, so if you had a parent or grandparent in a nursing home back in the 80s or 90s, it was a completely different world and expectation. I find that is one of our biggest challenges. The modern independent living, assisted living and memory care communities are not institutional, and are well-equipped with unmatched amenities that you find in a high-end resort. If you don’t walk inside the lobby of any of these communities, your mind pictures the old, not what today’s senior housing options offer.
I would encourage anyone with aging parents, or a senior themselves, to stop by senior communities with open houses, and to intentionally educate yourself so that if/when the time comes, you can make your own decisions and not have a physician or a family member make it for you because you didn’t look ahead and consider that life doesn’t always go as we plan.
What do you enjoy most about living in the area?
I have had a lot of fun exploring the local businesses and community. It is never-ending for me. I enjoy the nature preserve, the beautiful landscaping and trees, and the overall beauty of our community. I enjoy time with my family at the restaurants where you can sit out by the water. The endless options for great food are fantastic; our community is full of gems that are a delight to discover. The benefits of being close to things in Jacksonville but feeling like a small community far removed is perfect for this small-town midwestern girl.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my family and cherish the time we have together. My husband is a general manager in the hotel industry, and my two children are both college students. Keegan is a senior at Georgia Southern University studying history and public administration. Rielly Grace is a sophomore attending Coastal College of Georgia and studying health/nutritional science.
I also like to bake, host gatherings of friends and family, volunteer and travel. I was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Ireland in March, so I look forward to more travel adventures in the years ahead.
Edited by Jon Blauvelt