Meadowood just feels different than other retirement communities. That’s the perspective of Kevin York, a local photographer who brings his camera to Meadowood regularly to capture everyday life and special moments.
“This place has a different vibe,” he says. “The residents contribute a lot, they’re very active.” From the first time Kevin visited, he noticed that “everyone seemed very happy,” which hasn’t been his experience in some other communities he’s visited.
Kevin began photographing Meadowood after John Kotsatos, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, and Becky Anhorn, Wellness Director, saw a gritty, real image on Kevin’s website. The black and white shot, entitled “Junkyard Barbie,” spoke to them. “What they wanted was someone who was going to portray their people and their story in a manner that was real — that’s what drew them to me,” Kevin says.
Kevin and his camera have been visiting Meadowood regularly since early this year. “My approach was, ‘Let me make friends with these residents and gain their trust — let me become part of the community,’” he explains. “I even went out and played softball with these guys. When people see me with a camera, they’re interested and want me to photograph them.”
Here are a few of Kevin’s favorite moments and photos at Meadowood:
- Vaccine Day. “The very first day I was there, I shot pictures of people getting the vaccine. “My favorite photo from that day was of me and a veteran,” Kevin says. “I captured him showing me a picture of him and his wife, in which he was wearing his uniform,” he says. “I also noticed this guy, Paul (Nordeman, Meadowood’s CEO); he’s walking around talking to people, laughing with them and just hanging out with everyone. That’s been a common theme. Paul is always out-and-about engaging with the residents and employees. He’s very down-to-earth and approachable. With Meadowood, I really felt a genuine caring — the whole thing really starts from the top, and it trickles down to the employees.”
- Senior Prom. This memorable August event recreated a no-holds-barred high school prom, including fancy dress, decorations and dancing. “It was just fun,” Kevin says. “We did a red carpet. The residents all voted for the Prom King and Queen, and when they actually won, the pictures of them were really great.”
- Hot Rod in the Hills. Photographing a resident with his Chrysler 300 was another of Kevin’s top Meadowood experiences. “[This resident] graduated high school in 1955 and this was his dream car. After many years of hard work, he was able to purchase it,” Kevin explains. “For the photographs, we drove out to a place we could get up high and see some vistas.”
- Dream Flights for World War II Vets. In association with Dream Flights, Meadowood created a unique experience for three resident World War II veterans: Each took to the skies in an open-cockpit biplane. Kevin noted the veterans’ courage and determination; one resident was in a wheelchair, but still went up in the plane. “You should have seen the smiles and the joy,” he says, admitting, “I shed a few tears myself.”
- Staff-Resident Water Volleyball. Compared to some other Meadowood happenings, a volleyball match wasn’t that unusual, but the outcome did surprise Kevin. “It is interesting that the residents were beating the staff,” Kevin says. “They were going all in.”
- 100th Birthday Celebration. “It was a resident’s 100th birthday, and the team got a car and drove her around the complex, followed by a caravan of vehicles, with balloons and whistles and cheering,” Kevin recalls. “That was pretty amazing.”
- Green Thumbs. Kevin loved the shoot he did with resident gardeners in the Meadowood Victory Garden. “The images of the garden are a lot of fun,” he said. For Kevin, the flowers and vegetables were beautiful, but even more important, “it was about people being proud of what they did.” His favorite garden shot came on a day when residents opened their private gardens for tours. “One lady, Mrs. Brown, she was very proud of her garden,” he says. “I did a portrait of her out in front of it.”
A Snapshot of Life at Meadowood
Personally, Kevin has learned a lot about Meadowood in his time shooting 5,000 or more images of the community. “It’s not just a place to go to retire. It’s a place to go where you don’t have to worry about cutting the grass and raking the leaves, but you can still have a life; you have freedom at Meadowood,” he says. And you also have peace of mind. “If anything would happen, somebody’s right there,” he explains.
Kevin has been published worldwide and won numerous awards for photography. One of his favorite categories is sports. “I’ve met all my boyhood heroes through auto racing photography,” he said. Currently, Kevin is working on a project about cricket, and he just completed two projects for Philadelphia magazine, one with John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and the other about the Lenape Tribe.
And, then there is his work photographing life at Meadowood, where he definitely feels something special.
“I just feel there is a vibe of love here,” Kevin says. “Again, it just comes from the top. It’s really the management and team members. They should be given a salute because they’ve definitely created an atmosphere where you don’t feel like you’re in a retirement community, you’re in a place where you can do what you want to do. People love this place, that’s all I ever hear.”
To learn more about Meadowood’s fascinating events, click here. To see more of Kevin’s photos, click here.