Having opened Sept. 1 for independent living residents, Vitalia Active Adult Community at Solon is the city’s newest senior residence, boasting 150 units of independent living, assisted living and memory care.
Vitalia Solon’s Executive Director Debbie Cirillo said assisted living and memory care residents may be able to move in starting the first week of November, postponed from its original date of Oct. 1 due to unfinished construction.
“It’s very exciting to see residents getting to know each other, moving in and creating a lifestyle,” Cirillo said. “They’re really pioneers, the first group of people that are moving in throughout September and October. We’re creating a lifestyle, and we’re doing it together with the residents that are moving in.”
Vitalia Solon, located at 6050 Kruse Drive in Solon, is developed by Solon-based Omni Senior Living and professionally managed by Arrow Senior Living, according to its website. Omni Senior Living has developed five other Vitalia senior living communities in the Greater Cleveland/Akron-area in Copley, Strongsville, Seven Hills, Stow and Westlake. Two additional Vitalia senior communities are coming soon to North Olmsted and North Royalton.
The development of Vitalia Solon was made possible following site rezoning approval in the May 2018 primary election, according to a news release. Construction started in March 2019.
“I think Vitalia Solon is different, A.) because of its location, B.) because of the design of the community and C.) because of the people that work in the community and that are choosing to live in the community,” Cirillo said. “Anybody can build a beautiful building, but it’s all about the lifestyle, and the people that live there and the people that work there. I think we’ve created something very special we’re just beginning, so it’s exciting to see it unfold.”
The senior community features studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment options, and includes a theater, salon, indoor swimming pool, exercise room and library. Residents’ monthly charges include meals, transportation, housekeeping and social activities, according to the news release.
Cirillo said the key part in having residents start to move in is to find a balance between normalcy and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has made it difficult for people to make a decision about making a move, but you can tell that the residents moving in are excited to be around other people,” Cirillo said. “We’re being responsible, wearing masks and social distancing, but we are eating in the dining room, engaging in programming, and trying to balance the COVID shuffle. We’re just trying to figure out how to live with COVID-19, but to also engage in life.”
Residents sign a community pledge saying they’ll wear a mask when in common areas, and visitors are being limited.
To guarantee Jewish residents feel represented and welcomed, Steve Raichilson, former CEO and executive director of Menorah Park in Beachwood for almost 30 years, was asked to serve as a consultant for Jewish programming for Vitalia’s communities, Raichilson said.
“(Omni Senior Living was) building a beautiful new residence in Solon, which is the heart of the Jewish community,” Raichilson said. “They wanted to attract Jewish people, but they really didn’t know how. They also didn’t really know how to offer Jewish people a nice Yiddishkeit lifestyle once they came in.”
Currently, Vitalia Solon has six Jewish residents, Raichilson said.
Under Raichilson’s leadership, he has developed and leads a Jewish traditions and orientation for staff.
“I’ll be teaching them all about the Jewish customs, like a Judaism one-on-one,” Raichilson said. “That way, when Jewish clients who are living there celebrate special holidays, I want (the staff) to understand why Jewish people celebrate them,” Raichilson also helped develop programs with the Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland to bring Jewish life into Vitalia, such as a virtual Rosh Hashanah musical program residents could view for the holiday.
He also altered Vitalia’s dining menu to include Jewish staples, like bagels and lox for breakfast, corned beef deli platters for lunch and matzo ball soup, gefilte fish and chopped liver for Friday night dinner.
Vitalia Solon residents can look forward to additional virtual programming through Siegal, as well as the possibility of a part-time rabbi who would lead weekly services and a weekly education program, Raichilson said. Solon’s senior community would have to increase its Jewish residential population to 10 or 11 before Raichilson could hire a part-time rabbi who would provide their services for about three hours week.
“This is a very dynamic and exciting community in a really neat neighborhood,” Cirillo said. “It’s wonderful how the city of Solon has embraced the community.”