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The Luxury of Laughter

The Founder of Brandywine Living on Her Career Path and the Importance of Laughter

Since 1996 when the first Brandywine Living facility opened, co-founder, President and CEO Brenda Bacon has added additional communities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. When two more Brandywine locations open early this summer, the total will be 32. Although each location has some local flair (such as clambakes at the Maryland location), each also adheres to Brenda’s exacting standards which helped establish the brand as a leader in luxury senior living.

Earlier this year, Brenda was inducted into the American Seniors Housing Association’s Senior Living Hall of Fame. Just prior to that, she was recognized by Savoy Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Black members of public boards. (Brenda serves on the boards of Hilton Grand Vacations (NYSE: HGV), and FTI Consulting (NYSE: FCN.) And she was named by the Philadelphia Business Journal as one of their 2021 Women of Distinction.

Advice to working moms

Brenda, whose two children are now grown, recalls the challenge of staying engaged in their lives and their education, while pursuing her professional ambitions. “Women sometimes try to find the roadmap to make the right decisions and we talk to other women about how they did it,” she says. “But it’s important for young women to choose their own path. If you make decisions too early, you could miss opportunities along the way to look around and see what’s developing and what you’re passionate about. I encourage women to figure out what makes them happy so they have a career that they enjoy every day.”

Brenda’s path to Brandywine

“I always had a need and a want to change things and impact people’s lives,” Brenda says. From working on healthcare issues in the 1970s with Congressman James Florio, to being on the management staff of a Philadelphia hospital and working on Florio’s gubernatorial campaign in the 1980s, Brenda became part of a team that built a skilled nursing facility in 1985. She later served as co-chair of the committee helping to transition the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for President Clinton. Finally, Brenda left government to start Brandywine, where she combined her skills and passion for helping others.  

Life at Brandywine

Brenda created Brandywine as a place that, in addition to providing excellent care, “feels like a home, where you have friends and neighbors, like the house where you raised your kids and you have a reason to get out of the bed, where you can enjoy the company of others and learn something new every day and age with dignity,” she says. When people are busy taking care of their elderly parents on their own, Brenda explains the relationship becomes transactional and focused on things like making sure mom took her pills. “They don’t expect to see mom or dad smile again,” she says. But at Brandywine, she adds, “I walk in our buildings and I hear laughter and it’s wonderful. Family members see their mom and dad smile and laugh out loud. I have seen the look on people’s faces when they see that and there’s nothing like it.”

Brandywine Living Highlights:

Escapades for life: Movies, stage performances, karaoke, painting, exercise, watching sports, trivia, educational programs, cooking classes and more.

Reflections (for memory-care residents): Engagement to enhance independence, plus programs to celebrate each resident’s special interests and abilities, whether they are a gardener, a DIYer, gamer, artist, avid reader, story teller, knitter etc.

Serenade: A luxurious senior living experience that features a private butler, luxurious suites, concierge service, room service, private dining and more.

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