New York State’s oldest independent living retirement community, Flushing House celebrates 50 Years

The atrium at Flushing House, an independent retirement community, is one of the many communal spaces for residents.
Photo courtesy of Flushing House

Flushing House, the state’s oldest independent living and retirement community, is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer. 

Built in 1974, the 12-story residence on Bowne Street in Flushing is home for close to 300 older adults. While many seniors occupy the apartments individually, some residents live with their partners or elderly children over the age of 55. 

As the state’s largest non-profit independent living retirement residence, Flushing House is able to meet all the needs of their residents under one roof. But as part of its mission, individual freedom is not sacrificed, and residents remain independent in how they choose to spend their days and manage their finances. 

“We try to keep the residents active and engaged, but at the same time independent, so they’re making their own decisions,” said Nancy Rojas, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Flushing House. 

The history of the center goes back over a hundred years to Brooklyn in 1916 when several Presbyterian women began caring for other women widowed by World War 1, as well as the area’s elderly population. The women kept growing and expanding their services to reach hundreds from Brooklyn to Syosset, where their 33-acre site was known as the United Presbyterian Residence.

But after the First Congregational church of Flushing burned down in a fire in 1969, the board of directors decided the site would also make a perfect home for independent seniors. A partnership between the Reformed and Presbyterian churches helped secure the Bowne Street site as an innovation retirement community.

Living in Downtown Flushing, many residents can remain self-sufficient by running errands and taking public transportation to meet up with loved ones with the convenience of the urban base. But those who would rather not venture out have many recreational activities to choose from in the building, as well as three hot meals a day served in the communal spaces. 

The residents at Flushing House can participate in a range of activities at the facility.

“Their favorite part is probably just knowing that they’re not alone,” added Rojas. “If they need some help there’s people around that can help them and they don’t have that isolation that they would have if they lived on their own.”

While the rent is market value, all amenities such as housekeeping, enrichment programs, meals and trips are included in the month-to-month price. Since the organization remains private, it does not receive funding from the city or state and the rent increases are at the discretion of the board. 

The majority of residents participate in activities such as daily fitness classes on site, the most attended activity, but being an active community member is not a prerequisite of living at Flushing House. But those who do can also join Friday happy hours or movie nights in the theater room. 

“For most people, when they move in, this is their last move. They want to live here for the rest of their lives,” added Rojas. “We really look to figure out ways to increase the quality of life for the residents that live here.”

Staff take residents on two trips a week to local shopping destinations such as Target or Trader Joe’s. Once a month they also take a trip to a new restaurant in the area, with Ben’s Deli in Bayside being a popular one. And when in season, residents attend Mets games at Citi Field and local theater productions around Queens. 

Some residents also participate in the Executive Resident Council which votes on different initiatives and projects throughout the facility. They have quarterly meetings where all residents, who are automatic members of the council upon moving in, can chime in with their thoughts and concerns and vote on their leadership. 

Fifteen years ago, the staff and residents jointly came up with a tagline for Flushing House. They decided on “Celebrate Living Everyday,” which is now printed on the back of staff uniforms. 

Rojas says that what makes Flushing House special is its ability to retain staff and residents for decades at a time. She herself has been working there for 32 years, and says that many staff members have been working there for at least a decade. 

The low turnover rate among staff contributes to the community feel, allowing residents to get to know the staff well during their time. 

“The residents are like our extended family,” said Rojas. “We spend a large portion of our lives with them.”

Come July, Flushing House will host an anniversary celebration in its parking lot with residents, families and community leaders.