John Henry of Carroll Lutheran Village on lessons of senior living

John Henry of Carroll Lutheran Village on lessons of senior living
Carroll Lutheran Village Executive Director John Henry (Kelly Heck Photography)

John Henry’s interest in taking care of older adults started early in his life, as his family took care of older members in his home while he was growing up.

“Unbeknownst to me at the time, that likely was the beginning of my path,” he said.


After almost 30 years of work in senior living administration, Henry was named executive director of Carroll Lutheran Village as of June 9, when he succeeded former director George Oxx in that position. Henry has been with the not-for-profit continuing care retirement community since 2015, when he joined the organization as the administrator of the Health Care Center and Diven House for assisted living.

The Times recently caught up with Henry to learn more about what attracted him to senior care and the lessons he has learned from a career in the field.

Q: What lead you to choose a career in senior care, and how and where did you get started on that path?

A: My family had taken care of older family members in our home when I was growing up, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, that likely was the beginning of my path.

I worked as an aide in long-term psychiatric settings, and during my graduate degree residency realized my attraction to the long-term care setting and have been there ever since.

Q: You’ve been in the executive director role at Carroll Lutheran Village for a little over a month now. What is the day to day like in managing an organization of this size, charged with this kind of care?

A: It is demanding — I need to hone my time-management and organizational skills! A lot of dedicated and talented people work and live here — more than 400 staff and nearly 700 residents. We serve residents 24/7, 365 days of the year. Each day I help staff in any way I can to pull the rope, whether it’s eliminating roadblocks, streamlining processes, etc. I also listen to residents and their families. We exist for them, so meeting their needs and expectations is paramount.

It is an awesome privilege and responsibility, but it is also deeply satisfying making a difference in other’s lives.

Q: You first came to Carroll Lutheran Village in 2015. What lead you there?

A: I was attracted to the non-profit mission — rooted in spirituality and a focus on the whole person. I was deliberate in choosing where I was going to put down roots, and during the interview process for the position of administrator for skilled care and assisted living, I realized that the organization was looking for the same characteristics in the administrator as I was looking for in an organization. It was a good fit for us both.

Q: Do you have any overarching projects or plans for the coming years at Carroll Lutheran Village?

A: Change and innovation are key. The expectations of current residents and particularly those who are now considering a senior living community have changed greatly over the past decade as the baby boomers have started turning 60. Senior living communities are expected to be as home-like and supportive as possible, regardless of what level of residency one is in, and high levels of amenities and services are expected.

Carroll Lutheran Village is continually evolving to meet these changing consumer demands, whether its physical improvements to buildings or strategic changes to wellness programming and resident support. It is exciting to be part of it.

Q: Is there anything about senior care that people often don’t know about that you wish they would, or perhaps misunderstand?


A: Senior living is not to be feared! People often delay moving to a community like Carroll Lutheran Village for as long as possible because they aren’t “ready yet” to give up their independence. What they don’t realize is that this setting is very freeing — they live in a community of their peers, enjoy a wide variety of amenities, and are supported in their desire to maintain their independence for as long as possible without the pressures of home maintenance or the uncertainty of what they’ll do when they can no longer stay in their home. Assisted living and skilled care, even therapy services, are available right here and it can be reassuring to family members to know you’ve made your own decisions about your future care rather than relying on them to do it for you when a crisis occurs.

Carroll Lutheran Village is blessed with hundreds of residents who are active, vital and important members of this community as well as the wider community. They volunteer for community organizations, even assisted living and long-term care residents give back in a variety of ways from knitting blankets for Project Linus to planting flowers for Comcast Cares Day. Age does not define us — we can choose to define age and what that looks like for each of us. I encourage people to visit to see the great things residents here are doing and to get involved.

Q: After almost three decades working in senior care, how have your thoughts about your own retirement and later life evolved? Do you have a better or just different appreciation for what you will want out of that chapter of your own life?

A: My work in senior care has taught me to appreciate each day and that every person has inherent value. It has sharpened awareness of maintaining my own health for the long-term by eating better and exercising so that I can maintain that health for as long as I can post-retirement. The research is dramatic and unequivocal — we can influence our future. Remember the old Fram oil filter ads, “Pay me now, or pay me later?” Let’s pay later.