In the fall of 1996, Penobscot Shores opened for business with 28 cottages and 26 apartment units overlooking the waters of Penobscot Bay — a retirement community that, as described on its website, combines the location people want with the lifestyle they deserve.

This year, residents, officials, and family and friends gathered to mark the independent retirement community’s fifteenth anniversary with good food, music and socializing.

“Penobscot Shores is a very caring and friendly living environment for people 55 and older,” said Executive Director Paula Johndro, touting what she said are some of the strengths of Penobscot Shores.

Residents don’t have to worry about maintaining their residences, because staff takes care of that for them.

“We do it all,” said Johndro. “We wash windows, we change lightbulbs.”

Mark Biscone, president of the Penobscot Shores Association Board of Directors, also listed a number of the capital improvements that have been made in recent years.

Those improvements include a major renovation project in 2009, which involved re-roofing all the cottages and the ocean house. The re-roofing, according to Johndro, didn’t result in any extra fees for residents.

Other work included in the renovation project was that all the trim and doors were painted and the decking on the ocean house was replaced. Landscaping projects were also completed as part of the work.

Those efforts, said Johndro, have resulted in Penobscot Shores not showing its age over time.

“No one walking in would know we’re 15 years old, because we keep it all top-shelf,” she said.

Another thing Penobscot Shores is proud of, said Johndro, is the warm, personal atmosphere that exists there. With about 70 residents, there is a familiarity between everyone who lives at Penobscot Shores and everyone who works there.

“Everyone knows everyone else’s name — staff members know the residents, and vice versa,” she said. “We never want to be anything but an intimate retirement community.”

The cooking at Penobscot Shores is first-class, according to Johndro, and sit-down meals are available every night, as well as buffet meals on holidays and other special occasions.

“Our dining is the best in the Midcoast,” said Johndro.

Various classes are offered to residents, and a nurse is on-site three days a week to promote wellness. A library and a fitness program are among other offerings, according to Biscone.

While Penobscot Shores offers much to its residents, they provide much in return, too. As an example of that, Johndro talked about various pieces of artwork displayed at Penobscot Shores, all of which were produced by residents there. Johndro described the residents as “very talented,” and thanked them for sharing their work with others.

Residents also have a say in what activities are available to them, according to Johndro.

“We have movie nights, ice cream socials — whatever the residents want,” she said. “What we do is what the residents want.”

Johndro, who started out as the marketing director at Penobscot Shores when it opened, has served as executive director for the past three-and-a-half years.

Other people who have been at Penobscot Shores since it first opened were recognized by Biscone at an anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Those recognized included residents Charlie Libby and Connie Barnes, as well as Assistant Chef Alain Mortier.

The Sept. 7 celebration featured drinks and hors d’oeuvres, ranging from shrimp to vegetable medley, as well as live jazz music from the Bel Isle Trio.

Biscone spoke about how before Penobscot Shores opened, board members were debating between two sites for the yet-to-be-built retirement community. One of those sites is the one that was eventually chosen; the other was a former motel on Northport Avenue.

In describing how the present-day home of Penobscot Shores was eventually chosen, Biscone recalled the words of a real estate agent who was on the board of directors at the time: “Location, location, location.”

Biscone credited board member Marge Knutti for coming up with the name Penobscot Shores, and Knutti, who lives in Searsport, told about how the name came to her, before the facility was constructed.

“I was driving home one night and I went by Searsport Shores Campground,” she said. The name stuck in her head, and she tried some different word combinations. Belfast Shores came to mind, she said, but “just didn’t have the right ring to it.” Eventually, Penobscot Shores popped into her head, and the name stuck.

Biscone, in his speech, said Penobscot Shores “operated in a fairly quiet manner” for the first decade, but said a number of changes have taken place in recent years. In addition to the renovation project in 2009, another change was that legislation was passed at the state level which exempted retirement community residents from having to pay a meal tax.

“This was a truly welcomed and hard-fought victory,” said Biscone, who noted that some of the money that had been previously paid for that purpose was refunded.

Biscone also noted that Penobscot Shores had profitable years in 2008 through 2010, and that another profitable year is expected this year. He said he is proud of the fact that the budget for fiscal year 2012 will be the third year in a row that monthly fees and dining costs for residents have not been increased.

Biscone concluded his remarks by wishing Penobscot Shores a happy 15th anniversary, and congratulating everyone who is associated with the retirement community.