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Next Retirement Lesson Learned


December 22, 2014

Written by Sandy Stuart

In my last installment on retirement I described in somewhat general terms what retired living was like for us at the local Westminster Canterbury (WC). Well, we are pretty well settled in and delighted to report that we are happy. I have a few more experiences and observations to report.

First and foremost I marvel at the friendliness of the staff and the “residents”, as my wife Linda and I are called. We weren’t here more than a week before staff people were calling us by name. Considering there are about 450 residents, that is no small feat. There are numerous programs and functions to bring us into the resident society.  Soon we were a known entity. Because our biography was published, residents with common ties (such as military service, church affiliation, prior occupation, hobbies, etc.) were able to check us out and vice versa at various social events. (All ex-military need an outlet for their war stories!)

About a month prior to this writing, my wife had a knee replacement.  She also had one a couple of years ago, before we made the move to WC. So for her first operation I had to take care of her and the house and the grounds plus my normal commitments.  All I know how to cook are boiled eggs and chili (from the can) with rice. That menu becomes pretty old pretty fast.  Contrast that situation with her knee operation this time. She was moved from our apartment to a private room in the rehabilitation wing of WC, about a five minute walk from our apartment, all indoors. There she was given a lot of physical therapy and looked after by a team of four staff members. Her menu was much better than I offered her for her first operation.

After a couple of weeks, she was moved back to our apartment. The cats (we have two) greeted her with characteristic feline yawns, but I was very happy to have her back. Our meals are provided from a three entre menu as usual. We either eat at the cafeteria or bring it back to the apartment. Needless to say, we are greatly pleased with the levels of care provided by this facility.

I have visited many other retirement facilities. My personal observation was and is that as we age we tend to drift into either a very “nice” emotional/mental state or a bitter/critical one.  I was struck by how many more there were of the former at WC. But that was just an impression. I could be wrong. Then something occurred that proved my impression to me.

It was an overhaul of the “bridge”. Allow me to explain. The bridge is a wide passageway. It connects three buildings in which residents are housed to three buildings in which residents are cared for, to include the rehab facility, dining facilities, the pool, a medical facility, bank, beauty shops, etc. Because there is so much traffic on the bridge, it experiences a lot of wear and tear and has to be rehabbed periodically. It is a pretty wide bridge, and what the workmen did was erect a temporary wall board to separate the work from the residents walking through. I paced off the length of the temporary wall. It is about 61 meters.

Now, 61 meters of a pure white, temporary gypsum wall is just too tempting a target for us folks, regardless of how old and sophisticated we might be. Some mischievous soul succumbed to temptation and “tagged” a small portion of the wall with some graffiti. That opened virtual floodgates of creativity.   Today there is hardly any room left for self-expression! I maintain that all this graffiti taken as a whole, is a window into the collective soul of the WC resident and staff community. It reflects a good depth of religion (mostly Christian of varying denominations). There is great wisdom. There is obviously a great sense of humor and, as one might expect, some Army/Navy and UVA and Va. Tech ribbing.  My afore-mentioned “ impression” of a bunch of pretty nice people is confirmed!

My final lesson, at least for the purpose of this article, is that our investments enabled us to move into this facility. It is relatively expensive. If one wants to set as a financial goal the possibility of being able to retire in such a facility, it needs to be done as early as possible.

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