The below article is featured in the Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook, Issue – May, 2014. Click here for the original article published in the Guide to Retirement Living.
Friends and Neighbors
By Christy Brudin
Good friends and great neighbors are always there to lend a hand. That’s exactly what Carmen Callan was doing—helping a friend—when she found her ideal retirement community.
As part of her search for a retirement community for her close friend, Ainsley, Carmen toured The Fountains at Washington House, a community offering independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing care in Alexandria, Va. When she walked into The Fountains, her search suddenly became much more personal.
“I came to The Fountains with only him in mind,” Carmen recalled. “I certainly wasn’t ready for a retirement home, after all. After I left, I just kept thinking about how nice the lifestyle sounded—no cooking, no cleaning. The second time I came back with myself in mind. The third time I came back with a measuring tape.”
In her late 80s, Carmen is healthy and active. A native of Queens in New York City, she married young and moved with her husband to Washington, D.C. The couple had two children, and Carmen now has one grandchild and two great grandchildren. After her first husband passed away, Carmen remarried and was widowed again after ten years of marriage.
“I decided then that I would never get married again because it’s too hard being a widow,” she recalled.
Her resolve was tested when she met Ainsley. He had lost his wife, and the two found comfort and companionship together. “We got very close, and he wanted to get married, but at that point I had been living alone for 16 years, and I just couldn’t do it,” Carmen recalled.
While the two were never married, they continued to maintain a close friendship. When Ainsley started experiencing some health problems, Carmen was there to help. He had fallen in his apartment several times, and she decided to take action. “I talked it over with his friends, and we started looking for a retirement community for him,” Carmen recalled. It was this search that initially brought her to The Fountains.
During her subsequent visits to the community, Carmen decided it was also time for her to make a move. When she put her nearby condo on the market, her neighbors questioned her decision. “They said, ‘You’re not sick. You’re not old.’ I told them that I wanted to move while I was still able, and it was the best decision I ever made,” said Carmen.
In fact, Carmen made the decision so quickly that her children were surprised when she informed that she was moving to a retirement community.
Since moving, Carmen has enjoyed the wide array of activities available for residents and the delicious dining options. “I’ve gained ten pounds since I moved. The food is so good,” she said. “And I keep busy all the time.” Between dance classes, fashion shows, dance recitals and special events, Carmen is always doing something fun.
When she isn’t participating in community activities, she’s often spending time with Ainsley—who, in addition to being her friend, is now also her neighbor. After recovering from a fall at a nursing center, Ainsley moved to the apartment right next door to Carmen. Today, the two friends share most meals together, while maintaining their personal spaces.
Carmen set out to find an ideal retirement lifestyle for her friend. Her good deed paid off. She found the perfect retirement community for them both at The Fountains at Washington House. Now, they are both friends and neighbors.