When Nomadic Seniors Settle Down

When Nomadic Seniors Settle Down

One couple gets the best of both worlds when they make a senior living community their home base.

Here’s the typical story about making the move to a senior living community: A couple that has lived in a home for decades faces the challenge of cleaning out, packing up and making the first big change they’ve made in years. But for seniors like Dick and Barbara Hettish, the story is flipped on its head.

By the time they moved to Westminster Gardens, a HumanGood senior living community in Duarte, California, in 1996, the Hettishes had lost track of how many moves they’d made through the decades. “In 60 years of marriage we’ve moved 21 or 22 times,” Dick says. “Barbara’s taken a driver’s test in so many different places!”

Dick’s work as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy offered the family a nomadic lifestyle. Over the years, they’ve set up homes from coast to coast and everywhere in between—including Hawaii, New Jersey, Ohio and California.

When Dick retired from the military after many years and addresses, he took a job as a church chaplain in Houston, Texas, which the family called home for six years. “When I retired from the Navy and we moved to Houston, Barbara—who had never complained—said, ‘I don’t want to move again until we go to the home,’” Dick says with a laugh.

As soon as Dick turned 65, the nomads finally settled down, moving to Westminster Gardens where they’ve now lived for more than 18 years. They originally selected the community because it worked for them financially and is close to both of their children—a daughter in San Diego and son in Orange County. But after moving in, they discovered the proximity to their children was only one of many benefits.

While not all seniors who move to a community are as experienced at moving house, Teresa Shanahan, a geriatric care manager and CEO/clinical director with San Diego-based Lifeline Healthcare, says that whether you’ve been a world traveler or lived in the same house for 50 years, one of the most important benefits of moving into a senior community is just what the Hettishes have found: being part of a community.

They both love the amenities—she enjoys the fitness center and he plays tennis several days a week. They’ve made some great friends, whom they see almost every day for a relaxing lunch in the dining room. “The great thing at the Gardens is we do a lot of laughing,” says Dick.

As Dick and Barbara discovered, suddenly they’re surrounded by opportunities to join in activities and spend time with friends. Finding a home base has allowed this nomadic couple to enjoy the best of both worlds.

While they appreciate having a regular schedule at their Westminster Gardens home, they haven’t lost the desire to see the world. In recent years, the couple has traveled to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Hawaii, Alaska and other places they’ve always wanted to visit.

“That was really the idea, to use the Gardens as a base of operations,” says Dick. “When we want to hit the road, we hit the road.”

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