A Chance Worth Taking – Ingleside at King Farm

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The past cannot be changed. History may repeat itself, but it can never be rewritten. The forward march of time offers no do overs and few second chances. Therefore, when an opportunity presents itself, it must be seized.

Werner and Elizabeth Schumann, residents of Ingleside at King Farm, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Rockville, Md., know all too well that chances rarely come twice. They both left Germany early in their lives to find a fresh start in the United States. Later, the two overcame a deep historical and cultural divide and took the chance on each other. Now, they are enjoying an active retirement together.

Born in Germany, Elizabeth moved to the United States when she was 12. “I knew all of 150 words of English,” she recalled. Despite the language barrier, Elizabeth excelled in school and went on to receive her Master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago. She worked for many years as a clinical social worker, including her most recent post at the National Institutes of Health.

For Werner, the road to the United States was a bit bumpier. He lived in Berlin throughout World War II. Werner’s father was a Nazi party member, and he recalls feeling very disillusioned with his homeland as a young man. “After the War, when I learned about the Holocaust and the general breakdown of society, it turned me very much against the country,” he said. “I was very fortunate that I was able to come to the United States, where I got a fresh start.”

Prior to immigrating, Werner received some training in still photography, but his career really took off in his new adopted country. After he was drafted into the U.S. Army, he was delighted to learn that his orders would take him to Motion Picture Cameraman School in Ft. Monmouth, N.J.

Before he was drafted, Werner met Elizabeth in a young adult’s discussion group. He remembered, “The discussion group intrigued me very much because it dealt with the struggles that I had tried to cope with in Germany and hadn’t really put behind me.” With its focus on ethical issues, the group became a place for Werner to sort out the repugnant past of his native country.

Werner was busy seeking spiritual direction when he inadvertently found love. After spotting Elizabeth at a Thanksgiving dinner, he waited for the perfect opportunity to ask her out. “I sidled up to her and tried to get a date with her, and I was flatly rejected,” he said. “Politely rejected,” Elizabeth added with a smile.

Elizabeth explained that because of their very different backgrounds, she could not initially imagine dating him. While Elizabeth is Jewish, Werner is a non-Jewish German. “It was totally inconceivable to me that I could ever date someone who came from Nazi Germany and was non-Jewish,” she recalled.

After nearly a year of getting to know each other, Werner eventually got his date and things progressed from there. By the time he was drafted, the couple knew they were meant to be together. Werner proposed on New Year’s Eve, and the couple married in February.

Following his graduation from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Motion Pictures, Werner was offered a job at a film studio in Washington, D.C. From there, he built a career as a freelance filmmaker and went on to make documentary films until his retirement a few years ago. “He won many awards,” Elizabeth added.

Through the years, the Schumanns raised two children and now enjoy the company of their four grandchildren. They have lived in the D.C. area for nearly 50 years and most recently were living on a large property in Cabin John, Md., near the Potomac River. While they had never really given any thought to retirement planning, when they received an invitation to visit a new facility in their neighborhood, they decided to take a look.

During the next few months, the Schumanns visited several different types of retirement communities, from luxury properties to enormous facilities. But when they toured Ingleside at King Farm, they knew it offered something different. “We realized that Ingleside had really found the right formula by putting everything under one roof,” said Werner. Elizabeth concurred, “Everything is very accessible.”

The Schumanns also liked the fact that Ingleside at King Farm offers a refundable entry fee option. If you decide to leave the community for any reason, the entry fee is refunded, or, alternately, the funds can be used to cover medical expenses or care in the on-campus assisted living or nursing facilities.

Ultimately, the Schumann’s final decision to move was made largely due to a casual encounter with a resident. During an appointment to tour an apartment, the couple and the marketing representative passed a resident in the hallway. The staff person greeted the resident by name, and they all started chatting. The resident then offered to let the Schumanns tour her apartment instead of the model, so they could get a better idea of what the units look like fully furnished.

“Her demeanor, the way in which she related to us immediately, and the way her husband also welcomed us, that was a turning point. It was really the push we needed,” Werner recalled.

It has been two years since the Schumanns made the move to Ingleside at King Farm, and they have never had any regrets.Elizabeth is a member of the community’s Lecture Committee, participates in a bridge group and is co-leading an effort to induce residents to write their biographies. Her co-chair and she have already assembled 50 resident biographies and are enthusiastic about continuing the project. In fact, she feels the most remarkable thing about her new home is her fellow residents.

“There is a genuine openness, friendliness and responsiveness among the residents,” she said. “I think the tone for the community is set by the administration and staff, and the facility just seems to attract nice people.”

Werner has also become very involved in life at Ingleside. He has screened several of his documentary films for the other residents, including “One Man’s America,” his autobiographical look at his feelings about America. Beyond his enduring interest in all things filmmaking, Werner has also become involved in the community’s building committee and now serves as chairman.

Much like the chance they took on each other years ago, the Schumanns are glad they took the leap and made the move to Ingleside at King Farm. While historical events may place artificial wedges between us, the Schumanns certainly prove that some chances are worth taking, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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