A Retirement with Style
As Grace Sullivan stands on the platform waiting for her Friday afternoon train to Ocean City, she looks the part of the chic weekender, but if you spend a few moments talking with her, you will find a woman whose elegant appearance only compliments her passionate spirit and optimistic attitude.
Mrs. Sullivan not only travels in style, she does everything with grace and enthusiasm. At 89, she still travels to her condominium in Ocean City every weekend. For such an active woman, weekends by the ocean give her much pleasure and time to relax.
Born in Philadelphia in 1914, Grace attended Temple University until the depression. She studied education and worked briefly as a kindergarten teacher. However, once her family began to suffer the effects of the depression she, her mother, and her sister took jobs in a meat factory in order to help support the family. Although the experience was arduous, Mrs. Sullivan maintained a positive attitude: “My family lost everything. We lost our house and virtually everything else, but my father was able to keep his job, and with all of us working, there was always food on the table.” Her family weathered the depression, and a few years later, Grace was married.
The couple settled in Philadelphia to raise their family, three daughters and two sons. They were very involved with local politics and a wide variety of activities. Grace was a member of the Questers, a national group devoted to antique collecting. She enjoyed her involvement with the group because “everyone collected different things. We would take field trips to visit other people’s houses and view their collections, and I really loved doing that. It was so fascinating.” Her appreciation for diverse subjects served her well as a member of the Toast Mistresses, a group that helps individuals hone their public speaking skills.
Grace has also been working with the Miss America Pageant for over 30 years. She became involved with the pageant after forming a friendship with the Mayor of Brigantine. Her primary responsibility is to ensure that the contestants’ parents are entertained and supervised during their stay.
After Mr. Sullivan retired from his work as a commissioner, the couple decided to move to Cocoa Beach, FL. “When we moved to Cocoa Beach, we completely retired and left the city and that lifestyle behind us. We had a beautiful condo right on the beach, but we maintained our apartment in Ocean City and spent the summers there. It was wonderful because we got to enjoy beautiful weather throughout the year,” relates Mrs. Sullivan.
Fully satisfied with their current lifestyle, the Sullivans were not considering a move, but a casual mention of retirement living options by a close friend changed all that. Mrs. Sullivan recalls, “Some of our friends came to visit us in Florida, and they mentioned that they were going to move to a retirement community. I was shocked because this couple was 10 years younger than we were at the time. The man explained that his wife’s health was ailing, and that he was tired of maintaining their home and pool. He was thrilled to have found a nice place where they would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. After they left, my husband and I talked about their decision and decided it was something that we should consider as well.”
A few months later, the Sullivans visited their friends’ retirement community and decided they liked the lifestyle and security offered at a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). They began to look for a CCRC that would meet all of their needs, but their search did not take long.
During a visit with their daughter, they mentioned their search, and she was excited to show them Attleboro, a CCRC in Langhorne, PA that was only moments from her house. Grace and her husband toured the grounds at Attleboro and met the staff. Grace remembers her first visit fondly: “It was honestly love at first site. We just fell madly in love with everything at Attleboro. It’s so beautiful!”
Shortly thereafter, they moved into a spacious two-bedroom apartment and became involved in the community. Of the facility and the staff, Grace relates, “The grounds are beautiful, and everything you really need is right here. The staff is very good to me, and I use their services a lot.” It is the exemplary service of the Attleboro staff that helps Mrs. Sullivan remain independent and active even as she approaches her 90th birthday.
She acknowledges the importance of their support, “I depend on the drivers to take me everywhere. All of the services offered here are great, but the drivers are particularly helpful to me. They take me to the train station every weekend. When I return, the driver is there with a stool for me to step off the train, and then he takes my bags and helps me into the community van.” Without this type of assistance, the trips that are so important to her way of life might not be possible.
In addition to traveling, Mrs. Sullivan remains active in the community. She organizes and sponsors a group called the Attleboro Players, a group of nine men who do theatrical presentations for community residents. She also volunteers at other assisted living facilities; she teaches a ceramics class and truly enjoys sharing her talents. She enjoys volunteering because it offers her a chance to share her incredible zest for life with others.
“My lifestyle is so much better since moving to Attleboro. I have the benefit of all the services offered here, which allows me to spend my time doing things I enjoy. I’ve just never been one to sit around; I always have to be on the go,” admits Mrs. Sullivan. For these reasons, she often suggests to other seniors that they consider a move to a retirement community.
Much to her surprise, she often finds them resistant to her advice. She explains, “People don’t think they are old enough to move to a retirement community, but what they don’t realize is that this type of lifestyle isn’t just about every day living. They do not realize all the entertainment that is provided here, all the trips and all the friends. I know that in the ten years since I have lived here, I have felt younger. I sincerely believe that if you move into a place like this you will live longer and happier.”
Mrs. Sullivan’s lively nature certainly attests to what a difference an active lifestyle can make. In addition to her trips to Ocean City, she spends much of her time visiting her 5 children, 16 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. Grace is planning trips to Florida this winter and Europe this summer. She continues to make the most of everyday and is a shining example of her own philosophy that “staying active keeps you young.” Watching her climb aboard her train shortly before it pulls away from the platform, there is no doubt that this vibrant senior will be making this trip and countless others for some time to come.