Blazing the Trail
By Lauren Searson
A trail blazer is defined as a person who makes, does, or discovers something new and makes it acceptable or popular. It is a term used to describe Virginia Norton and Hal Bean. Not only are they examples in planning early for a secure retirement, but they are among the first individuals joining Goodwin House at Home. The program is designed for independent adults who wish to remain in their homes as they age with just the right amount of personalized care and assistance. Developed by Goodwin House, a not-for-profit, faith-based organization with two residential continuing care communities (CCRCs) in Falls Church and Alexandria, Va., it is the first program of its kind to be offered in Northern Virginia.
Aside from taking part in the innovative program, the two share the commonality of worldly lifestyles. Growing up in an Army family, Virginia lived in Japan and Germany before eventually joining the Army herself as a dietitian.
It was through the military that she met Charles, a widower with two children. They married and though he was sent overseas to Korea and Vietnam, Virginia ultimately found herself again scaling the globe and continuing her education wherever they were stationed. She went on to receive a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland.
“Before I graduated – I had defended my dissertation – we moved to Finland and I immediately got a job part-time with the National Alcohol Monopoly,” she said.
After returning to the U.S., Virginia focused on volunteering before learning about a teaching opportunity with the University of Maryland, where the Nortons knew they would inevitably return.
When Charles’s mother became ill, it prompted the couple to think about their future and they took out long-term care insurance for themselves.
“When Charles got sick and we needed to use it, I looked at it and realized, as good as it was, it just had gaps,” said Virginia.
After his passing, she received a notice for a seminar regarding the Goodwin House at Home program while attending church.
As one of only two programs approved in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the program is designed for active adults age 55 and older who want to plan for a secure future. Established in 2014, Goodwin House at Home gives individuals the opportunity to combine the independence of living in their home of choice with the assurance of healthcare and daily living support services found in a continuing care community. Members remain in their homes without the burden of finding and coordinating care, secure in the knowledge that their monthly fees do not increase based on the care they need. Flexible financing options, a range of benefits and the support of a professional resource manager guarantees individuals will receive high-quality services.
“Listening at the meeting I thought ‘That just makes good sense,’” said Virginia. “We had remodeled our home before Charles became sick, making it wheelchair accessible onefloor living with a walk-in tub. So I’m set; if I need long-term care, I would prefer to have it at home.”
For Virginia, the program fills the gaps she found in pursuing other long-term care options. “In order for longterm care insurance to kick in, you have to be unable to do two of the activities of daily living; Goodwin House only requires one,” she said.
It also provides a sense of security for her loved ones, who do not live in the immediate area. The staff resource manager is available whenever a member needs assistance with an activity of daily living. “If I have a problem, all I need to do is call their member-only number or Jeanne, the resource manager, for an immediate response,” she said.
As the third individual to sign up, she is technically the third person to participate in such a program in the Commonwealth of Virginia. “That’s why they refer to us as trail blazers,” she said. And she has had the opportunity to meet fellow participants at parties and dinners the community has hosted.
Among her trail-blazing peers is Hal Bean, the sixth person to sign up for Goodwin House at Home, his wife, Kay, being the fifth. An Oregon native, Hal attended school in California and was recruited for the CIA while in graduate school. He met Kay shortly after starting his career and the couple eventually had two children.
As a staff employee or contractor, Hal spent a total of 50 years with the CIA. During this time, they were overseas for eight years between Germany and France. Hal is thankful to now be settled in Arlington, Va., with his children still living nearby, and his daughter in the former home he and Kay owned.
“We’ve been in our neighborhood for a long time,” said Hal.
“It’s a delightful neighborhood. We left because we wanted to downsize, but after a few years we looked for something to get back here.”
Like Virginia, he prepared for the future by ensuring his home would be accessible. “We were thinking in terms of a house that lent itself to the aging process,” he said. “We wanted something where, if the time came, the ambulance hearse could take us out the front door. There’s a finished downstairs, which would be good for a caregiver if we needed one.”
Due to Goodwin House’s affiliation with the Episcopal Church, Hal knew several people that lived in one of the communities and decided to attend an informational seminar. It was then the Beans learned about the at-home program.
“We thought ‘Well, that together with our house takes care of our problems,’” he said. “Both of us are the kind of people that like to have a plan in place. We’re not big on saying ‘Oh well, time will take care of everything.’”
At 86 and in good health, Hal feels fortunate to not have had to use the program services yet. “It is nice in the evening to go to bed with a plan and know whatever happens you’re provided with the necessary services,” he said.
And with this peace of mind, Hal and Virginia, both greatgrandparents, are able to spend time with their families and pursue their various interests knowing that whatever services they may need, from cleaning to financial advice, they will be provided professional referrals and/or have the services coordinated.
“There’s something special about Goodwin House,” said Hal. “They have some exceptional leaders who are conscious of getting the right staff and developing a special relationship with residents and members in the at-home program.”
Although Virginia and Hal are among several creating the path in an innovative retirement living program, they are strong advocates for thinking about the future, no matter one’s ultimate journey. “Don’t put off planning and acting,” said Virginia. “Had Goodwin House at Home existed before Charles died, I would have signed up earlier because it would have helped tremendously.”