Discovering a Sense of Community in Retirement

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grandparents enjoy living in a retirement community in virginiaMarta and Jim Harkins easily recall the exact time they met. That is because the Greenwich Village New York City residents stood at the same bus stop every day at 8:30 in the morning; Jim heading to his job at a bank and Marta to her job as an office manager for a small manufacturing company. Their small talk soon progressed to dinner and today they celebrate 51 years of marriage.

The couple relocated to Arlington where they raised their two children as Jim, a Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel, worked for the Veterans Administration while Marta ran a tax business. Eventually, the nest emptied and the family grew with four grandchildren. In 2002, the Harkins decided to consider downsizing when the older of the two turned 80 years old.

They were further inspired after visiting a past neighbor at Vinson Hall, a continuing care retirement community located in McLean, VA for commissioned military officers and their immediate family members, as well as career government officers. “We were very impressed, so we applied and got an apartment here,” said Jim.

With their positive attitudes toward the move, the couple did not struggle with downsizing like other couples they know. Instead, the couple boasts about their new apartment. They feel it’s one of the best in the community due to its unique floor plan and great views.

Vinson Hall’s close proximity to Arlington allows Marta and Jim to continue using the same doctors and easily maintain other community ties. In fact, Marta, who is legally blind, continues the hospital volunteer work she is so passionate about. “I am still in good shape so I can do it,” she said. “I love it; I really and truly do.”

Another attribute of Vinson Hall they appreciate is its small size of less than 200 residents that have come to feel like family. “The residents are from all walks of life and many have travelled all over the world,” said Jim. “We have more sense of community here than we had in Arlington.”

And with their close-knit “family” they have enjoyed the many social activities the community offers. Jim continues to coordinate movie viewings in the community, as he has for the past eight years, while Marta is the coordinator for the low vision support group, which even includes non-residents.

It’s the sense of community and enjoyable lifestyle they have found that encourages Marta to share her proactive mentality about downsizing. “Don’t wait until you must move, do it when you can,” she said.

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