Heading Back to School: Active Adults

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Virginia senior citizen in retirement communityAfter completing a course on Japanese tea ceremonies, Ruth Woodcock is reviewing the fall course catalog and trying to decide amongst the various offerings. “It will probably be Women in Contemporary Theatre,” she says. Ruth takes one class every semester and is always looking for new opportunities to learn.

Ruth spent her early years in Pennsylvania. A family with two daughters and a position with the agency undertaking the War on Poverty kept her well occupied. Later, Ruth moved to New York City to continue her career in not-for-profit organization management. She worked for a variety of organizations that focused on women’s issues, peace and justice, poverty and human rights. “We worked on things that were interesting and important. Things that really made a difference,” says Ruth.

While she found her career rewarding and New York City stimulating, she took early retirement, remarried and moved to Cape Cod. She and her husband, Russell Smith, thoroughly enjoyed the years they spent on the Cape and eventually began to consider their retirement needs. They realized that they needed the security of available care should it become necessary. But they wanted more than just available care; they wanted an active community with intellectually stimulating residents.

Kendal at Lexington, a retirement community in Lexington, VA, met all of their needs. Ruth recalls, “We found out about the community through Quaker literature and Quaker friends. We knew that we wanted a Quaker-related community because their philosophies foster excellent care.” After visiting the area, they were ready for a move.

They quickly discovered that Kendal at Lexington is less than a mile from Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. Community residents are given access to libraries, lecture series, plays, concerts, and athletic events. At Washington & Lee, residents can audit classes at no charge with permission from the professor.

The opportunities that are inherent in a college town have been very rewarding for Ruth. “Lexington is a small town with big opportunities,” she notes. “I started attending classes and lectures as soon as we moved here, and I have learned so much.”

Ruth helped organize Kendal College, the life-long learning program at the community. Kendal College features resident-arranged classes that meet for several days and conclude with a field study trip or meet once a week for six weeks. Classes are taught by current residents or by professors from the local colleges. Topics are determined by resident interests but have included: Mathematics, Shakespeare, The Civil War, and Swing Music.

Between attending committee meetings, attending classes, singing with the local Choral Society, and enjoying the performing arts, Ruth finds time to explore the charming downtown area in Lexington. She is truly enjoying life in a small, southern town. “There is no traffic, so it is easy to get around, and the town is really focused on historic preservation, so it is very charming,” says Ruth. She adds, “As a northerner, it took a little while for me to adjust to southern ways, but I really enjoy the people and the lifestyle here.” Maybe her next course will be in the science of southern hospitality.

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