Not a Moment Too Soon
By Christy Brudin
Living in the moment can be difficult. It might mean taking a chance, leaping before looking, or even leaving it all behind. And, like most other challenging tasks, it often takes practice.
Deborah (Debby) Wessells is an expert. She has been living in the moment her entire life—from venturing to New York City as a young woman, to marrying her husband just a few months after their blind date, to making a retirement move and never looking back. Now a resident at Waverly Heights, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Gladwyne, PA, Debby is still making every moment count.
After spending her childhood in Englewood, NJ, Debby headed for the bright lights of New York City. Taking the chance paid off. She became an assistant department editor at Vogue Magazine. “It was fun to be young and to be in the city. It seems like a million years ago now, but I remember how happy I was,” she said.
What was already a happy life started to look like a fairytale when Debby met her future husband, Daniel, on a blind date. “Set up by friends, we met for the first time at Newark Airport on our way to Vermont to go skiing for the weekend,” she recalled. “We were married nine months later.”
For 25 years, Debby and Dan lived in Ardmore, PA, where he was born, moving from a tiny stone cottage to a larger house where they raised two daughters. Their whirlwind courtship led to a wonderful, 47-year marriage.
After their daughters left for college, Dan retired and the couple opted to move to the country to enjoy a slower pace of life—seizing the moment once again. “We bought a smaller house out in Chester County; it was beautiful out there,” recalled Debby.
However, after her husband passed away three years ago, Debby quickly decided it was time to move on. “I wanted to leave the pool, the pond, the gutters, the snow shoveling and the leaf raking, and to leave the isolation I cherished with my husband, but that I knew I didn’t want as a person alone.”
True to form, Debby quickly did just that. After carefully reviewing her retirement living options, she decided that Waverly Heights was the best fit for her. “The villa I have here is just perfect, and the amenities are amazing,” she said. “It’s like having a little house without the maintenance. They plow the roads, sweep the walks and wash the windows; they do it all.”
In addition to the many amenities available at Waverly, Debby was also impressed by the medical care that is offered on campus should it be needed. As a CCRC, Waverly provides care options ranging from independent living to nursing and rehabilitation care for residents. That security means peace of mind for Debby and her children. “I don’t want my children taking care of me. I want them to visit me, not take care of me,” she explained.
While the care options are important, the community atmosphere is what makes Waverly Heights truly stand out. Living in a vibrant community with active and engaging neighbors has made the transition to life as a single woman much easier, according to Debby. Rather than feeling alone, she knows that she can always visit a neighbor, meet a friend, or walk into the on-campus coffee shop and make a new friend.
Debby is also involved in a wide array of activities, including serving on the Residents’ Association Board, working in the on-campus thrift shop, chairing the Holiday Bazaar in 2013, serving on the Greens Committee for Bazaar 2014, working on the Trips and Tours Committee, and serving on the Decorating Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the Special Events Committee, which plans Halloween, New Year’s Eve, Derby Day and Fourth of July Celebrations. She is currently working with her fellow committee members on the annual Halloween Party costume parade, which offers residents the opportunity to display their creativity and originality. As the year winds down, the group will turn their attention to the community’s popular New Year’s Eve celebration, which lets residents shine in glitzy attire while enjoying good food and great company.
“What I like about all the activities I’m involved in is really the people I work with,” Debby noted. “They are just so friendly and welcoming. It all keeps me busy—and happy.”
Debby is grateful that she made the move to Waverly Heights when she did. While she was only 75 when she moved, she realized that it would be better to move too early than too late. “The older you get, the harder it is to move. I think moving to a place like Waverly when you are still young and vigorous lets you really enjoy your life. I didn’t move because I had to; I moved because I wanted to,” she said.
Now a vital part of a vibrant community, Debby has never looked back. Instead, she embraces the many opportunities that come with her new
lifestyle. “I adored that house in Chester County—that life—but I was very glad to leave it, and I don’t miss it one bit,” she said. “This is another chapter in my life, and I am in just the right place for me now.”
It’s not really surprising that Debby—who has always been ready and willing to seize the moment—is making the most of retirement. “For me, retirement means being as busy as you want, but making this time in your life count: for you and others,” she concluded. “I want to be useful, but I also want to listen to the music and savor the chocolates because you never know how long you have.” As she continues to make memories and enjoy every day to the fullest, Debby knows that she made the move to Waverly Heights not a moment too soon.