Retirement Communities: A First-Hand Perspective

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A renowned senior housing expert and his wife make the move themselves

Gardner Van Scoyoc, a renowned senior housing expert and his wife Nancy made the move to Westminster Lake Ridge

Gardner Van Scoyoc certainly knows a thing or two about retirement communities having operated and developed many throughout his 40-year career. Therefore, the decision he made with his wife, Nancy, to move to Westminster at Lake Ridge, a continuing care community in Virginia, was clearly well researched.

Gardner and Nancy met during their first weekend at college and later married in 1954. “By that time I knew I wanted to go to the Virginia Seminary and become an Episcopal Priest,” he said. While working for the Diocese in Richmond, he was involved with its plans to develop a retirement community and appointed to serve as the first executive director. After helping develop more communities throughout the state, he left to start a consulting practice, assisting in projects nationwide and establishing himself as a leading authority in senior housing development.

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As Nancy supported Gardner, she raised their four boys which “was a full time job” she said with a laugh. Once they were all in school, Nancy went back to college to receive degrees in psychology and counseling. As the family moved, her career path included opening two women’s resource centers, doing church-based work, writing a book, and finally for several years directing a wilderness adventure program for inner-city youth.

Eventually the couple grew tired of maintaining their Alexandria home that sat on one acre of land. Despite moving to a townhouse, they still longed for a better sense of community. Nancy said, “I had painted this idyllic picture; I love the natural world and I said I definitely don’t want to go and live in an apartment building.” Since Gardner was familiar with the communities that offered such a natural setting, they visited their friends at Westminster at Lake Ridge, and were extremely impressed.
“I told the marketing department if we could have a cottage right on the pond, and add a sunroom, we might be interested,” said Nancy. Within two months, a cottage became available and they immediately began planning their move to Westminster, adding the sunroom and a mosaic stone patio created by their son.

Now fully settled in, the Van Scoyocs could not be happier. “This is the only place I know of in the metropolitan area that has cottages, ponds and woods. It’s a beautiful landscape and still has easy accessibility to a number of shopping centers,” said Gardner. “Of all the retirement facilities I’ve developed, I can stack this one up against any of them as being one of the nicer facilities, and it’s not out of reach financially.”

The connections they have made at Westminster are very important to the couple too. “We have people we feel very close to here, but it’s also the staff. The staff makes us feel like we are all part of a family,” said Nancy.

Additionally, the couple is enjoying their change in lifestyle. “Less of my time is spent with cooking and cleaning; I can do the things I love to do,” said Nancy. “I can walk in the woods, I can indulge in gardening. There are also so many interesting programs and musical events offered at Westminster.”

After a long career helping others make this transition, Gardner offered words of wisdom from his own perspective. “You don’t want to wait so long that you have the choice imposed on you. That’s the key to having control of your own future.”

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