Back on Campus–Lifelong Educators Plan Ahead–Westminster at Lake Ridge
By Christy Brudin
As lifelong educators, Jack Armstrong and Barbara Share have created quite a few lesson plans. When the time came to explore retirement living options, they approached the task like true educators: with well-defined criteria, meticulous checklists and a willingness to adapt their plans.
Now residents of Westminster at Lake Ridge, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., Jack and Barbara began searching for the perfect retirement lifestyle early – and considered locations from Maine to North Carolina. Ultimately, the two academics were swayed by the opportunity to return to a true campus and enjoy a college-like lifestyle.
It was their mutual passion for education that initially brought Jack and Barbara together. Married for 30 years, the couple met while working on a curriculum-development project for the Council of Independent Colleges.
With experience as a college professor and an academic dean, Jack was leading the project. Barbara was serving on the team from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. After teaching at both the elementary and high school levels for decades, Barbara had begun teaching college courses and was the director of the continuing education program at Mount Saint Joseph.
“While I was interacting with her as a part of that team, she quickly got my attention,” Jack recalled. The couple began a long-distance relationship, which continued for several years. By the time the project ended, Jack and Barbara had decided to get married.
When Jack was offered a job at a University of Maine satellite campus, the newly married couple moved to the eastern coast of Maine. “It was a great place to live, and a marvelous place to start our marriage,” he said. He served as the academic vice president and also taught at the university before retiring.
Both nature lovers, Jack and Barbara enjoyed the breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife in Maine. However, they grew weary of winters that began in October and ended in May. “We retired in Maine, but after a year or so, we started looking south,” Barbara said. “I have some hip issues, and I wanted to be able to get outside without being afraid of falling.”
Jack and Barbara started planning. They made a list of must-haves. They narrowed down their locations, and they hit the road. “We took several weeks and explored a number of areas,” Barbara recalled.
After willingly breaking two of their own rules, the couple settled on a new home in a golf community south of Wilmington, North Carolina. “We promised ourselves that we weren’t going to buy anything on that trip, and that we would never build a house,” Barbara smiled as she recalled. “We broke a couple of our rules, but it was a good experience.”
Jack and Barbara lived in the community near Wilmington for 14 years and enjoyed their proximity to the beach. However, they began to think about the next phase of their lives and started planning for retirement once again.
“With our educational backgrounds, we tend to be list makers and planners,” Jack explained. “That’s just part of our personalities.”
The planning started when Jack’s parents moved to a CCRC – a decision that was extremely uncommon among their generation. “My parents moved into a CCRC in their early 70s, and they were glad they didn’t wait any longer,” said Jack.
Frequent visits to Jack’s parents convinced Jack and Barbara that they wanted the lifestyle and security offered by a CCRC. As they began to look for the perfect community, location became a major factor. While they were living most of the year in North Carolina, the couple continued to spend the summer months at Jack’s cabin in Maine.
“Every year, we were making this 1,400-mile drive, and we’d stop in Vienna, Va., and stay with my sister for a couple of days,” Barbara recalled. When Barbara’s daughter and her family moved from California to near Richmond, Va., the D.C. Metropolitan region started to look even more attractive. During one of their visits, the couple picked up a copy of Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook and began researching local retirement options and identifying potential communities.
When Jack and Barbara visited Westminster at Lake Ridge, they knew they had found their new home. “I was really tired of filling 80 bags full of leaves every year, and I saw these beautiful cottages, and I knew I was ready,” said Barbara.
In addition to the location and the amenities, Jack and Barbara were also thrilled with the sense of community they found at Westminster. “Having been part of an educational community all of our adult lives, the campus-like atmosphere that was offered here was very appealing,” Jack said.
After moving, both Barbara and Jack quickly became involved in an array of activities. “There really are more activities offered here than you could even begin to take in,” Barbara said. “There are educational things, fun things, movies, so many interesting things – just everything you can imagine.”
Barbara works in the gift shop, which donates its proceeds to community service projects, and serves on the library committee. She is also a member of a memoirs group and has recently started painting for the first time in her life.
A lifelong environmentalist, Jack has been spearheading some of the community’s efforts to become more environmentally conscious while decreasing operating costs. Currently, he is working on a project to get residents to switch out all their regular light bulbs for newer, more energy efficient bulbs.
The couple also enjoys walking on the community’s nature trails and observing the many species of birds that call the community home. “It’s so beautiful here,” Barbara said. “I saw four Herons down by the lower pond just this morning.”
Beyond the wide range of activities, Barbara and Jack have enjoyed meeting so many fascinating new people and making new friends. “As soon as we moved in, we were embraced by everyone. They took us right in, and we had friends from the get-go,” Barbara recalled.
To individuals who fear moving to a retirement community, Jack and Barbara suggest considering everything they have to gain. “People don’t realize that moving to a community like Westminster will not mean losing their support network,” Jack said. “In fact, they’re going to increase their support system; they will have plenty of camaraderie, plenty of interaction and so many more friendships.”
After planning a couple of retirements, Jack and Barbara are relieved to have found the perfect home at Westminster at Lake Ridge. The couple made their lists, checked them several times and then waited until they found a community that fit their exacting criteria. Following their long search, these two lifelong educators are thrilled to be back on campus.