Coming Full Circle: Independent Living

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active adult woman Home. Rarely has a word conjured up so many thoughts, memories and emotions as the one that describes your place of comfort and security. In many seniors’ cases, making the decision to move involves choosing to leave the home in which they’ve lived for decades – the place they’ve raised a family and made their own.

For Mary Slaughter, home has consisted of two key places. The resident of Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge grew up in Charlottesville, Va., but spent a large portion of her life in Illinois where she worked at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. The decision to move back into the town where she grew up came as a surprise, even to her.

“I had never really thought about ever coming back to Charlottesville,” said Mary. “Now, I’m playing golf at the same club I played tennis at when I was growing up. I have come full circle.”

Mary grew up and attended public school in Charlottesville, and had a father who was a university professor. She went to college at the University of Virginia where she was always very active, playing on the Men’s Varsity Tennis Team and studying to become a physical education teacher.

“There was no women’s team at that time, so I just played with the men,” she said.

Because of her successful tennis background as a young woman, she made her way straight to the top upon graduation. Her first job out of school was as a professor of physical education at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

“I had an extensive background in tennis that enabled me to jump right into the college level,” she recalled.

When she decided to get her master’s degree, she chose the University of Illinois. When the institution began to prioritize research more than teaching, she went on to get her Ph.D. Even though she was busy working with the Physical Fitness Research lab at the university, she still participated in tennis tournaments.

After spending almost her whole career at the university and later as manager at a tennis club in Illinois, Mary became ill. During this time, she said she began to appreciate how much her family meant to her.

“It made me realize the importance of family and the need to be near them,” she said. “And it’s really interesting so many of the people who are at Westminster are here to be near their children.”

Mary moved into Westminster Canterbury about a year and a half ago. While she admitted she initially had difficultly adjusting to a new situation, she said most of her concerns were put to rest after just a couple months.

“It was remarkable,” she said. “Although it was challenging at first, I re-connected with old friends and made new ones rather quickly,”.

Because Mary is a Charlottesville native, many residents who are new to the area have come to depend on her navigational skills, answers to questions or just a caring ear to listen. She said she finds herself driving her newly-found friends around the Charlottesville area, which she knows quite well.

“It’s been a really great marriage, if you will, because I enjoy being out in Charlottesville and I can drive,” she said. “It’s always nice to be helpful to others and it gives me the chance to take friends along, which is always fun.”

These days she spends her time involved in the many offerings at WCBR, as well as golfing 2-3 times a week, spending time with her dog Buster, and even manages to fit in a card game she hasn’t played since her days at the University of Virginia.

“I’ve taken up bridge and I hadn’t played since college,” she said with a laugh. “Now I’m playing a lot of bridge.”

Mary is one of the younger residents of Westminster Canterbury, and she said she enjoys the diverse age range. While difference in age is something that may have mattered in high school, now the years between her and her friends don’t matter as much, she said.

As a teenager or a child, it does make a difference,” she said. “But I really am very lucky because I now have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of ages.”

When asked what advice she would give to those considering a move, she advised seniors to monitor their health vigilantly as to not miss out on the activities their community may have to offer.

“So many people wait too long to move, and then can’t take advantage of the opportunities,” said Mary. “If you don’t have energy and health, you can’t appreciate all that is around you.”

Though Mary’s lifestyle in Virginia is a little different from the one she left behind in Illinois, she has no regrets about relocating back to her old stomping grounds. With one brother living near her in Charlottesville and another close by in Richmond, the decision was almost made for her.

“It makes sense for me to come back here because I had no family in Illinois,” she said. “I had known about Westminster-Canterbury and knew a lot of people here before I moved back, primarily friends of my parents and family. Personal connections were easy.”

And looking back, Mary knows her decision to come full circle was the right one.

“I could have made the decision to stay in Illinois, but I’m so glad I didn’t,” she said. “I’m having a great time. It’s another stage of life.”

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