Living Senior: Going Along For the Ride

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When William B. Roberts vacations a new city, he has a time-tested and familiar ritual to begin the trip. Before heading down to the pool or checking out tourist attractions, he surveys the local transportation system.

“Public transportation just fascinates me,” said William. “Every time I go to a new city, I go see how it operates and how everybody gets around.”

The 94 year-old resident of Hermitage, a continuing care retirement community in Alexandria, Va., said has managed to integrate this interest into his everyday life as well. Twice a week, he rides along on scenic van trips with his fellow Hermitage residents.

“On the bus tours, they just bring us around town to see everything,” he said. “Nobody knows where we’ll end up-not even the driver! It’s always something new.”

As a D.C. Metro resident for most of his adult life, William enjoys seeing how the roads, buildings and other infrastructure have changed over the years.

“Sometimes they’ll put new buildings up or tear one down,” he said. “It’s a changing world, and I remember the past well.”

William has had plenty of time to survey the community and its changes. His 33-year- retirement has been almost as long as his career. He retired at age 61, after more than 40 years of a working as a government budget examiner with the federal Office of Management and Budget.

“The numbers and I have always gotten along well,” William said. “I can handle them, and I understand them.”

After growing up near Philadelphia, he moved to the Washington Metro area to work for the government. He married his wife, whom he met at work, in 1956. They lived most of their lives in Arlington with their son, Clifford.

After William’s wife passed away in 1988, he moved in with Clifford and enjoyed his retirement at home. However, when his son got married in 2004, he knew he would have to find another place to live.

“I asked some people from church and did some research, and Hermitage seemed to be the place,” said William, who currently receives assisted living care and was previously in an independent living apartment.

The community’s central location was convenient to Clifford, who visits about once a week. William’s face glows with pride when he speaks of his son, whose passion for public transit rivals his own. Clifford is a civil engineer who is presently working on Washington Metro’s orange line extension to Dulles Airport. He was also involved with the extension of Baltimore’s subway system.

“Like father, like son,” William said, with a smile.

Almost every morning William eats breakfast with friends on Hermitage’s sun porch, which has an impressive view of the Washington monument and the downtown district. He enjoys doing Tai Chi for exercise, organizing his room and socializing with other residents.

“Everybody is very friendly,” said William.

Another of his favorite activities is watching the Hermitage train, which is put up each holiday season by the community’s residents. The colorful landscape features bridges, tracks, greenery and of course, a large train.

“I love watching things that move and are constantly on the go,” he said. “Maybe it’s because, after being retired 33 years, I’m still on the go.”

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