Retirement Communities: Making It Their Own

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senior citizens enjoy independent lifestyleAmong the countless tidbits of advice that often echo throughout retirement communities, one suggestion tends to persist again and again. Those who have already planned their retirement will tell you without hesitation: “Be sure to make your retirement your own.”

These four retirees span different levels of education, income and ethnic origin. They have different hobbies, talents and physical abilities. Some live independently, while others need a little extra assistance. All of them, however, have become proponents of personal choice, diversity and, yes, tailoring their retirement to make it “their own.”

Salvatore Trivisani, Lenora O’Toole, Archie Bradford and Rose Nemerow are living proof that retirement can be anything you make it, and they are eager to share their personal stories.


The quintessential family man, Salvatore Trivisani wanted to spend his retirement years near his grandchildren, watching them grow up and making him proud.

“I wanted to be right around the corner from them to watch them play,” said Salvatore, who recalled fond memories of his own lively childhood in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. “Now I can be close to them.”

With some urging from his daughter, Cheri Redding, who has four children of her own, he applied to live at Chesterbrook Residences, an assisted living facility in McLean, Va. The community won’t be officially opened until after the summer of 2007, but that was part of its appeal to the Salvatore and his family.

“It’s brand new, he’ll be one of the very first residents,” said Cheri. “Plus, it’s less than a mile away from my home.”

Salvatore hopes to make his living quarters at Chesterbrook feel like home by bringing his own artwork to decorate the walls. An avid art enthusiast, he uses pointillism techniques to create his collection of drawings and paintings.

“My whole walls will be covered with them,” he said, laughing. “I just hope they all fit!”


Lenora O’Toole has always received joy in reaching out to people in need and taking care of others. As the oldest of eleven children – 6 girls and 5 boys-she found herself raising some of her younger siblings almost single-handedly.

“I feel good about helping people,” said the 94-year old, who earned the name ‘The Granny Nanny’ when caring for her grandchildren while their parents were at work. “That’s all I’ve ever known.”

After a back injury several years ago, her daughter looked at several communities in Northern Virginia. They decided on Culpepper Garden, where Lenora would come to reside as an independent living resident.

“We were very impressed here,” she recalled. “The staff was friendly, the residents were nice, and it was affordable.”

While she admitted it was a little difficult adjusting to living alone for the first time in her life, she was settled in and happy in no time. One reason she adjusted so well was the opportunity to give back in the dining hall.

“Almost right away, I volunteered to become a dinner checker,” said Lenora of her weekly volunteer job, which entails checking in fellow residents for meals to make sure they are safe and accounted for.

On weekends, she acts an unofficial ambassador for prospective residents who visit the community, and welcomes them all with her signature smile and warm disposition.

“I’m 93, and every day I’m on my feet,” Lenora said. “I have a purpose here, and I feel good about that.”


Archie Bradford led a fast-paced life, and intends for his retirement to be no different. As President George H.W. Bush’s personal pilot who flew Air Force One, he has had his fair share of thrills.

“I have had an exciting life,” recalled Archie, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps and a recipient of the Purple Heart medal for his military service.

After a harsh fall in his home and a stint in a rehabilitation facility five years ago, Archie’s children thought he might be suited for an assisted living community. After a thorough search of all the area’s options, Tall Oaks at Reston, seemed to be ideal to satisfy his adventuresome spirit, while assuring he would be taken care of. These days, Archie’s life is still full of exciting activities. He enjoys shooting pool, takes part in the many social activities offered at Tall Oaks and spends time with his many friends. When an Elvis Presley impersonator visits to play music for the residents, Archie has been known to stand out from the crowd with his exceptional rendition of the Jitterbug, Twist and other rock and roll dance moves.

“I have a lot of friends here, and my life sure is a lot of fun,” Archie said.


Remember Rosie the Riveter, the bandana-clad machine worker who inspired women to roll up their sleeves as they labored in the factories during the Second World War? Rose Nemerow, a resident of Potomac Place at Woodbridge, may not have been the actual wartime darling, but she did work in a defense factory as a young woman, and she was a riveter.

“I became very good at it,” she recalled with fondness.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Rose decided from a very early age that she would do everything to the best of her ability. When classmates and other children taunted her for being different, she used their insults as fuel for the fire she had lit within herself for strength.

“I took what they said and become motivated to be the best,” she said.

The renowned mandolin player has received numerous accolades for her musical accomplishments, has performed at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and currently plays with several orchestras in the area. A musician in every sense of the word, she never leaves home without her instrument.

When Rose decided it was time to retire, she already had a head start on the search process. Having performed at retirement homes all across the region, she knew exactly the type of community for her, and Potomac Place fit the bill.

“I knew all about them before it was even time for me to retire,” she said with a laugh.

From intimate gatherings in the hallway where residents gather to watch her practice, to an impromptu New Years Eve performance for 80 people that “saved the day”, Potomac Place has always supported her musical endeavors.

“This is a very vibrant community, people love to hear me play,” she said. “In fact, the residents always tell me to play louder!”

As these four friends demonstrate, there is no single definition of a fulfilling retirement. With every new transition comes a new choice, and each of them has successfully navigated the expansive array of options to make their retirement years their very own. With their four respective communities, they can truly say they’ve found the perfect fit.

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