Urbanites Refuse to Retire to the Country

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elder couple staying fit and active in retirement communityFrom the roof-top patio, Susan Marlowe and Bill Dunn point out the prominent features of their beloved neighborhood: the steeple of the National City Christian Church, the equestrian statue of civil war hero George H. Thomas, and the ongoing construction and revitalization of Thomas Circle itself.

These two long-time District residents display an intimate knowledge of their community. When asked if they ever considered leaving their busy D.C. lives for rest and relaxation in the country, their response is an unequivocal “No!” They would not want to miss any of the ongoing action. The Thomas Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. is changing rapidly to meet the needs of a growing population. The Residences at Thomas Circle, the active adult community where both Susan and Bill live, is tapping into the excitement with a few changes of its own.

Bill Dunn moved to D.C. after visiting his sisters in the area. He recalls, “All three of my sisters were working here during the war. I came from Kansas City for a vacation, and I never went back.” Bill left two brothers and an already flourishing career in interior design behind in Missouri. While working at a department store in Kansas City, he got a “taste for” the work. In D.C., he held several positions in interior design, including one as a Department Manger at the Woodworth and Lothrop stores in both Chevy Chase and Wheaton. As his skill developed, Bill decided to branch out on his own. He worked as an independent interior designer for 20 years before retiring.

When her family made the move to D.C. in her late teens, Susan fell in love with the city. After graduation, she launched a career on Capitol Hill. Self-described as “very politically orientated,” Susan found her work on the Hill stimulating. She explains, “When I worked on the Hill, things were very different than they are today. Congressional Offices generally had about three people on staff, unlike the armies they have today.” For Susan and her fellow co-workers, this meant unique opportunities to get involved in the political process. “We got to help prepare committee reports and write speeches. Sure, there were mundane tasks too, but we were very involved in the actual process,” she says.

Common interests brought Susan and Bill, now long-time friends, together. From theater to fine dining, they both appreciate the perks of urban living and became part of a group of like-minded friends. Susan and Bill met at the National Presbyterian Church; they have been members of the congregation for years. With several other friends from church, they enjoyed lunches after Sunday services. The large group also purchased season tickets to the Kennedy Center and went on annual trips to New York to attend Broadway shows.

Susan lived in Denver, CO for 20 years before returning to D.C. She explains, “When my husband died, my son urged me to move to D.C. to be near him.” When she started looking for a retirement community in the metro area, her search was thorough. “I must have seen six other places before I finally decided on The Residences at Thomas Circle,” she remembers.

She continues, “All the other places were out in the suburbs though, and I am an urban person.” Susan had no intention of retiring to the suburbs and leaving the thrill of city life behind. She states simply, “Watching the grass grow or the paint dry is not my idea of life.” After several visits to the community and a few conversations with current residents, Susan knew she had found the right place. “I have never regretted that decision for even a single day, and I have been here almost seven years,” she concludes.

Her in-town move left Susan’s social calendar intact, allowing her to continue the Sunday lunches and regular theater visits with Bill and all their friends. Susan had been living at The Residences nearly five years when Bill started suffering with back problems. She encouraged him to make the move. He was easily convinced. “My house was just much too big for me, and I was having problems getting up and down the stairs because of my back problems,” he says. Bill never considered other communities because he knew exactly what he wanted. He states, “I wanted to be in town, so I knew I wanted to be here.” The two jokingly relate that after Bill’s move two years ago, they planned to have all their friends move to the community.

Susan and Bill remain active District residents and are very much a part of life at The Residences. Susan does volunteer work for the National Symphony Orchestra and for several women’s support groups. Because his back pain makes it hard to stand through services, Bill recently gave up his place in the church choir after 18 years of singing. This gap in his schedule was quickly filled. He is the newly elected Treasurer of the Resident’s Association. Susan has been involved with the Resident’s Association in various capacities as well. Representing their fellow residents has helped them both to feel involved in the community’s developments-from changing amenities and options to ongoing additions and upgrades.

Much like the historic circle outside, The Residences at Thomas Circle is going through a period of modernization. From the dining room to the ownership options, life at The Residences is changing. A construction project is currently underway to upgrade the private dining facilities and expand the library to include a large reading room. The large-scale project also includes an updated fitness center, a new back patio with BBQ facilities, and an auditorium that will seat all the residents. “All of these projects will really improve our activities, giving us room for bigger and better programs,” says Susan.

The Residences is also currently transitioning from a continuing care community with entrance fees to a full-service retirement community with the benefit of home ownership. Over 100 new condominiums are under construction, all of which will be available on a purchase-only basis.

Responding to the changing needs of the boomer population is the community’s primary objective for this transition. Residents will enjoy all the services and amenities of a retirement community, all while gaining equity in their homes. If additional care or assistance should become necessary in the future, it will be available through the Assisted Living and Reminiscence services provided by Sunrise Senior Living. With everything planned for, owners at The Residences can simply enjoy the energetic spirit of a community in conversion.

This type of energy is essential to the creation of a dynamic community or a prosperous city. Urbanites like Bill Dunn and Susan Marlow thrive on this energy. Instead of retiring to the country to watch the grass grow, Bill and Susan retire to the roof-top terrace to take in a much more metropolitan display: an active community surrounded by a city in motion.

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