Photo caption: Dan Feighery, Don Allen, and Jean Feighery welcome Don Allen to the Bistro and neighborhood. Don was a student of Dan’s and in April, will be a neighbor!

The following story was shared by Dan Feighery during a recent presentation by three residents at The Woodlands to a group of prospective residents considering moving to a retirement community.

“We started with a small two-bedroom house in 1966 and by 1984 we had a three-level, plus basement, house, an acre of land and a 200 foot long driveway. With each move we accumulated more things!

About 15 years ago a medical procedure required my having a short rehab which made me think that, at some point, staying in our house might become a challenge. As we age, our house ages!

In the early 2000s Jean’s mother lived alone in their rural Monticello, New York house. Then in the fall of 2004, we had a phone call from the hospital saying they could not release her to live by herself and that they suspected Alzheimer’s.

We needed to find some place near where we lived. We were appalled at what we saw. A FFX Government Center advisor mentioned a new place called The Gardens at Fair Oaks. Mom moved into their Memory Care Unit. After a few months of proper food, care and medication alignment, she moved upstairs to an assisted living apartment. She lived there happily for about two years before she died in 2006. This was a textbook case of an elderly person trying to care for themselves day-to-day, that had not worked out.

When I was in my early 70s, we were still active with the Lifelong Learning Center at George Mason University. We learned about senior housing, activities of daily living and Continuous Care Retirement Communities ranging from Independent Living to nursing care and the costs involved.

I thought to myself, I’ll probably die before my wife, Jean, and I didn’t want her living alone in the house like her mother had in her later years. I put together an Excel spreadsheet to project costs versus income and investments.

When I was almost 76, we decided instead of paying taxes, as well as heating and cooling unused spaces, and clearing fallen trees, etc, we would review literature from various facilities, planning to sell our home when I turned 80. Over the next few years, we visited several communities and fine-tuned our thinking.

This is Not Just a Real Estate Decision. It is a Way of Life Decision!

We met a retired official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who said he moved into The Woodlands in 2011 and had a glowing opinion of the community. Since both The Gardens and The Woodlands are run by The Bainum family, he suggested we visit with Ellen.

After an initial conversation with Ellen, we focused on understanding The Woodlands as a possible retirement home. It was a relatively small population of retirees from diverse jobs. We downloaded the Residence and Care Agreement which had “rules to live by.”

Jean and I attended an informal resident/management get-together over coffee and snacks. Chatting with some of the residents, we got the feeling that The Woodlands was more like a friendly neighborhood rather than a hotel or senior apartment.

We attended a weekday dinner and Sunday brunch and a couple of “Community Meetings” with updates by the staff on what was happening in the community.

Before making a final decision, we also took a copy of everything we would have to sign to our lawyer to be sure we understood and needed to get clarification on a couple of things. I was 76 when we then finalized which apartment design we preferred and paid the $1,000 to be on the waiting list, anticipating a year or two wait.

A few months later we had a phone call from Ellen advising us we were number three on a waitlist for an Oaks II design which was becoming available in about three months. We looked back over our notes and financial projections. European Opera and photo trips had to be cut. We said yes and called a real estate agent.

seniors enjoying a Valentine's Day event

Making the Decision to Move to a Senior Retirement Community

Our decision came down to three quality of life factors, plus the cost considerations.

  • We would be close to places important to us. We wanted to stay involved with old friends, churches, George Mason University and a newborn We wanted indoor parking for one car since we remained active in the Northern Virginia area.
  • The Woodlands was a relatively small retirement community with a diverse population of people we thought we would like to know better.
  • The We just had a good feeling when we visited and spoke with both folks who lived here and staff as well.

Special Features that Convinced Us We Made the Right Move

The Dining Room – The Bainum family has made dining a high priority in their senior living communities. Small details add up to a wonderful experience, such as:

  • Tablecloths in the dining room
  • You can reserve a particular table
  • Servers call you by name
  • Menus are published for the following week and you can also ask for adjustments to the day’s menu.
  • You can order the meal to go and eat in your

One meal per day is covered by the fee. You can carry over or use a meal credit for a guest, etc. The Bistro is open for lunch. You can charge, pay or use a meal credit.

Sense of Community – We enjoy getting to know other senior residents and becoming friends with some. Not all our neighbors were born in the United States. Some of the other countries include Australia, England, Germany, and Switzerland.

Casual Social Interactions – a variety of daily, weekly and annual events create a very active independent living lifestyle for residents. Morning round tables, ROMEO’s (a group of Retired Old Men Eating Out that go to a diner each Friday morning), Juliet’s coffee, outdoor barbecues, craft showcase, Great Courses, Senior Olympics, table games and family swims are just a few of the many activities that make The Woodlands such a special place to live.

The Setting: The views out the windows in this 17-acre community can include woods, walking paths and pond, plus individual gardens in the back. All of the amenities are conveniently located in one building including the indoor pool, fitness center, yoga studio, library and movie theater.

Maintenance-free Living – The snow is cleared off residents’ cars, or the cars are moved inside to clear driveways parking. Beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens, all cared for by a professional team of friendly workers who take pride in the appearance of The Woodlands.

Scheduled Transportation – Bonita Lestina Concert Series and other entertainment venues, Oakton Library and museums are just some of the area attractions which are easily accessible with several Woodlands vehicles including a large van and sedans. Regularly scheduled routes to nearby shopping and scheduled medical appointments are convenient with The Woodlands available vehicles.

There are many options for senior living in the Fairfax-northern Virginia area. But the combination of the Bainum family’s extensive experience in senior care communities and their values and priorities of creating a family-oriented living environment for each of their residents convinced Jean and me that we made the right decision.

Contact them today to see if they are the right senior living community for you!