Live Vibrantly - December 29, 2021

Living a Long and Engaged Life at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads: Two Residents Share Their Stories

By Amanda Ranowsky

Dick Graham and Jane McKeel stand over the special dinner laid out on their dining room table to celebrate Dick's 25th year at GHBC.
Dick and Jane hold hands over the special spread laid out by GHBC Dining Services to celebrate Dick’s 25th year at GHBC. They dined on cheese ravioli with a mushroom oyster sauce and toasted with a bottle of champagne!

2021 brought about a special anniversary for Dick Graham. In September, he celebrated 25 years of living at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC). This makes Dick the longest-tenured resident currently at either of the Goodwin House Life Plan Communities.

Over the years, Dick has seen incredible growth and change. I recently sat down with him and his partner, Jane McKeel. Jane is another long-time resident; she moved to GHBC in 2003. Dick and Jane chatted with me about their time at GHBC, why they each chose to come to Goodwin House and what they appreciate about living here. They also offered their advice for someone considering their future plans as they age.

Why Goodwin House?

Dick and Jane came to Goodwin House for similar reasons. Their spouses had developed health challenges, and they wanted to be in a place where they would get the care, services and support they needed.

Both Dick and Jane were a bit younger than the average resident when they moved in, and they made their moves earlier than they had originally planned.

“My wife and I always intended to come to a place like Goodwin House,” said Dick. “I thought we’d make the move when we were 75. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so we accelerated that a bit, and we moved here when we were 70.”

“My husband had early-onset Alzheimer’s,” shared Jane. “By the time we were in our late 50s, he was on the decline. We moved here when I was 65 and my husband was 68, because we had to get out of the house and get better care for him—for both of us—because I was his caregiver for 13 years.”

Dick and Jane knew they were joining a wonderful community. They already had friends living at GHBC. For decades, both have attended a local Unitarian Universalist church, where many members have joined the GHBC resident ranks over the years.

One fellow church member, Mary Lathram, was one of the first residents to move into GHBC when it opened in 1987. Mary lived out her life at GHBC until 2016. She enjoyed 29 years as a resident, was known for being an avid swimmer and was inspired to start a still-standing annual tradition at GHBC, Spring Fling, which showcases resident and staff talents. She set a record that Dick might just break as the person with the longest history as a resident at Goodwin House.

“Mary and her husband were friends of ours from church,” said Dick. “They were founding members of our church,” Jane added.

“One of the reasons I moved here was that I knew so many people from my church who were here,” Jane continued. “By the time I chose to come here, we knew a number of people here. So, when we moved in, it already felt kind of like home.”

What Do You Like Most About Living Here?

Dick and Jane’s answers began the same way.

“I think most people say the people,” Dick shared. “The culture is kind of unique here.”

Jane agreed. “Both staff and residents – there are people here that have just been wonderful to know.”

They quickly followed these comments with much more of what they like.

For Dick, it’s the opportunity to be an active member of the community. He was elected to the Resident Council, serving two consecutive two-year terms from 1998-2001, and chairing the council during all four years of his service.

“I felt it was a useful body to communicate with management and the Board of Trustees who are in charge of Goodwin House Incorporated [the parent organization of the Life Plan Communities],” he said. “Just as you vote to participate as a citizen, being on the council is something like that. You’re being active within your community and showing that you care about what is going on.”

Dick continued this form of activism when he helped to found VaCCRA (Virginia Continuing Care Residents Association). An association of residents in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in the state of Virginia, VaCCRA “promotes and protects the interests of CCRC residents and the people who care for them.”

In speaking with residents of other communities through his work with VaCCRA, Dick learned just how unique Goodwin House is.

“The management have an open door here, and open books,” he said, “which is very unusual in these kinds of communities. Residents influence what goes on here. That proved to me what a good choice it was to come here. A lot of communities don’t share financial information with residents, and they don’t encourage active participation by residents. That’s quite opposite at the Goodwin House communities.”

Jane also appreciates the opportunity to play an active role in the community. “What keeps me here are the opportunities for growth and creativity. One of my passions is the environment,” she said. “After I’d been at GHBC about a year, I stood up at one of the resident council meetings and said ‘I feel like there is recycling here, but it’s not well advertised. I think it needs more emphasis.’ Mary [Lathram] ran over to me after the meeting and said, ‘That’s exactly the way I feel!’ Within a week or two, we’d started a group of people interested in the environment. We called ourselves the Green Team, and we’re still going!”

Today, the Green Team has nearly 30 resident members who continue to influence the policies at GHBC. They work especially closely with the environmental services and dining services departments to help GHBC reduce its carbon footprint and implement environmentally-friendly policies. As recently as 2019, they spearheaded the implementation of a composting program at both Goodwin House Life Plan Communities.

What Advice Do You Have for Those Considering Moving to Goodwin House?

Jane shared her wish for people to see beyond the stereotypes of communities like Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads and Goodwin House Alexandria. “Some people—especially introverted people—might think they don’t want to move to a community because they want to maintain their private life,” she shared. “But you can have your own private life right here and still have all the benefits of the community. That’s remarkable to me.”

Though she admitted herself to be an extrovert, she still values the time she can spend alone in her apartment. “Nobody’s going to be knocking on the door saying ‘you need to be out with people!’ I love that our privacy is respected, and yet there are a thousand opportunities to get involved. It’s a great balance.”

She went on to counter the ageism that is prevalent throughout our society, affecting more than the residents of the Goodwin House Life Plan Communities. “To the outside world, we’re just old,” she said. “I used to think that way. I thought, if I ever live to be 80, anything more than that would be gravy. I don’t feel that way now. The possibilities for growth and creativity are endless, at any age, as long as your mind is working.”

For Jane and Dick both, being at Goodwin House helps sustain that engagement. “Here, we’re encouraged to grow, reach out and keep learning,” Jane said. “That’s just invaluable. It helps us to continue to be engaged human beings until the very end.”

With 25 years for Dick and nearly 20 for Jane, the two have seen and shared many experiences at Goodwin House. “It’s a great place to live,” Dick said. “You can quote me on that!”

________________________

As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin House Incorporated to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.

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