What is the key to longevity? Some believe it’s purely genetics—that your fate and your destiny are sealed at birth, passed down from the generations before you. Some believe it’s the purity of your thoughts and actions when dealing with everything that life throws at you. And some believe that a healthy lifestyle combined with the adage, “Laughter is the best medicine” is the best approach.
Perhaps there is no one conclusive answer. But studies have shown that people who become lonely and cut off from other people—perhaps by the death of a spouse or some other circumstance—are far more likely to decline rapidly than those who remain connected and active. “Engagement is the key to aging well,” says Jeanie Gander, director of sales and marketing at Westminster-Canterbury. “When you have a community where people come together it’s much easier for them to participate and try new things; they stay more engaged. If you’re not physically active, if you’re not socially engaged, you become isolated; you decline and don’t age well.”
Westminster-Canterbury offers several programs to keep their residents active and thoughtful. Since the community is located right on the beach, they can provide instruction on things like paddle boarding and other water activities. They offer forums that provide an environment of continuing education. They have spiritual programming that offers bible studies and more. They regularly go on excursions to places like Williamsburg, the Boardwalk Art Show, new exhibits at local museums and the symphony. They do group “family” activities such as picnics and barbecues. The residents participate in a ton of volunteer work for local schools and nonprofits. And they even have a resident who helps plan trips for them. According to Gander, they’ve been to Cuba, Machu Picchu, river cruises in Europe, an African safari and more.
“All they have to do is write a check, pack and bring their passport,” she says. “Somebody else is taking care of guided tours and all the planning. When they aren’t here, we lock their door and take care of protecting their home while they’re gone. When they come back, we’re going to be here to prepare a beautiful meal for them. It makes it super easy for residents to stay active with different groups of people.”
If someone you know is interested in being included in such a healthy and active lifestyle, the time to think about joining a retirement community is while you’re still active and able-bodied. “Eighty percent of our population is independent, and they had to join our community while they were still healthy,” says Gander. “There are admission requirements to become a resident, and individuals must be able to live independently when they move to Westminster-Canterbury. If they cannot, it’s too late, and we have to turn them away, meaning they must pursue other options because they waited too long. Once here, residents have access to ‘assisted living’ and ‘nursing care,’ but they must come to us while they are still independent and can enjoy all we offer. While residents appreciate security and care for the future, in the end they all say they wished they moved here sooner because of the convenient lifestyle and the abundance of ways to stay engaged.”