Charlottesville, Virginia was chosen one of the “Top 10 Healthiest Places to Retire” by AARP The Magazine as well as one of Black Enterprise’s “Best Places to Retire.” Exactly what makes this city rank so high with the retirement experts
…and with seniors themselves?
Not surprisingly, Charlottesville’s status in the retirement arena starts with its robust medical offering. As of 2008, it was ranked fourth among U.S. metropolitan areas for its number of physicians per capita. And the city is also home to one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals, the University of Virginia Health System, and century-old Martha Jefferson Hospital, which is opening a brand-new facility in Charlottesville later this year.
According to president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, Timothy Hulbert, this level of care is extraordinary in an area its size (the city has about 40,000 residents and a total population of 200,000, including surrounding counties of Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson, Albemarle and Greene). “If you retire in Charlottesville, you know you are going to have access to really good health care,” adds Hulbert.
…and in health
But the depth of medical services is hardly Charlottesville’s only draw for retiring seniors. While it’s comforting to have top-notch physicians and cutting-edge capabilities when the chips are down, many seniors are just as likely to choose the area for its highly acclaimed vineyards; eclectic downtown mall for dining and shopping; 16,000-seat John Paul Jones Arena (voted the “Best New Entertainment Venue in the Country”), and exceptional golf courses (chosen by Golf Digest as the “Best Retirement City for Golfers”).
The city is certainly abuzz with activity for seniors, but Charlottesville is also a scenic burg nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just minutes from the Skyline Drive. “I refer to it as cosmopolitan country living,” says Kristina Paré, director of marketing for CCRC, Westminster-Canterbury, which has a cultural arts center for concerts, lectures and large gatherings, as well as a 17-acre nature preserve with walking trails and pond. And C’ville also boasts four full seasons, appreciated by retirees from more extreme climates, and a rich history as hometown to three presidents, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.
“(It’s) hard to do better than this (University of Virginia) with the continuing adult academic opportunities it affords, … the varied and competitive, nationally ranked sports programs, … the architectural and landscaping beauty that Thomas Jefferson has made so famous,” say Bo and LizBet Hopkins, who chose to retire in Charlottesville 15 years ago. Mr. Hopkins is an alumnus of UVa.
Like Mr. Hopkins, who is an alumnus of UVa, many seniors return to Charlottesville because they still have a fondness for the place, while others choose to settle here simply because of the vitality of living in a college town. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UVA, inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s belief in lifelong education, keeps seniors engaged and stimulated through classes on everything from financial planning to ancient Egypt.
More to life
Quality of life for seniors extends beyond finding the best bottle of wine or literature class. It also includes finding the best healthcare, socialization opportunities, housing and sometimes even help in performing daily activities.
“One of our primary services is to connect people with the information and the services they need,” says Elyse Thierry, publicist for JABA (Jefferson Area Board for Aging), the Area Agency on Aging for the city of Charlottesville and counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson. Providing a wide range of services from home-delivered meals and blood pressure checkups to insurance counseling, adult care centers and long-term care ombudsmanship, JABA makes it possible for older adults to remain in their homes and communities as long as possible.
But when it comes time to make a move, Charlottesville also gives seniors a variety of choices to fit the variety of healthcare or lifestyle needs they might have. For example, Continuing Care Retirement Communities like Westminster-Canterbury, the area’s only nationally accredited not-for-profit CCRC offering Life Care, can take seniors from independent living to dementia care. “There’s a financial security that a Life Care community provides,” says Kristina Paré, explaining that Westminster-Canterbury’s residents have access to higher care levels without a sudden increase in costs. “(This) allows them to get fully involved here or turn the key and go, having the security and peace of mind that whatever may come in the future, their needs are assured.”
Community and comfort
Not only are the financial and care components important to seniors, but retirement communities in Charlottesville find that they are also looking to remain active, form enriching relationships and live their lives. Bottom line, seniors want to feel at home.
Valuing ones independence while maintaining a high quality of life is a priority at Our Lady of Peace, according to community relations coordinator, Dana Fulk. “We offer an activities program that is diverse for the many interests and needs of our residents These programs include fitness, music, individual and group activities, bible study, community projects, arts and crafts, lectures, presentations, and much more,” notes Fulk.
Joyce Lawson, assistant manager of Woods Edge Senior Apartments, agrees that keeping her residents engaged is integral to their quality of life. This independent living community offers seniors garden spaces to work, a library, a fitness center and a community room where residents come for bingo, canasta, a weekly potluck and a monthly birthday party.
Whether in town or inside the borders of your retirement community, there are plenty of experiences awaiting you in Charlottesville. No wonder the list makers love it so much. We bet you will, too!