Posted by The Kensington Reston on 07/16/2021

A Story to Tell

A Story to Tell

David has a story to tell. Actually, he has a few thousand. And they are worth telling. After all, he is a storyteller by trade. 

David Schoumacher is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist. Locally, he served as a news anchor on WJLA, the Washington ABC affiliate, until his retirement in 1988. His decades-long career included covering seminal stories from the Kennedy assassination
to Watergate—as well as every presidential campaign in between. During a foundational period of American history, David was a powerful voice and a prolific storyteller.

But his story—his personal story—stretches far beyond newsrooms and recording studios. He is a father, grandfather, cattleman, and friend. He is also a proud resident of The Kensington Falls Church. 

Kensington Senior Living communities were conceived by a group of experienced senior living executives who wanted to do something different. They set out to build assisted living residences where they would want their own parents to live. The communities feature high staff-to-resident ratios, custom activity programs and accommodations for couples with different care needs. 

At every Kensington community, the primary goal is to foster genuine connections between residents and staff members—to build a family. Today, Kensington Senior Living includes seven total communities located in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia. The newest community is in Reston, Va. (see sidebar). 

In addition to strong interpersonal connections, Kensington communities also help residents develop and maintain physical and mental strength through expert, in-house physical therapy and rehabilitation programs. The communities partner with Genesis Rehab and HealthPRO Heritage to provide therapy options that help every resident regain or retain their optimal level of independence. Residents receive therapy in the comfort of their community on a regular basis, so there is no disruption to daily life and care is delivered consistently. Residents have the option to participate in a variety of programs to meet their unique needs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and fitness programs. 

Introduction

A Chicago native, David received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. After graduation, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for five years. When David left the military, he moved back to Illinois and became a reporter for the Rockford Morning Star. From there, his career quickly took off, and he transitioned from radio host to television reporter to evening news anchor.

Prologue

“I was in Vietnam, near the end, and I was leaving a battlefield, a rice paddy,” David recalled. “I was in the helicopter with my legs hanging over the side, and they were evacuating my crew and me. I looked down and there were 100 Americans laying in the mud in that rice paddy—all of them looking up—and I was leaving.” It was that powerful vignette that led David away from war reporting and back to politics, changing the direction of his career.

“I couldn’t make my living observing the suffering of others,” David explained. “Vietnam was the first time that I had seen suffering up close, being a privileged citizen of the United States. It was harrowing.” 

The Next Chapters

From that haunting experience in Vietnam, David drew inspiration to report on the inner workings of American democracy—including its sometimes-glaring flaws. “I covered every presidential campaign from Kennedy on through Reagan. Each one was fun, and there were tremendous individual stories behind each of those men,” he recalled. “A presidential campaign really is kind of like a snapshot of America at the moment.”

Of course, as a political reporter, David found himself at the center of an infamous political scandal when Watergate broke. “I think in the long-term Watergate was probably the most important thing that happened while I was covering politics,” he said. He recalled that during the trials a Nixon White House source confided that he was glad the press had caught them because he felt they were headed toward Nazism.

“As a reporter, I was initially worried that we were ganging up on Nixon. That we weren’t being fair to him. Then it was confirmed that someone on the inside was seeing the same thing we were seeing on the outside,” David recalled. “That was huge to me. That confirmed my career, confirmed the importance of journalism.”

Far from the corridors of the White House, David also covered one of the most inspirational stories of his time: the space flights. “I covered all the space flights, but I remember a lunar landing in particular,” he recalled. “By that time, the lunar landings felt kind of routine. The space program was so good. We all just knew it was going to work. That was America—the very best of America, and it was amazing.”

David’s incredible career ended with a 12-year stint as the anchorman for the Washington, DC ABC news affiliate. He continued to use his political insights and connections to form close relationships with Washington insiders, including many former presidents. “I became close to Reagan, Bush and Carter. I had informal moments with all of them,” he recalled. 

While David loves to reminisce—and tell stories—he doesn’t live in the past. “The memories of my time in journalism are great, and they make me feel good when I think about them,” he said. “But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it now.” 

Epilogue 

When David retired from journalism, he found a new passion: raising cattle. “I moved out to a little farm outside of Washington, and I became a cattleman. I was wrestling cows and building fences right up until I was 82 years old,” he recalled. 

Even after moving to assisted living, David has remained involved in the operation of Thistle Hill Farm, which is now owned by one of his daughters and managed by a grandson. He recently made his first visit out to the farm since the pandemic began in March 2020 and was pleased to see his second career still flourishing as a family business.

A powerful sequel

When David moved to The Kensington Falls Church, he was far from being able to wrestle cows. In fact, he was at an all-time low. 

Mere weeks after his wife died of cancer, David collapsed at his home. He was airlifted to the hospital and immediately sent to emergency surgery. David underwent an aortic replacement. He recalls the surgeon telling him that the odds of survival were not great, and that the surgery had never been done on someone his age. But there was no other option with even a chance of survival. David chose surgery.

“I didn’t let that surgeon down. I died a couple of times on the table before the surgery was over, but they were miraculous,” David said. “I ended up being unconscious for six weeks, but I lived.”

After regaining consciousness, David needed advanced rehabilitation. Unfortunately, while at a rehabilitation hospital, he developed multiple infections and was forced to return to the hospital repeatedly. David then had a bad experience at a rehabilitation facility that was dirty, mismanaged and unable to handle his complicated care needs. 

After searching desperately for the right care environment, one of David’s daughters stumbled on The Kensington Falls Church, which is near her home. “From the moment she walked in, she knew this was going to be the place,” David said. “It’s overwhelming. It just feels different. There is an immediate welcoming, positive atmosphere here at The Kensington.”

David came into The Kensington Falls Church on a stretcher, as a self-described “bionic man” who was “rigged to all sorts of tubes.” He was a high-needs, high-risk patient, but the staff at The Kensington immediately rose to the challenge.

“The caregiving I received was remarkable. They just took me into their family. It was so different than the other places I had experienced,” David said. “I can’t even tell you what it meant. I had been very depressed—had essentially given up. In no time at all, they had me up and put me in a wheelchair.”

When David’s caregiver, Christiana Osei, wheeled him to the dining room and insisted he eat dinner with other people, his whole outlook shifted. It was in the dining room that David met several men he now calls friends. The camaraderie and intellectual stimulation the group has provided were key to David’s recovery. 

“I have breakfast with them every day,” David said of his peers. “It’s a pretty incredible group. I’m sitting with a retired CIA man, a retired internist, a former pilot, and a retired chemistry professor. We have some serious arguments.” David added with a laugh, “If they would only listen to us, we would have solved the problems of this country a long time ago.”

Beyond making friends and enjoying a positive atmosphere, David also received world-class care, including regular physical therapy. All of Kensington Senior Living’s properties provide preventive and proactive physical therapy. Using state-of-the art equipment, therapists can help residents ward off illness, preserve strength, and boost morale. When rehabilitation is needed, the communities are equipped to deliver physical, occupational, and speech therapy on site—making it easier for residents to access treatments more frequently. Kensington communities provide both short- and long-term rehabilitation for residents following a fall, injury, surgery, or illness. 

With the help of the dedicated therapists, David has progressed from being bedridden to using a cane to navigate the community. He is now able to walk around, socialize, and is even getting out into the larger community sometimes with a walker.

David knows that this chapter in his life could have ended much differently. He credits The Kensington’s commitment to treating residents like family for his remarkable recovery.  “There is a chemistry here at The Kensington. I am so lucky to be here. I could feel it even when I was rolled in on a stretcher. This doesn’t feel like a hospital; it feels like a home, a home filled with go-getters. And they don’t let you quit here,” David said.

Not the end

David certainly won’t be quitting anytime soon. He has many more stories to tell—and more memories to make. “I came here surrendered, beaten, a victim,” David concluded. “I enjoy my friends here, but I also enjoy my family again. I am really enjoying life again.” That is certainly a story worth telling.

The rehabilitation team at The Kensington Reston including (from left to right): Rachel Poutre, Candace Lindenberg, Jean Myrah, Julie Chris, and Rob Kohli.

From Founder To Beneficiary

Tiffany living The Kensington Promise and enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with her family during her time at Kensington Park.

“I am absolutely certain my recovery was as strong as it was because of the five weeks that I spent at Kensington Park,” explained Tiffany. 

Tiffany and her co-founders, all long-time senior living executives, had a vision for a different type of senior living community. “We saw a gap in the marketplace. There was a need for communities that offered a full spectrum of care, including physical therapy along with many lifestyle amenities and options. We wanted to create communities where we would want our parents to live. That is why our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own,” Tiffany explained. “But through many months of planning, never once did we talk about any of us living in the communities.”

That changed when Tiffany was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a treatable blood cancer. Although she quickly went into remission, the cancer damaged many of her bones, including her hip, requiring a full replacement. Following surgery, Tiffany knew she needed quality rehabilitation. She also knew her multi-story house in Reston, Va., was not conducive to healing. An idea was born.

Tiffany moved into Kensington Park in Kensington, Md. While living in her comfortable apartment, she was able to visit with her family and her dog, Nikki, and focus on recovery. She was also able to really get to know the residents and experience the community from their perspective. 

“Living in one of our communities confirmed for me just how important the culture of our organization is to the residents who live here,” Tiffany explained. “I was the personal recipient of the family-oriented care we set out to deliver. That was so incredibly gratifying. It was also essential to helping me heal.”

A New Community, A Trusted Approach


(Top) Outdoor patio is enjoyed by The Kensington Reston residents.

(Bottom) Angela Bailey is the Executive Director for Kensington Senior Living.

Reston, Virginia, and Kensington Senior Living are a natural match. Kensington Senior Living’s newest community, The Kensington Reston, opened in February 2021 and will eventually welcome 90 residents in its assisted living and memory care suites.  

Founded by Robert E. Simon, Jr., in 1964 as Virginia’s first planned residential community, Reston is known worldwide for its forward-thinking approach to working, playing, living, and connecting in the same community. The Kensington promise “to love and care for your family as we do our own,” and Reston’s founding principles are very much in sync. 

The Kensington Reston is thrilled to call this unique community home and is excited to welcome residents to the Kensington family. The new senior living residence is committed to being actively involved in the larger community and to serving as a valuable resource for local families. 

One of the many factors that will set The Kensington Reston apart is its commitment to physical therapy and rehabilitation. With a background in rehabilitation and speech pathology, Executive Director Angela Bailey will lead the community’s efforts to integrate physical therapy into every resident’s care plan. Ultimately, the community will ensure that every resident has the tools and support they need to achieve their highest possible level of independence and wellness. 

Angela has an extensive background in geriatric care, specifically in rehabilitation. She has worked in and managed teams in several rehabilitation settings including outpatient, inpatient, skilled nursing facilities, and home health. She started her Kensington journey as a speech language pathologist and worked as the Director of Rehab at The Kensington Falls Church. During her time at the Falls Church community, Angela worked closely with the Parkinson’s Foundation National Capital Area (PFNCA) to support communication and fitness clubs for individuals with Parkinson’s. 

As the Executive Director of The Kensington Reston, Angela will work with her team to enhance residents’ quality of life through world-class rehabilitation, amenities, and activities.

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