Posted by Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook on 12/19/2016

Seismic Shifts

Seismic Shifts

A crisis—whether it is a natural disaster or a medical emergency—can change everything in a matter of minutes. Dr. Walter Hays has experienced this in both his professional and personal life.

Now a resident at Tall Oaks, an assisted living community in Reston, Va., Walter is working to fundamentally alter the way seniors share their legacies. Tall Oaks provides comfortable and affordable senior apartments and assisted living care in a peaceful, wooded setting.

A geophysicist, Walter spent much of his career at the U.S. Geological Survey, working on earthquake preparedness and post-disaster studies. Also a devoted husband, he recently experienced how a simple accident can change lives when his wife fell on the front porch of their home.

“The earthquake happens in a matter of minutes, just like an accident happens in a matter of minutes, and it changes everything,” explained Walter. “Most of us are poorly prepared for the earthquake—for any kind of major change— even though we talk about it a lot.” 

Walter and his wife, Sylvia, are both natives of Texas and met in a small town there. The couple had two daughters and now has two grandchildren.

Although Walter retired from the U.S. Geological Survey in 1999, he has continued working as a teacher. He currently teaches Physics to seniors at Fairfax Christian High School. Walter also prepares courses on global environmental disasters and earthquake preparedness for the World Health Organization and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

When Sylvia fell, she broke her hip and her wrist. She spent several days in the hospital and then several months at an inpatient rehabilitation facility. However, Walter knew she was not physically able to return home, so he began considering other options. He decided to visit Tall Oaks, which is just minutes from his home.

“After some discussions, we decided to move in, and we’ve been here for a month now,” Walter said. “We already see that the people here really care. The residents receive such loving care, and the staff is outstanding.”

While he moved so his wife could receive the care she needed, Walter quickly found that he enjoyed the company of his new peers. “There are so many unknown legacies here, so much untapped knowledge,” he said. “These are real stories, and they are amazing, and I don’t want them to be forgotten.” For that reason, Walter recently initiated a project to collect the life stories of his fellow residents before they are lost forever.

Dr. Walter Hays has experienced quite a few earth shattering events over the course of his career and his life. Now that Walter has found an environment where his wife can flourish, he is dedicating his time to generating a more positive seismic shift—a shift in perceptions that unites generations and preserves legacies.

By Christy Brudin


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