Posted by Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook on 04/03/2018

The Gift that Keeps Giving

The Gift that Keeps Giving

William (Bill) Cassel and Dr. Lillian (Boots) Cassel received a treasured gift decades ago. They recently passed that gift on to their three sons.

This gift is not a family heirloom, a prized antique, or expensive jewels. It is not even a cherished memory or an exotic experience. It is a truly priceless present: Bill and Boots moved to Waverly Heights in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, a continuing care retirement community (also known as a life plan community).

Waverly Heights is a nationally accredited, non-profit community nestled on a 63-acre former estate in the heart of Philadelphia’s Main Line. For more than 30 years, the community has been known as a premier retirement destination in southeastern Pennsylvania. Waverly is recognized for its award winning grounds with gardens, majestic trees, and sprawling lawns. Residents enjoy spacious apartments and villas, along with many amenities including fine dining, fitness programs, artistic pursuits, educational programs, music, lectures, art exhibits, and social programs.

Bill and Boots met in the library at the University of Delaware. She was studying computer science, and he was majoring in electrical engineering. Their chance meeting quickly turned into a courtship. The couple was married one year before Boots graduated.

Boots holds one of the oldest undergraduate degrees in computer science—from 1968. She went on to attain her Master’s degree in computer science as well. She then spent 10 years teaching part-time while the couple’s children were young. Boots later went back to school and received her Ph.D.

Boots is now a professor of computer science at Villanova, a position she has held for more than 30 years. She is currently serving as the chair of the Computer Science Department.

As an electrical engineer, Bill spent the bulk of his career in the electric power industry. He worked for a local power provider in Delaware for 15 years before making a career change. “It was my midlife crisis,” Bill said jokingly of the big shift in his career. “I did technical consulting for the electric power industry for 27 years.”

Bill traveled widely during his time as a consultant. He advised companies on updating and expanding the electrical grid in places around the globe, ranging from Asia and Australia to Europe and Latin America.

Six years ago, after Bill retired, The Cassels realized it was time to start thinking about their retirement plans seriously.  Bill and Boots already knew they would continue a family tradition and give themselves and their family the ultimate present by moving to a retirement community.

“The question was never whether or not we would move to a retirement community; it was just where we would move and when we would move,” Bill explained. “We knew that my parents gave us all an enormous gift, and we wanted to give that same gift to our children.”

Bill’s parents moved to a continuing care retirement community in 1985. They were literal pioneer residents in the then-emerging industry. Bill and his family quickly realized that their parents had done a wonderful thing. First and foremost, they had removed the burden of taking care of them from their children. They also eliminated all the challenges that come with long-term home ownership.

“We visited them at their community over the course of 30 years and saw how happy they were,” Boots said. “We also saw that when Bill’s dad passed away, his mother was so well taken care of.”

The Cassels looked at several communities and made exhaustive spreadsheets charting the pros and cons of all their options. “We just kept coming back to Waverly,” Boots recalled of their search process. “We visited several times, and we loved the grounds and the atmosphere immediately. We felt at home here.”

Because they always knew they would carry on the legacy that Bill’s parents began, Bill and Boots had the luxury of a long search and decision-making process. “We really had plenty of time to think about leaving the large house, which can sometimes be traumatic,” Boots said. “The more we thought about it, the more we realized that we gained living space when we moved to Waverly. We may have a small private space, but we gained a whole campus. We have a fitness center, a pool, a wood shop, a garden, a greenhouse, and a beautiful lounge. We have so much that we didn’t have before.”

Since moving, Bill and Boots have taken full advantage of all that Waverly has to offer. They are both members of the Waverly Wine Club, a group of residents who meet monthly to share and sample various wines. At each meeting, the members vote on their favorite wine. The following month, the community chef prepares a meal that pairs with that wine.

A longtime woodworker, Bill is active in the community’s wood shop. “That was actually one of the selection criteria for us when we were searching for a community,” explained Bill. “My father was a woodworker, and I have been doing it for some time, and I wanted to continue.”

Bill has also become involved in many of the active committees at Waverly. He chairs the Resident Tales group, the Music Committee, and the Movie Committee, and he is a discussion leader in the Coffee and Conversation group. He was recently elected to serve on the Residents Association Board.

“My life has changed quite a bit since we moved here,” he said. “I have met a lot of people and have so many friends. We lived in our house for so long, but we had limited contact with our neighbors. This is just a place where you dive right in.”

Although she is still working full time, Boots has become engaged in the Waverly community as well. She is the co-chair of the community garden, where she enjoys bringing the seeds out of the greenhouse in the spring and nurturing them to maturity throughout the summer. She also plays bridge regularly.

“I am not involved in as many activities as Bill, but I have noticed a big difference,” Boots said. “For me, it is the house—not having the burden of the house anymore. Now, when there is a storm, we don’t have to worry about it. We just focus on the things we enjoy.”

Because they moved when they were just 71 and 70, Bill and Boots have been able to fully enjoy all that Waverly has to offer. “Everyone we talked to here told us not to wait as long as they did to move. We didn’t,” Boots said. “We moved young, and it was a wonderful decision. We have the energy and the health to enjoy everything that Waverly Heights has to offer. We are not missing a thing.”

Bill and Boots were grateful for the gift that his parents gave them when they moved to a retirement community. They knew then that they would pass that same gift on to their sons some day.

Since moving to Waverly Heights, the Cassels and their family no longer need to worry about home maintenance or their future care needs. Instead, they can focus on spending time with family and friends and pursuing activities they enjoy. For Bill and Boots, moving to Waverly Heights has been the gift that keeps giving—to themselves and to their family.

By Christy Brudin


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