EDMOND — For Vivian Waddell, retirement has offered the opportunity to learn something new and reconnect with the past all in one fell swoop.
The longtime church organist and choirmaster began taking violin lessons soon after she and her husband, Ron Waddell, moved to Touchmark at Coffee Creek in Edmond three years ago.
“My mother played, so I have her violin,” she said. “She's been dead for quite a while, but that violin kept sitting there at the house unused. So I thought since I moved into this retirement place, I have more time. I don't have to keep up the house and all that, so I can do something I want to do.”
Her husband, who retired several years ago after 31 years with the Federal Aviation Administration, said his pace hasn't changed since moving to Touchmark.
“Once people find out you're retired, people think you don't have anything else to do,” he said. “But I've never had any problem finding something to do, to keep busy.”
The Waddells represent a new breed of retiree, those who maintain firm control over their lives even as they step out of the work force. For them, what they're entering may be less of a retirement and more of a new chapter.
That's where places like Touchmark come in. The gated community at 2801 Shortgrass Road, near Kelly Avenue and Covell Road, boasts on its website that it offers “something for every season of life” and comes through with options targeting everyone from the active like the Waddells to assisted living to memory care.
The neighborhood opened in 2006 and is especially attractive to active retirees who may want to downsize and move closer to family, said Melissa Mahaffey, executive director. Many are attracted to what Edmond offers. Many also have an eye toward the future.
“If there was a need, you wouldn't necessarily want your kids uprooted either,” she said.
Retirement options are changing and expanding, and with the first wave of baby boomers now marching past age 65, they're to keep changing and expanding. About 13 percent of Americans were age 65 and older in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2030, when they've all crossed the threshold, that portion will be closer to 18 percent.
And while many may not consider themselves old — the same Pew study found most baby boomers pin the term “old” to those 72 and older — baby boomers' homes have increasingly reflected at least the possibility of new realities.
“It's simple on one hand, because you're just putting in wider doorways, wider hallways,” said builder Jim McWhirter, whose Gemini Builders has constructed three retirement communities — Stonehaven Senior Living at 4701 SE 44, Wellington Parke at 3107 Tinker Diagonal and Tealridge Assisted Living at 2200 NE 140.
Built seven years ago, Wellington Parke was Gemini's first foray into retirement communities, and McWhirter said he built it for a simple reason.
“I couldn't find a place good enough for my mother,” he said.
It's not so simple on the other hand, though, since retirement communities also have to address the hurdles their residents face as they grow older, including possible illness and impairment — not to mention staving away boredom.
“It's not uncommon at all for us to have a good percentage of residents in their 90s in assisted living now that are healthy and running around,” McWhirter said.
Bryan Kim Turner, of Red Rock Builders, is building the homes at Touchmark, places ranging from 1,690 square feet to 2,360 square feet with maintenance and housekeeping services available. Incoming residents can tweak designs to their needs — the Waddells, for example, made sure there was room for their grand piano and extra bookshelves.
They and their neighbors can enjoy a meal at home or meet up at the community dining room, Mahaffey said, and a whole host of outings, activities and volunteer opportunities are there for the choosing.
“That's one of the nice things about the more active lifestyle communities,” she said. “They're going to find others within their networking of their own neighbors that they enjoy being around.”
And many take comfort in knowing that if they do need extra help the options are close at hand, she added. Touchmark also offers assisted living and memory care.
The Waddells packed up a home of more than 40 years and left Bethany to move into Touchmark. “We wanted to get out from homeownership and all that entails,” Vivian Waddell said.
But what they have found in the last three years can't be boiled down to dollars and cents.
“We had gotten to where we really didn't know our neighbors much where we were in Bethany,” she said. “But this is just a really friendly community, and pretty much everybody knows each other.”