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Suzanne and Peter Mayo of The Legacy Willow Bend

A recent MetLife report on American grandparents revealed a trend among older adults making the decision to leave their longtime homes to relocate and be near family in their retirement years. The desire to live near adult children and grandchildren is the largest factor. Executive director Marilyn Israel of The Legacy Willow Bend, Plano’s only true life care community, has been noticing this trend among those are who moving into the community and is thrilled to help bring families closer together. People are relational by nature, and Israel understands the significance of being closer to family members while enjoying the freedoms of retirement. She also ensures that as a community made up of unique and fascinating individuals, The Legacy Willow Bend is unified and like a large family. That is what most everyone hopes to find when looking for a place to live whether in the retirement phase or any life stage. Take Suzanne and Peter Mayo for example. The Mayos moved into The Legacy Willow Bend from California leaving their home and friends of 47 years. Now they are in the same city as their son and daughter-in-law and consider fellow members of The Legacy Willow Bend to be extended family. Likewise, Dr. Joe McIlhaney and his wife Marion made the move from their home of 44 years on eight acres of land in Austin to live closer to their kids and grandkids and also receive the memory care Marion came to need with Alzheimer’s.

“I think it makes sense to see this sort of trend among older adults, and we at The Legacy Willow Bend are happy to help those who are looking to transition into a retirement community so they can be closer to family,” said Israel. “We understand that it is a monumental life decision and a lot of factors are at play. We always want to make sure that they will have the opportunity not only to stay engaged and connected with their relatives who may live in the area but with fellow neighbors who live down the hall.”

That certainly was an important aspect for the Mayos. They have loved being near their son and his wife as well as having the chance to see their adult grandchildren more frequently. However, they both felt that moving away from their friends in California was very difficult. Having the opportunity to establish new friendships in retirement and join groups and activities has been a blessing.

“When it came down to it, we realized we weren’t getting any younger, and while our friends in California had family in and around the area, we did not,” said Suzanne. “We never used to think that we’d move into a retirement community necessarily, but looking ahead, we decided to take action. We wanted to ensure that we wouldn’t be at home bored and/or alone later in life or leaving any kind of burden for our children to decide for us. We knew we wanted to stay active and involved as long as we could but then also have other levels of care onsite if and when we need that. So during a visit to see our son in Plano, we looked at The Legacy Willow Bend, which has all levels of care available. We showed up during ‘Happy Hour’ and loved the way everyone was so friendly and welcoming right away. It just fit in so many ways.”

Suzanne and Peter enjoys attending the regular meetings The Legacy Willow Bend hosts to discuss current events and feels that every night is a dinner party based on the way they have meals together with neighbors and friends. While she and her husband miss their friends and the ideal weather of California at times, they are looking forward to hosting some of those friends in their new home.

“If anything, I have found that we are now so busy and involved here, we don’t even have a lot of downtime in our retirement,” said Suzanne. “We may have moved here to be near our son, but if he doesn’t call us far enough in advance, we sometimes have to tell him that we actually have plans with other friends already and can’t meet up with him. My advice is to enjoy life and good health while you have it; that is what we intend to do with family and friends surrounding us along the way.”

For the McIlhaneys, having all levels of care on one campus was also part of what led them to move into The Legacy Willow Bend from Austin. Marion had been living with dementia for a few years. She and Joe began to consider options to reduce the distance and time it took to be with family. Joe also knew that possibly sooner rather than later, he would need additional help to care for Marion in the best way.

“It was hard to think about leaving our house and the wildlife we’d see on the eight acres we owned in Austin,” said Joe. “But ultimately, we realized how much more often we could see our kids and grandkids if we were closer to them and started thinking about what makes the most sense. I am still working – traveling to give lectures and speeches about health-related topics – and I wanted to make sure Marion was stimulated and engaged as her dementia progressed. We are able not only to be closer and see our children more often now, but I can feel reassured that my wife is receiving the best care that I couldn’t personally give her any longer. It was a difficult but ultimately empowering decision for both of us.”

Joe recalls how accommodating the staff at The Legacy Willow Bend was from the beginning and appreciated how sensitive the staff was to them individually.

“We first moved into a ‘Villa’ together, which is a larger sized apartment The Legacy Willow Bend offers that has more space around it more like a yard and is near a creek, so we could still see some wildlife from time to time like we did in Austin,” said Joe. “Over time, I’ve moved into an independent living apartment on the main campus, and we’ve moved Marion into the memory care apartments. I am so grateful that I get to have her so close to me in the same building and see her every day because of how the community was designed to offer multiple levels of care. I have breakfast with her every morning and often have movie date nights with her when the community is showing something we want to see. Instead of trying to be her caretaker, I get to be Marion’s husband, who can still work but come home knowing she’s been cared for and is not alone or isolated. She stays active with friends because of a remarkable lifestyles director who plans things constantly for everyone living here to do.”

The McIlhaneys have enjoyed events and activities hosted by the community during which their children and family members have come to visit due to the proximity as well.

“So many put off making the kind of decision that the Mayos and McIlhaneys have made, but that does not make the process any easier,” said Israel. “Most of the members here at The Legacy Willow Bend have said they only wish they’d moved in sooner. People are living longer now, and we believe as individuals are entering the retirement phase, it is important to realize they still have several more years of life to live. That’s why we have so many events and groups and activities for people to join.”

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