Boomers: Arbor Acres Appeal

By Rose M. Walsh, Winston-Salem Monthly

For Gail and Todd Troost, Arbor Acres is the next stop on a 40-year marriage. Both in their late 70s, they are living in different parts of the retirement residence. Gail lives in the independent living section at Womble apartments while Todd, who needs more care, is in the Strickland skilled nursing unit.

“I took care of him at home for five years,” Gail says, “but when he started falling and needed 24/7 care, we looked into retirement homes.”

Todd tried out two other homes by himself before Gail decided it was time for both of them to move to Arbor Acres.

“It’s very important that couples can be together,” says David Piner, CEO at Arbor Acres. “When they are able to live in proximity, it means so much.”

Piner, who first joined the staff in 1985, is also looking forward to retiring after this year. He has overseen numerous changes at Arbor Acres in his 32 years.

This year the 86-acre campus residence in Winston-Salem—which is home to some 500 retired seniors—is finishing up major renovations in the Fitzgerald Building, which houses skilled nursing patients in Strickland Place and memory care residents in its Arborview section. Among the recent additions is a central atrium, dubbed Willingham Court, which features high ceilings, natural lighting, greenery, rocks, and a “pond” with a wooden bridge and smooth river stones embedded in a garden sculpture that mimics flowing water.

The redesigned spaces in Fitzgerald are meant to mimic parklike settings and are within feet of residents’ newly renovated homes. “The blurring of lines between the outside and inside is no longer a concept,” says the Arbor Acres website. “The resident rooms are complete with large picture windows, added light, [and] visual doorways to the outside world.”

Nearby the cafeteria and open kitchen give residents the feeling of a dining service that they might experience in any restaurant in Winston-Salem. Other changes at Arborview include an updated bathing area known as the SPA (Soothing Pleasures Alternative) with “therapeutic aromas and soothing music.”

The 2015 annual report notes that staff who work in the continuing care field are being trained in what is known as “Resident-Centered Life.” Teams are not segregated by duties such as housekeeping and nursing but aim to respond to individual patient requests.

Gail notes that her husband, who is suffering from Parkinson’s, served as the chair of neurology for 30 years at Baptist Medical Center. At the Fitzgerald facility, he receives physical and occupational therapy. “He also likes to play Solitaire on his iPad,” she says. It’s a short walk from her apartment through the tunnel to visit him.

The couple, who has two daughters living in other states, doesn’t have to go off-site to see a doctor. Gail also sold her car and no longer worries about driving. She enjoys taking the facility’s bus to shopping and other activities in Winston-Salem. She is also looking forward to a bus trip to New York in October. Lisa O’Donnell, who has been named director of recreational arts, plans Arbor Acres’ trips to the Big Apple each year, which have included tickets to see the soldout Broadway play “Hamilton” and visits to sites such as the 9/11 memorial and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Various arts and cultural activities, from impromptu concerts to sculpture classes to theatrical productions, add to the quality of life for many residents—as does the facility’s pet policy (four-legged friends are welcome, and there’s no deposit fee).

“The exercise facilities are fantastic here as well,” adds Gail. “There are three pools—a lap pool, a regular pool, and a warm water pool. There are also lots of exercise machines.”

These and other amenities help echo the facility’s mission statement: “Through excellence, innovation, caring, and beauty, Arbor Acres cultivates community, comfort, and well-being for senior adults.”

Becoming a resident involves payment of entrance and monthly fees that cover the costs of residency. Residents who seek independent living like Gail must be in good health and able to maintain an autonomous lifestyle.

The minimum age for entrance is 62, according to its website, “but in the case of a married couple, the spouse may be 60. When space is available, direct admission to assisted care and skilled care may be possible.” The remodeling and revisioning of Fitzgerald Place means that 18 new skilled care beds will be added to the 65 beds that are already in place at Arbor Acres, which operates as a not-for-profit retirement community.

Celebrating 35 Years

Founded under the auspices of the Methodist church, Arbor Acres opened 35 years ago as the Triad United Methodist Home. One of its primary founding sponsors, Bill Womble Sr., is featured on the cover of its 2015 annual report along with CEO David Piner and past board chairman Vicki Hunt.

“Bill wrote and presented the successful resolution that led to the creation of the founding board of directors,” notes the report.

At the time, Womble was concerned that United Methodist lay members and clergy could “remain close to the communities in which they had spent their lives.” Today the residence is home to people with varied religious backgrounds—and, as Womble noted, “We are all living well together.”