Tag Archives: LifeSpire of Virginia

Averett University and LifeSpire Sign Partnership Agreement

RICHMOND, Va. — Averett University and LifeSpire of Virginia launched the first-ever educational partnership for LifeSpire in a ceremony June 7 at Lakewood, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community in Richmond’s west end.

Averett University President Tiffany Franks and LifeSpire of Virginia’s President and CEO Jonathan Cook signed an agreement that includes a three-pronged partnership between the school and LifeSpire’s four continuing care retirement communities.

Dr. Tiffany Franks, President of Averett University, signs a partnership agreement with LifeSpire of Virginia, as LifeSpire President and CEO Jonathan Cook looks on.

The partnership allows employees of LifeSpire to earn their degree at Averett with scholarships awarded by Averett, LifeSpire residents to attend college-level lectures right where they live and Averett students to serve as interns at LifeSpire.

Cook praised the agreement as a step forward in positioning LifeSpire communities as employers of choice across Virginia.

Marcello Ouhali (Left), a nurse in Lakewood’s skilled nursing facility, talks with Stacy Gato, Averett University’s vice president for enrollment management, about scholarship opportunities with Averett as LifeSpire President and CEO Jonathan Cook looks on.

“We are excited to partner with Averett to offer these opportunities,” Cook said. “Averett prepares their students to make a difference in the world. LifeSpire helps team members achieve their full potential and believes that providing educational opportunities is a key piece of that process.”

Franks agreed, “LifeSpire and Averett University both value and encourage lifelong learning, a commitment to intellectual growth throughout one’s entire lifetime. We hope that LifeSpire employees and its residents will be excited about the opportunity to become a part of the Averett University family.”

LifeSpire President and CEO Jonathan Cook (Right) shakes hands with Dr. Tiffany Franks, Averett University President at the conclusion of the signing ceremony between the two organizations.

The partnership builds on the organizations’ shared mission and values as members of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. LifeSpire employees automatically qualify for Averett scholarships once they meet admissions criteria. For each undergraduate course taken, Averett will award a $250 scholarship and a $350 scholarship for each graduate course taken.

In addition, Averett will offer residents of LifeSpire communities the option of attending Averett University lectures and courses at home – right in their own community – beginning at Lakewood and expanding to LifeSpire’s other communities in Culpeper, Daleville, and Newport News. The program will launch in the fall 2019 and LifeSpire residents will be able to choose from classes in religion, communications and criminal justice/sociology.

Averett students will also benefit directly from this partnership, with opportunities to intern at LifeSpire in the areas of business, communications and accounting.

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About Averett University

Since 1859, Averett University has grown and developed into a dynamic institution that serves students of all ages, offering more than 30 undergraduate majors, minors and special programs, along with five graduate programs with a number of concentrations. Dedicated to preparing students to serve and lead as catalysts for positive change, the University’s historic main campus is embedded in the heart of Southern Virginia with regional campuses throughout Virginia and online. Averett enrolls a diverse student body, and boasts an alumni network that spans the globe.

About LifeSpire

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities and one continuing care at home program in Virginia: The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville, The Chesapeake in Newport News and Lakewood and Lakewood at Home in Richmond. For 70 years, LifeSpire has provided compassionate, quality care to senior adults in a faith-based environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact: Danielle Staub (434) 791-5681
Email
: dstaub@averett.edu

Contact: Ann Lovell (804) 521-9192
Email:
alovell@lifespireliving.org

Now Recruiting: Chief Financial Officer

LifeSpire of Virginia is seeking a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to lead and manage the financial matters of the organization. The CFO also manages the information technologies team of the organization. The CFO directly supervises the Information Technology Director and the Controller. The CFO also works closely with the Board of Trustees in matters of investment, audit, finance, and strategic planning.

LifeSpire of Virginia is a not-for-profit (NFP) organization located in Richmond, Virginia. It is the parent company of four NFP continuing care retirement communities within the state of Virginia.  Our communities are The Culpeper, The Chesapeake, The Glebe, and Lakewood.

Key qualifications and personal characteristics for this position include:

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration. Master’s in Accounting or MBA and CPA preferred
  • Superior communicator
  • 10+ years Healthcare accounting/finance experience with knowledge of major reimbursement programs
  • 10+ years of progressively responsible management experience, preferably in a service based not-for-profit organization
  • Proven experience within a CCRC or senior living environment
  • Proven leadership ability managing a diverse employee work group
  • Ability to delegate and operate strategically

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS

The ideal candidate will be a competent, compassionate, and committed professional who is willing to enter into a long-term commitment of service to the organization and to do so within a team-oriented, collaborative, servant-leadership environment. The candidate will be a person of high integrity and ethical standards and have a personal reputation that would reflect well on the organization. Of equal importance will be a high standard of care and concern for current and future residents. The candidate will evidence a commitment to establishing community collaborations. As a relationship-oriented person, the CFO will be an excellent communicator and will maintain a visible presence among staff, residents, and clients.

This job offers a competitive base salary with a bonus incentive structure, as well as an excellent benefits package. The full-time benefits package includes options for health, dental, and life insurance, retirement plan, generous paid time off, and relocation assistance. EOE.

Qualified applicants may apply by emailing a resume to: Jonathan Cook, Chief Executive Officer, at jcook@lifespireliving.org and Leslie Caldwell, Executive Assistant, at lcaldwell@lifespireliving.org.

We’re hiring: Corporate Director of Clinical Services

LifeSpire of Virginia is currently recruiting for a Corporate Director of Clinical Services. This person will be responsible for overseeing all clinical and health services at all four LifeSpire communities: Lakewood in Richmond, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Chesapeake in Newport News, and The Glebe in Daleville.

This position will lead the implementation and training for all clinical programs and practices, ensure proper policies and practices are in place at all communities to meet state and federal regulatory compliance, and lead communication of best practices to promote consistent quality of services between clinical departments at all communities. Key qualifications and duties for this position are:

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Licensed to practice as a Registered Nurse in Virginia.   BSN/MSN preferred
  • Minimum 5 years experience in a skilled nursing facility and minimum 2 years experience as a Director of Nursing or another leadership role
  • Experience with using and training staff on electronic medical records systems
  • Extensive knowledge of PPS, Medicare, and Medicaid systems and regulations
  • Thorough understanding of state survey process and all state/federal regulations across departments, and the corresponding clinical and financial impacts
  • Ability to develop and present reports, recommendations, and training programs to Executive Directors, Administrators, and Directors of Nursing at all locations
  • Ability to maintain and strengthen positive working relationships with leadership across communities
  • Previous experience with Answers On Demand (AOD) is preferred

KEY DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Work with all communities to oversee implementation of policies and practices in clinical departments
  • Advise changes to policies and practices to ensure federal and state regulatory compliance
  • Assist with vendor contracts and communications to benefit clinical practices at all locations
  • Advise Executive Directors, Administrators, and DONs on budgets and planning for capital improvements related to clinical operations
  • Drive corporate projects and initiatives to improve clinical efficiency, quality, and compliance and promote consistency across communities
  • Oversee QA/QI and LTC Risk Management in clinical areas
  • Oversee audits and mock surveys to ensure proper survey preparedness in all locations
  • Promote a corporate-wide resident-centered care philosophy
  • Provide clinical leadership support onsite at locations as needed
  • Support communities with development and implementation of clinical training programs

This job offers a competitive salary and an excellent benefits package. The full-time benefits package includes options for health, dental, and life insurance, retirement plan, and generous paid time off.  EOE.

Qualified applicants may e-mail a resume to jobs@lifespireliving.org.

LifeSpire elects new trustee

04/12/2018

By Ann Lovell

Richmond, Virginia—LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce the election of Sara Marchello to LifeSpire’s board of trustees. Marchello was elected at the trustee’s quarterly meeting March 6 in Richmond.

Marchello, who lives in Hampton, is associate provost and university registrar with The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.

“We are pleased to welcome Ms. Marchello to the board of LifeSpire,” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire president and CEO. “Her specialized background uniquely equips her to guide our organization into a vibrant future where resident choice is paramount.”

Marchello holds a bachelor’s degree from Knox College and a master of science in teaching from the University of Chicago. She is a member of a number of professional associations and non-profit boards in the Hampton area. Marchello is married to Tom Morehouse and is the proud parent of Hampton native Libby Towell, who lives and works in Washington, DC.

 

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.

LifeCare Contracts Explained

By Brad Breeding

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the concerns with long-term care insurance for senior adults. An alternative to long-term care insurance is a lifecare contract at a continuing care retirement community.But what is a lifecare contract and how can it benefit you or your loved ones who may need long-term care?

Lifecare Contracts Explained

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC, or “Life Plan Community”) can be a wonderful solution for older adults who are independent and active today, but who seek the peace of mind that comes with living in a community where assisted living or health care services will be provided when needed. A CCRC is the only type of retirement community that contractually provides access to services spanning the full continuum of care — beginning with independent living and progressing to assisted living and around-the-clock skilled nursing care.

Yet, CCRCs are not all created equal and resident payment plans can vary dramatically from one provider to another. No single contract type is right for everyone so it is important to understand the differences and make an educated decision regarding your unique situation.

Key Features of Lifecare Contracts

Lifecare contracts are often considered an all-inclusive model and are essentially a form of insurance against the future costs of healthcare services. Among entry-fee CCRCs, a community that offers a lifecare contract will typically require a higher monthly fee while a resident is living independently. The benefit, however, is that the resident has better predictability of monthly expenses over their lifetime because their monthly rate will not increase to reflect the cost of healthcare services when such services are required. Keep in mind that the monthly rate is also influenced by other factors, such as amenities, size of the residential unit, and geographic region.

Other Considerations

Residents who choose a lifecare contract are paying in advance for assisted living and/or health care services that they may or may not need. To help alleviate this concern many communities offering lifecare contracts also offer partially or fully refundable entry fees. Another consideration is that some portion of the entry fee and/or the monthly fee may be deductible as a pre-paid healthcare expense1. (Refundable portions of the entry-fee are not deductible.)

Tip

If you do not own comprehensive long-term care insurance and you seek protection against out-of-pocket costs for extended healthcare needs then a lifecare contract may be right for you. (Those who already own long-term care insurance you may still be able to use it in a lifecare community under certain situations.) The benefit of lifecare is often magnified in the case of double occupancy because the monthly rate under a lifecare contract will likely be substantially less than the cost of two people paying separately for care at market rates over an extended period of time.

To learn more about lifecare contracts at a LifeSpire of Virginia community, contact one of our retirement counselors today:

The Chesapeake: Liz Gee, (757) 223-1600
The Culpeper: Rose Wallace, (540) 825-2411
The Glebe: Helen Burnett, (540) 591-2100
Lakewood: Donna Buhrman, (804) 740-2900

Brad Breeding is co-founder and president of myLifeSite, a research and advocacy website for seniors. This content is legally licensed for use.

LifeSpire releases 2016 Annual Report; CFO has reasons to smile

06/12/17

By Ann Lovell

RICHMOND, Virginia—Joe Kelley is a stereotypical accountant. A quiet guy with a dry sense of humor, you’ll most often find Kelley sitting quietly at his desk in his corner office surrounded by mounds of paperwork.

As LifeSpire of Virginia’s Chief Financial Officer, Kelley spends his work days analyzing the financial situation of LifeSpire’s four continuing care retirement communities. For financial reporting purposes, Kelley explains, LifeSpire’s Lakewood in Richmond, The Chesapeake in Newport News and The Culpeper in Culpeper make up what’s known as “the obligated group.” The Glebe in Daleville is a separate financial entity.

Although he’s always up for a good laugh, co-workers say Kelley rarely gets excited. When he’s happy, those closest to him notice a slight smile and a twinkle in his eye. Based on the consolidated financial statements released in LifeSpire’s 2016 Annual Report, Kelley’s smile is broader than usual — for very good reasons.

“For the first time in nearly 20 years, LifeSpire posted a net operating gain in 2016,” Kelley reports.

UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS

Joe Kelley is LifeSpire of Virginia’s Chief Financial Officer.

Kelley gets particularly excited about debt service coverage ratios. The debt service coverage ratio compares debt payments to adjusted net operating income, Kelley explains. Anything over 1 means a company has enough cash to cover its debts. Generally, banks require a debt service coverage ratio of at least 1.2. The higher the ratio, the stronger the organization is financially.

“Our debt service ratio for the obligated group is 2.09 and for The Glebe it’s 2.11. That’s amazing considering where we were just a few years ago,” Kelley says.

Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire’s president and CEO, also appreciates the significance of these numbers.

“A few years ago, it was very common for the financial benchmarks in each of our communities to hover around debt compliance levels,” Cook says. “Thanks to the hard work of staff in each of our communities, we now have the opportunity to build some reserves to sustain us in the event of future economic downturns.”

Kelley has a number of charts that accompany his presentations on LifeSpire’s financial position. One of them highlights the downward slide of operating income that began with a $1 million loss in 2000 and bottomed out with a $9 million loss in 2007 at the start of the global financial crisis.

“If I had looked at the financials when I came to work here, I might not have come,” Kelley jokes. “The auditors thought we were going out of business; we received ‘going concern’ audit opinions from 2008 through 2011.”

A number of factors contributed to the financial difficulties of VBH:  the development and startup losses at The Glebe, the recession and capital market collapse in 2008 and 2009 and The Glebe’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, Kelley says. These factors impacted all VBH communities.

“Because of the organizational distraction and the costs associated with the bankruptcy, VBH was unable to adequately reinvest in our communities the way we wanted to,” Kelley says.

But the problems actually began two decades before the economic downturn of the 2000s, says Cook, who recently discovered a 1980s-era letter from then-VBH board chair, Hunter Riggins. Titled “Facing the 80s: Problems and Solutions,” the letter begins, “Virginia Baptist Homes, Inc., faces the greatest challenge it has ever faced in the decade of the 80s. This challenge is at or nearing crisis proportions. The challenge facing the Homes is how to put the overall operation on a firm financial foundation and at the same time maintain current operations and continue the substantial work done in the past and the present for elderly Virginia Baptists.”

“In reality, the organization had been struggling for years before 1999 because we focused more on the spiritual and mission components of our business and less on fiscal stewardship,” Cook says.

LifeSpire board chair Susan Rucker defines it as a “downward spiral.”

As a result of the flagging economy, “losses had begun and were accelerating,” says Rucker, who joined the LifeSpire board in 2014. “One or two years of losses are not a disaster, but you don’t want to get in a position where you can’t recover.”

Fortunately, both the board and senior leadership realized the organization’s dire predicament and took steps to reverse the trends. “Sustainability became the board’s goal,” Rucker says.

REVERSING THE TRENDS

The reversal began in early 2008 when, in response to The Glebe’s escalating difficulties, an external management firm came in to oversee operations.

“The management company provided the chief operating officer, the chief financial officer and other operational expertise,” Kelley says. “They brought a level of proficiency VBH didn’t have in-house at the time.”

Specifically, this management expertise helped VBH communities receive Medicare certification, adding “$4 to $5 million in annual reimbursements for services we were already providing,” Kelley says.  “This coupled with economic recovery was the turning point.”

VBH utilized the company’s services for about three years and then moved to hire the talent they needed, Kelley says. In 2014 the board hired Cook, and the steepest recovery began then.

“We understood the next CEO had to have financial acumen,” Rucker says. “Part of the job was getting the communities on track to be profitable and sustainable.”

But, financial stability is more than just “good business,” Rucker stresses.

“Being financially stable positions us to live up to our commitment to our seniors. When we are financially stable, we are able to try new things and invest in new ventures and new technology. We want to help seniors age where they want to age and continue to look at ways to serve seniors outside the walls of our CCRCs,” Rucker says.

A PROMISING FUTURE

Rucker says LifeSpire’s current situation is “night and day” different, and the future is very promising, thanks in large part to the commitment of staff at each community. Sustainability can’t be achieved “by senior management alone.”

Cook agrees, “Our goal is to provide lifestyle-based services with hospitality, dining and wellness as the focal points,” noting this vision relies on the full buy-in of staff at every level.

“We want to build on being a place where people want to come,” Rucker says. “Over the next five years, we envision significantly refreshing our physical plant, offering new programs and finding other ways to serve the market that are relevant to seniors.”

Kelley and Cook share Rucker’s vision and enthusiasm for the future.

“LifeSpire has been transformed,” Kelley says. “We are actively engaged in becoming one of the premier mid-sized senior living companies in the mid-Atlantic region, financially and operationally. The groundwork we have been laying recently will enable LifeSpire to meet its commitments to current and future residents for many years to come.”

Cook agrees, adding, “If these trends hold, and I have every reason to believe they will, we may even hear Joe start to whistle.”

 

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.

 

The Culpeper breaks ground

05/23/17

By Ann Lovell

Residents and guests recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” at The Culpeper’s groundbreaking May 10.

More than 225 residents, staff and guests of The Culpeper, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community, gathered May 10 to break ground on their new home — an estimated $23 million, 125,000 square-foot facility that will include space for independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing and memory care. The new Culpeper will also offer residents larger living space, modern dining facilities, and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Randall Robinson (right), former president and CEO, and Mick Feauto, Executive Vice President and COO of LifeSpire, talk with LifeSpire of Virginia staff .

Utilizing the theme, “Building for Tomorrow,” the afternoon was a celebration of The Culpeper’s past, present and future. Randall Robinson, former president and CEO of Virginia Baptist Homes, the predecessor to LifeSpire of Virginia, recalled The Culpeper’s history and the courage and vision it took for Dr. J.T. Edwards, then pastor of Culpeper Baptist Church, to build the very first Virginia Baptist Home just following World War II.

“(Edwards) took it upon himself to travel down to Richmond to meet with the executive committee of the Baptist Board,” Robinson said. “You have to remember this was during World War II, during a time when people knew nothing but cutbacks. This was a time not to spend but to save.”

However, Robinson noted, when The Culpeper was dedicated in October 1950, the new building was paid for as the result of an intensive state-wide capital campaign by Edwards and his team. “That’s an essential part of our past,” Robinson said.

Susan Rucker, chair of LifeSpire’s board of trustees, talks with a guest during The Culpeper’s groundbreaking celebration.

While Robinson shared about the past, residents Mary Miller and Kathy Davis shared their enthusiasm for living at The Culpeper today, describing it a “wonderful experience.”

“I’ve felt safe and secure, Miller said. “And the residents have been like a second family.”

Davis agreed. “We were tired of raking leaves. Facing reality, we knew we’d face life changes, and we would need to move into a retired assisted living community,” Davis said. “We have found exactly what we were looking for.”

Residents and guests enjoy breaking ground on the new building.

Looking toward the future, Jonathan Cook, current president and CEO of Lifespire of Virginia, began by reading a 1980s-era letter from former board chair, Hunter Riggins. The letter detailed the need for a new building at The Culpeper and the lack of resources available at that time to provide one.

“This letter was written in 1980, meaning we’ve been talking about a new building for quite a long time within Virginia Baptist Homes,” Cook said. “Today we are excited to say that we are making that a reality. While we honor our past, it is now time to look toward the future.”

The original Culpeper building stands behind the site of the new community, which will face the Blue Ridge mountains.

“This building has been our ancestral home for almost 70 years,” Cook continued. “This building has provided care for tens of thousands of Virginia Baptists; this building has provided a living for thousands of staff in the area, and this building has been closely tied to the identity of Virginia Baptist Homes.”

“Today we are starting a new beginning for the Culpeper,” Cook concluded. “I just want to thank you all for being a part of it and challenge us all to make sure we carry that long and rich history and tradition of care into our new building.”

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.

Rucker elected to chair LifeSpire’s board of trustees

03/17/17

By Ann Lovell

Susan Rucker

Richmond, Virginia—LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce the election of Susan Rucker as chair of its board of trustees. Rucker, who was elected to a 3-year term,  assumed her duties January 1 and presided over the board’s first meeting of 2017 in early March at Lakewood, a LifeSpire community in Richmond’s west end.

Rucker is currently the chief financial officer at the Mason School of Business at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She is also president of Prospective Insights, a consulting service that helps businesses define and execute business strategy and leadership development.

“I have worked with Mrs. Rucker as a LifeSpire board member for the past two years. Her business and financial leadership have helped propel us to the strong financial position we have today, ” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire president and CEO. “I look forward to working with her in this expanded leadership role.”

Formerly a partner with KPMG, a global professional firm that provides audit, tax and advisory services, Rucker holds a bachelor’s in business administration from William & Mary. She and her husband, Michael, live in Midlothian, Virginia.

 

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.

 

LifeSpire of Virginia elects new trustee

03/07/17

By Ann Lovell

Matthew Scott

Richmond, Virginia—LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce the election of J. Matthew Scott as the newest member of LifeSpire’s Board of Trustees. Scott was elected at the trustee’s quarterly meeting, March 7, at Lakewood, a LifeSpire continuing care retirement community in Richmond’s west end.

Scott is currently the executive director for business development and strategy for MCV Physicians (MCVP) in Richmond. MCVP is a tax-exempt faculty practice plan organized to support the teaching and medical education missions of Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Medicine. As executive director of business development and strategy, Scott coordinates strategies, business development and outreach plans, physician recruitment, and marketing functions.

“We are pleased to welcome Mr. Scott to the board of LifeSpire,” said Jonathan Cook, president and CEO. “His background in business development and health strategies is a welcome asset as we seek to expand LifeSpire’s mission and focus on wellness, hospitality and dining.”

Scott holds a master’s in health administration from VCU and a bachelor’s in economics from Brigham Young University. He and his wife, Allyson, reside in the Richmond area. They have four children.

 

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.

 

The Culpeper’s bridge club provides social connections, mental fitness for residents

05/23/16

Editor’s note: In celebration of Older Americans Month, LifeSpire of Virginia is featuring one or two residents a week from its four continuing care retirement communities who most embody the characteristics of a “trailblazer” in wellness, community and hospitality.

By Ann Lovell

CULPEPER, Virginia—Jean Isaacson, 72, was disappointed there wasn’t a bridge club at The Culpeper, the LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community where she’s lived since 2013. An accountant who had started her own business in 1980, Isaacson learned to play bridge as a teen and taught the game when she lived in Chicago from 1972-1975.

Then she met Lila Bunt, 89, another avid bridge player who has lived at The Culpeper since 2011.

“Lila and I were walking from ‘the big house’ (the building that houses the dining room and community center) to our cottages,” Isaacson recalls. “I told her how I wished we had a bridge club. ‘Let’s start one!’ Lila said. So we did.”

Bunt laughs. “Two heads plus a need equals a bridge club,” she says.

20160426-AML-0342
Jean Isaacson (left) and Lila Bunt (right) discuss how bridge club began at The Culpeper, the LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community where they live.

The two women started the club with one table in 2013. Then, they asked Pat Ballard, The Culpeper’s Director of Resident Services, to add it to the The Culpeper’s activities’ calendar each month. Soon Bunt and Isaacson were offering weekly classes to those interested in learning the game. Eight players joined a cruise the group took in early 2015, and today the group has grown to 14.

“We need two more players to have four tables,” Isaacson says.

Isaacson and Bunt are two of LifeSpire’s featured trailblazers during Older Americans Month in May. The U.S. Administration for Community Living sets aside May each year to recognize the contributions of older Americans. The 2016 theme is “Blaze a Trail.” Ballard recommended the two women for their initiative in starting the bridge club.

“LifeSpire trailblazers model wellness, community, and hospitality,” agrees Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire President and CEO. “By starting the bridge club, Mrs. Isaacson and Mrs. Bunt showed the kind of community spirit we appreciate from all our residents.”

‘MENTAL GYMNASTICS’

Bridge evolved from the British card game whist and dates back to the 1700s. In 1925 railroad heir Harold Stirling Vanderbilt created the modern version of contract bridge, the version The Culpeper club plays. According to David Owen of The New Yorker, Vanderbilt “had been annoyed by what he felt were deficiencies in the previous version, auction bridge.” Contract bridge caught on quickly, especially as the Great Depression set in, and by the 1940s, 44 percent of American families played the game.

Today, an estimated 25 million Americans enjoy bridge, including such notables as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who often play as a team. The majority of bridge players are over age 50, says Jon Saraceno in an article for AARP.

“Bridge’s intricacies make it particularly appealing for those who want to sharpen acuity with mental gymnastics,” Saraceno writes. “A study in 2000 at the University of California Berkeley, found strong evidence that an area in the brain used in playing bridge stimulates the immune system. Researchers suggest that is because players must use memory, visualization and sequencing.”

Additional research by Dr. Claudia Kawas of the University of California Irvine, seems to indicate bridge, with its added social element, may have a slight edge over other mental games in staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We think, for example, that it’s very important to use your brain, to keep challenging your mind, but all mental activities may not be equal,” Kawas says. “We’re seeing some evidence that a social component may be crucial.”

A REWARDING PURSUIT

Isaacson and Bunt carve out lots of time each week for bridge. The two women teach bridge on Wednesdays, developing lessons based on the book, “The Fun Way to Advanced Bridge” by Harry Lampert.

“Many of those who come last played in college,” Bunt says. “It’s a great way to welcome new residents to the community.”

The group plays together at The Culpeper on Fridays. Isaacson plays with a group at her home on Saturdays, and Bunt and her husband, John, play Tuesday evenings at the local country club with people from the greater Culpeper community.

When they aren’t playing bridge, the two women are also involved in other activities in their community. Bunt and her husband regularly work in the food pantry at their local church, St. Stephens Episcopal in downtown Culpeper. Isaacson reads to an older friend, plays rummy with older residents, and enjoys caring for her granddaughter one day a week.

Still, bridge has provided a strong bond between the two women and allowed them to forge friendships with other residents as well.

“It’s very rewarding,” Bunt says. “It keeps us busy and provides a lot of good laughs.”


Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.