We’ve been spending Thanksgiving in Reston, Virginia. It’s part of Fairfax County, which the American Communities Project classifies as an Urban Suburb. Like San Bernardino County, California; Santa Fe County, New Mexico; or Worcester County, Massachusetts, Fairfax is densely populated, diverse, and wealthy. Urban suburbs voted for President Obama in the 2012 election by more than a 16 per cent margin.
Reston has a lot going for it in terms of senior living. A wide range of housing is available, from condos and rental apartments to town houses and single family homes. Seniors can find places to live within walking distance of neighborhood shopping centers — or of Reston’s downtown, replete with restaurants, shops, and a multiplex cinema. Walking paths knit communities together, and each of the neighborhoods has a pool, as well as tennis and basketball courts.
Local buses circulate through Reston and connect with the Washington Metro subway system. Seniors can easily get into Washington by public transportation to visit museums or attend cultural events — though they would be wise to do so outside the usual rush hours. In a couple of years, the Metro will extend to Dulles International Airport, just five miles away.
The Reston Community Center sponsors shows and events for the whole community. Its 150-page program guide includes courses in “Senior Water Exercise” and “Fit After Fifty Five,” together with offerings in music and the arts, among other fields, and a variety of trips and tours. Meanwhile, George Mason University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers courses of a more academic nature in Reston and two other sites in Fairfax County.
Reston for a Lifetime is a movement that brings together concerned individuals and organizations to facilitate aging in place. It connects seniors to neighbors and services so that they can remain in their homes for as long as possible. A membership concierge service for seniors, along the lines of Beacon Hill Village in Boston, hasn’t arrived in Reston yet, but local leaders are thinking about that and other possibilities for helping seniors live full lives.
Medical services abound and include a major hospital as well as a professional fire and ambulance service. Physicians practicing just about any medical specialty can be found in Reston or nearby.
Common Sense for Seniors staff like Reston in part because we know it well. We lived in Reston for 30 years during our careers, and still have a condo here. Take a look at the top row of the photo gallery below. Our condo is the upper left of the building on the right. Our older daughter is here with her family, and our younger daughter and husband are not too far away, in Richmond.
So would Reston be the right place for us to age over the long term? Would some similar urban suburb be right for you?
There are drawbacks to such places. Traffic, for one — there’s lots of it and a good bit of aggressive driving. Right turn on red without stopping — without so much as tapping the brake — seems to be the rule here rather than the exception. Housing is expensive. And we’d hate to give up our home and community in the beautiful Finger Lakes.
Will we ever make a decision on re-locating? There’s no particular urgency about it right now. Perhaps we’ll keep putting a decision off, but then there might come a time when we wish we had made a move, only to realize it’s too late to do so. What a quandary!