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Summerhill at Stony Point: A retirement community with an independent streak
8/18/2014 9:50 AM

Last summer, Ruth Doumlele decided it was time for a change. After enjoying country life in Powhatan County for more than two decades, she was ready for city living.
She’d be closer to cultural attractions, she reasoned.
“And very importantly, I wanted to get rid of yard work,” she said.
Like many seniors looking to simplify their lives, though, Doumlele wasn’t willing to give up owning a home.
She found a perfect solution in Summerhill at Stony Point, a retirement community in Bon Air that offers seniors condominium ownership as well as support services that can help them remain independent longer than they might if they stayed in their single-family home.
Doumlele bought a two-bedroom condo with a view of Summerhill’s community garden, and as she approaches her first anniversary there, she has settled in comfortably.
“This is a lush oasis, but it’s still close to my church, bank and stores,” she said.
Offering both homeownership and support services were among Richmond Memorial Hospital’s key initiatives when it launched Summerhill as a nonprofit endeavor in 1984, said Todd Acker, Summerhill’s director. (Bon Secours Health System took over operating Summerhill after Richmond Memorial Hospital joined Bon Secours in the mid-1990s.)
“Our reason for being is about enabling independence,” he said. “Along with independence comes control of your life.”
Combining homeownership and support services was a new concept in the Richmond market back in the 1980s, and Summerhill, located at 9250 Forest Hill Avenue, is still unique in the city today. But the combination will likely become more common as boomers reach retirement age.
“There’s a psychological boost in saying you own a home and are living independently,” said Susan Allison, owner of United Country Bexhill Realty & Auction and a retirement housing specialist.
“Folks are living longer and staying active much longer than they did 20 to 30 years ago,” she said. “So they’re having to make their retirement funds stretch further. That’s one of the beauties of Summerhill – it has services, but it’s not as costly as a continuing care retirement community.”
Many of Summerhill’s services focus on wellness, including exercise classes held in the development’s lodge.
“We have registered nurses on staff to help our residents maintain their health and promote wellness,” Acker said. “And every residence has an emergency call system inside it so residents can be assured that if they need help, they’re only a phone call or push button away.”
In addition, the community has a 24-passenger bus that it uses for outings in Richmond and around the commonwealth (including three-times-a-week outings for the community’s walking club), as well as for twice-weekly group trips for grocery shopping.
The community’s monthly fees also cover exterior home maintenance, including cutting the grass, raking leaves and shoveling snow.
With its 88 condos arranged in small clusters to enhance privacy, Summerhill feels restful and secluded. But its proximity to Stony Point Shopping Center makes its location especially convenient.
“There are three hairdressers and six restaurants in walking distance” along with banks and a grocery store, Allison said. “There are another two restaurants across Huguenot Road, and Stony Point Fashion Park is five minutes away.”
Being able to walk from your home to your bank or catch a ride to stock your kitchen might seem like relatively insignificant conveniences. But taken together, those conveniences offer seniors something much greater, Allison suggested.
“Americans as a whole are independent, and they like homeownership,” she said. “It’s the American dream. Summerhill allows that dream to continue.”

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