Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Live Life to the Fullest! The Active Lifestyle at Lutheran Hillside Village


Submitted by Lutheran Hillside Village

If you were to
close your eyes and picture what a resident at a senior community looks
like, chances are the image in your head wouldn’t look like featured
cover photo Lutheran Hillside Village residents, Gary and Vickie Nixon.

“Gary and I are 100-mile hikers several times over,” says Vickie, a
retired secretary, “We’ve hiked all over the place from Wisconsin to the
Smoky Mountains. It’s just what we love to do.”

Gary and Vickie
are on the younger side of the age requirement at Peoria’s Lutheran
Hillside Village (LHV). “As soon as I turned 62, I was ready to move
in,” says Gary, a retired welder. “Vickie took a little convincing but
she’s a true believer now.”

“Here, we’re just around the corner
from some of our favorite trails,” Vickie says. “We can spend the day
hiking, and when we get home, we still have daylight left to do
something else!”

Each day, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers like
the Nixons reach retirement age. And while some choose to stay in the
work force and others choose to spend more time at home, a growing
number of boomers are turning to retirement communities as they consider
their future plans.

For the Nixons, making the move was more
than just proximity to nature trails; it was a matter of figuring out
what they really wanted out of life. “Gary was getting tired of our old
house and all the work that went into it,” Vickie says. “We had an acre
and a half to mow — for him, living there had become all work. The fun
was gone.”

“Did I really want to spend another 10, 15 years
keeping up the old house?” Gary asks. “Not especially. I figured, if I’m
going to retire, I don’t want to work through it.” Which brought the
couple to Lutheran Hillside Village.

“We’re close to the nature
center; we’re down the road from the Heights and everything there is to
do there; Chillicothe is close by,” Gary says, “but most importantly,
there is a ton of things to do right here at LHV.”

And that’s
one of the big draws of life in senior living communities for couples
like the Nixons: the wide array of recreational, educational, and
wellness activities available at their fingertips. “The community
garden, the fitness room, workout classes, Wii games, the woodworking
shop,” Vickie says, ticking some of her favorites off on her fingers.
“You wouldn’t believe how much they have going on here. That’s what
surprised me the most about this place. And it’s why I wouldn’t want to
be anywhere else for my retirement.”

“I Don’t Want to Be a Spectator”
As Vickie discovered, Lutheran Hillside Village is a far cry from
her grandfather’s retirement home. But if senior communities are
changing, it’s only because the seniors who live there are changing as
well. People in their 60s, 70s, and 80s look very different in 2013 than
they did 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.

Want proof? Take
Jim and Kay Allen. A pair of self-proclaimed lifelong sports fanatics,
the Allens are rarely content to watch from the sidelines. They’re much
more interested in getting out on the fairway, the tennis court, the
swimming pool… anywhere they can move and have a good time.

and Kay were part of the group that helped institute the Heart of
Illinois Senior Games in Peoria, a project that’s indicative of a
longstanding trend for the couple. “We’ve always believed that you have
to take an active hand in maintaining your health,” says Kay, who spent
part of her career as an activity coordinator for groups of older
adults. “If you’re just sitting in a rocking chair, that’s put more
people in a hospital bed than anything else.”

That’s one of the
reasons they decided to make Lutheran Hillside Village their home. “We
love the area. It’s close to everything,” Jim says, “especially the golf
links. And, on top of that, there are so many things to do here without
even leaving campus.”

Another reason? LHV’s continuum of health
services, which includes short-stay rehabilitation care, assisted
living, memory care, and skilled nursing. Having all those options
available in one place takes a great deal of worry off Kay’s mind. “You
have to look ahead,” she says. “You have to keep in mind that God only
put us on this Earth for so long. Sooner or later, one or both of you
will need help. If something were to happen to Jim or me, the other one
of us would know just who to go to for help.”

But, in the
meantime, the Allens are having a great time in their new home and
taking advantage of all the activity programs available at LHV. “I’ve
always said, I don’t want to be a spectator,” Jim says. “I want to be a
participant.” At Lutheran Hillside Village, the Allens are exactly that.

Building Good Times
An active lifestyle is more than just exercise equipment and
stretching classes. The difference between a healthy life and a full
life is simple: it requires a sense of purpose.

Jim Jacobsen
likes exercise, games, and sports as much as the next guy. But that’s
not where his heart lies. “I taught drafting, technical illustration,
industrial education and technology, graphic arts, printing, and machine
shop,” says Jim. “It was my first choice for a career and I loved every
minute of it.” So it’s perhaps no surprise that Jim also has a longtime
passion for working with his hands, and for passing that love on to

When Lutheran Hillside Village announced it would be
setting up a new woodworking shop, he was one of the first in line to
volunteer. Located in one of the community’s patio homes, the new shop
is fully equipped thanks to donations from a number of residents who,
like Jim, had private shops of their own before moving to LHV.

“This is the most luxurious woodshop I’ve ever seen,” says Jim. “We
have about a dozen people in the group who go over and work. We do minor
repairs for people free of charge with donations for the woodshop fund.
And we have a good time out there.”

That may be something of an
understatement. While the woodworkers certainly get a lot done making
cabinets and bookshelves for the community, they spend a lot of time
cracking jokes and laughing, too (especially when their wives aren’t
around). “My wife Kay and I have made a lot of terrific friends since
we’ve been here,” Jim says. “We’ve met some of the most wonderful people
we’ve ever met in our lives.

Good deeds to do, good friends to
do them with, and good surroundings to do them in — what more could Jim
ask for? “When we told our family we were thinking about moving here,
our son was concerned, Jim says. “He said that we were too active to
move into a retirement community. But you know? We’ve got everything we
need right here on campus. Being here has been better than our wildest

Gary and Vickie Nixon couldn’t agree more. “We’ve
heard the statistics,” Gary says. “People live an average of 10 years
longer in a place like LHV than if they live alone. The people here will
tell you the time they’ve spent here have been the best years of their

“We’re not just a senior community — we’re a family,”
Vickie says. “You hear the residents say that, but until you experience
it first hand, you really don’t get it. Everyone here, from your
neighbors to the staff to management, they all have such a wonderful
attitude. I don’t think you’d run into this many wonderful people all in
one spot anywhere else.”

 “You just can’t pass this place up,” Vickie says.

Want to learn more about life at Lutheran Hillside Village? Visit or call Ellyn Book at 309-689-9605.