A Love Story for the Ages

By on October 1, 2014

By Cathleen Toomey –

When Nancy Alcock moved into RiverWoods Continuing Care Retirement Community in Exeter, NH, the last thing she expected at age 74 was to fall in love, but that’s exactly what happened.

Nancy, a native of Tasmania and a biochemist, was a world traveler who worked for the Rockefeller Institute and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute before her semi-retirement as one of the first women faculty members at the University of Texas Medical School.  She retired to RiverWoods because she yearned for a community that would feed her passions and offer opportunities to socialize with other like-minded seniors. An independent woman, who had never married, Nancy felt that a CCRC was the perfect place for her to form a network of friends.

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Dr. Henry Hood, a retired neurosurgeon who had coincidentally worked with Nancy at Sloan Kettering, had moved to RiverWoods because of his wife’s health. After her passing, he began to get involved in RiverWoods’ Resident Council, where he and Nancy attended many meetings and worked on projects together.

Kim Litchfield Nancy_and_Henry_Hood_wedding_dayTheir friendship blossomed into love, and they were married in 2008 with Henry’s children and grandchildren in attendance. This was followed by a ceremony later that year in Tazmania, introducing Henry to not only Nancy’s family, but also to international travel.

“I was not upset that I had never married,” said Nancy. “I’d never met anyone I considered being with for the rest of my life, until I met Henry. He was worth the wait.”

Nancy and Henry’s “third act” experience is similar to many seniors today who are reinventing their lives in retirement, including those at RiverWoods. Because the basic “maintenance” of life is taken care of, RiverWoods residents have the time to pursue their interests. Among the active seniors living there, residents have written and published a WWII history book; won regional athletic competitions, and celebrated 6 weddings in the last 4 years.

Unbeknownst to these seniors, their third act experiences are likely benefiting their mental health.The benefits of staying active and social for older adults have been proven. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in a study of 800 men and women age 75 and older, people who were more physically active, more mentally active or more socially-engaged had a lower risk for developing dementia.

A CCRC like RiverWoods allows residents a built-in community of like-minded individuals and easy access to on-site social and physical fitness activities as well as guaranteed lifetime access to both Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing levels of medical care, should they need it.

“Research has shown us how leading a physically, socially and intellectually stimulating lifestyle can help increase cognitive health and quality of life. Staying active is critical to maintaining a healthy brain, and with increased life expectancy for today’s seniors, a healthy brain can improve quality of life,” said Dr. Maureen K. O’Connor, Psy.D, Neuropsychologist.

According to Dr. O’Connor here are the top ten things people can do to preserve cognitive health:

  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Make sure medical conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol are well controlled
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Keep your mind active (watching tv doesn’t count)
  • Get out of the house – interact with people
  • Find a hobby you enjoy and do it often
  • Keep a positive attitude – age is only a number!

Cathleen Toomey has been an executive leader at RiverWoods for eight years communicating the benefits of living at a Continuing Care Retirement Community and the importance of preparing for retirement. Founded in 1994 by a grassroots group of seacoast residents interested in fostering a new way to live while growing older, RiverWoods is a nationally-accredited and locally-managed non-profit CCRC celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.  


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A Love Story for the Ages