Retirement Communities That Offer Amenities:

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When we think of retirement communities, we generally think of endless games of bingo and terrible food. Fortunately, we have retirement communities in our area that offer amenities beyond television reruns and canasta.

The Leopold on Cornwall Ave. in downtown Bellingham is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has played host to Clark Gable, President William H. Taft, Prince William of Sweden, among many other luminaries. By virtue of being downtown, it has a built-in amenity—a prime central location. Beyond that, the Leopold offers residents discounted and free tickets to the Pickford, guest appearances by authors in town for Village Books author series, free ballroom dancing lessons under their chandelier and mirrored disco ball in theLeopold Crystal Ballroom. The public is invited to their ballroom dancing nights, which is another amenity of The Leopold: the management invites the community into the Leopold as often as possible, encouraging multi-generational access and community involvement. “This access means a lot to the people who live here,” said marketing director Leslie Elvebak. The Mount Baker Youth Symphony performs in the Leopold Crystal Ballroom regularly, bringing youth and the residents together. Downtown associations, civic groups and nonprofits all rent the ballroom as well, bringing the bustle and energy of downtown into the lives of the residents.

The Bellingham Police Department holds regular meetings on safety in downtown, which is also of great interest to the residents. The amenities of the Leopold are more intuitive than travel tours or casino nights, but are imbued with the meaningful connection between residents and their community.

Another activity-humming community is The Parkway Chateau on Fairhaven Parkway. They don’t list on their website their greatest asset, gregarious and energetic Dale Collins, who is a manager there. He was quick to share what makes their programming unique. Residents of Parkway Chateau can stay at any of their affiliated residences anywhere in the U.S. and Canada for a week for free. “Except Hawaii. That’ll cost $25 a night,” said Collins. “And there’s no program in North Dakota. But that’s self-explanatory.” They own residences in every province but one in Canada as well. Residents receive the same level of care, the same menu items and have comparable accommodations. “We offer three meals a day with five menu choices at lunch, and five at dinner. All the food is cooked in-house,” Collins said. There are four full-time live-in managers to ensure quality of life. On Wednesdays, the residents are offered a trip to anywhere in the area. “A lot of our residents have their own cars, but it’s nice to not have to drive,” Collins said. Residents visit the tulips in La Conner, mystery trips, Christmas light tours and shopping trips. The Parkway Chateau is also situated nicely along the Interurban Trail, perfect for strolling, biking or long-distance hiking, all close to a wilderness setting.

Retiring into a community has become a more vibrant and interesting choice. Leaving someone else to cook and clean up seems like a nice way to spend the golden years. And if you get restless, there are lots of options for travel, movement, adventure and community engagement.

"Retiring into a community has become a more vibrant and interesting choice. Leaving someone else to cook and clean up seems like a nice way to spend the golden years."