Checking All the Boxes: Choosing Life at The Hill

Susan Shapiro, resident of The Hill at Whitemarsh

When Susan Shapiro retired from her nursing career, she was living in Atlanta, but her heart remained in San Francisco, where she had spent the majority of her adult life. So when the opportunity arose for her to rent a pied-á-terre with her college roommate back in the Bay Area, she jumped at the chance.

With her Atlanta home on the market, Susan made the leap back to San Francisco and was loving city living until the pandemic hit.

“I was faced with many different choices about my future, and I knew that I didn’t want to be in the condo in Atlanta anymore and that I felt overwhelmed by the city —the noise was too much, and I was exhausted by the hustle and bustle,” said Susan. “I was very clear on what I didn’t want, and I started to think more deeply about what I did want.”

In addition to not wanting to be in a city, Susan knew that ownership didn’t appeal to her. Instead, she wanted a maintenance-free lifestyle without the responsibility of having to care for a home.

She clearly didn’t want to be in a major city, but she also didn’t necessarily want to be in the suburbs far from the cultural center of a downtown area. Instead, she was looking for a community that had one foot in natural surroundings and another in the excitement of the city.

Although she knew that her standards were high, she believed it was possible to find what she was looking for. Having ruled out San Francisco and Atlanta, Susan then set her sights on Philadelphia.

“It wasn’t that outrageous for me to consider moving to Philly,” said Susan. “I had spent time here as a young person —first for school and then starting out in my career —and I really loved my time here. It’s such a great place, with easy access to both New York City and Washington, D.C. I found two great communities to consider when I started my search in Philadelphia.”

Susan was initially looking at more than one community in the Philadelphia area and wasn’t sure which one would be the best fit. When she finally set foot on the grounds of The Hill at Whitemarsh, however, she fell in love with it.

“It surprised me how much I loved The Hill,” Susan said. “I came back twice more to visit, once to tour more of the community, have dinner with some of the residents, and meet the staff and once to take a walk around the grounds. It was a December morning, and it was so lovely. I decided to commit to The Hill later that day.”

Aside from the beautiful grounds, which include three miles of walking trails if you count the neighboring Dixon Meadow Preserve, Susan also loved the property’s proximity to both Fort Washington State Park and hiking trails in Wissahickon Valley Park. Having the ability to be outside and enjoy nature was a big selling point for Susan, who spent the majority of her life in mild climates that had allowed her to take full advantage of the great outdoors.

“It was a very seamless transition to make this move,” said Susan. “I came here because I had looked around and knew this was where I wanted to be —I’m not here to meet anyone else’s needs but my own.”

Susan was also drawn to the fact that there’s a democratic decision-making process when it comes to what the community needs. The Hill at Whitemarsh has been a nonprofit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) since its inception in 2008, which means that The Hill is constantly reinvesting in making improvements to the community. The residents often play a large role in the process and sometimes even spearhead projects to pursue.

“I came here because I had looked around and knew this was where I wanted to be–I’m not here to meet anyone else’s needs but my own.”
– Susan Shapiro

Susan recognizes that age can factor in to how people are choosing where they want to live, and not always for good reasons.

“I was 73 when I moved in this past May, and doing it sooner rather than later was part of my decision. I have been able to take advantage of all the amenities and benefits of living in suburban Philadelphia.”

Although Susan has lived at The Hill for less than a year, she’s already gone on day trips hosted by The Hill, exploring the New Jersey Shore, visiting museums, and lunching at new restaurants. She is also a fan of the fitness center and has enjoyed taking a variety of classes, both in and out of the pool.

“I didn’t know anyone here before moving, but a friend gave me great advice, and I’ve taken it to heart: Just try everything —say ‘yes’ to everything. I’ve adopted that attitude and as a result, I’ve met a lot of new people and tried a lot of new things. It’s exactly what I wanted.”