A senior couple pose for a photo

Meet Gretchen and Kelley Atkinson “Smaller living, bigger life!”

When talking with Founders Club Members about their upcoming moves to Presbyterian Village Athens, it’s apparent everyone seems chooses a community for a handful of reasons: camaraderie, community, security, freedom and independence.

With backgrounds in health care-related fields, it made sense that, after decades of helping others, Gretchen and Kelley Atkinson would choose a secure option that would allow them to take care of themselves and their families.

Gretchen was a general surgery nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta for 26 years, while Kelley spent the last 18 years of his career at United HealthCare Corporation as CEO of health plans.

Shortly after meeting in 2004 at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, they were married in 2005. Today, they can’t wait to move to The Village, meet their new neighbors, and start living the retirement they’ve been planning for the last three years.

Exploring their options

In 2017, as they started looking for a lifestyle option that would work best with their future plans, they learned about Life Plan Communities from a family friend.

“We like the concept of a Life Plan Community. The things you don’t want to do anymore … clean house, cut the lawn … you don’t have to do. The idea of having more free time to pursue our interests or just walking to meet friends for dinner really appeals to us,” says Gretchen.

“Life Plan Communities are designed to encourage an active, enjoyable lifestyle with ready access to friendships and activities,” notes Kelley. “Plus they offer easier availability to health care support. We were also impressed with the number of specialty doctors in Athens, and Atlanta is just an hour and a half away.”

Ever the pragmatist, Kelley says there was an even bigger reason they wanted a community like The Village. “We chose this because we’re making life easier for ourselves and our kids. Both Gretchen and I had to care for our aging parents, and what’s available now wasn’t available back then.”

Even though, at this moment, it’s hard to predict what tomorrow will hold, Gretchen says that hasn’t affected their conviction that Presbyterian Village Athens is where they want to be.

“Even in light of these unprecedented times, we have confidence in the Presbyterian Village Athens management group. They’re well skilled and taking prudent precautions. They’re doing a good job of keeping us all informed and connected. We’re ready to move today!” she exclaimed.

From Volunteers to Bulldogs.

Currently living near Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, Kelley and Gretchen are looking forward to moving to another college town and pursuing the continuing education courses and book clubs The Village will offer. They’re also exited to explore the vibrant intellectual and artistic aspects of Athens.

“Lots of the new residents are from Athens, including several college professors,” Gretchen explains. “And most of our children and grandchildren live in the Atlanta area, so it was time to make the move to be closer. I also have a daughter who lives in Pittsburgh, and we can get a direct flight to see her out of Atlanta. We can’t do that from Knoxville.”

Kelley adds, “Our new home will back up to University of Georgia agricultural land, so we’ll have a great view.” Gretchen continues, “I really like the location because it’ll be good for going on long walks.”

What advice would they offer to friends and family?

When talking with others about their plans for the future, Kelley and Gretchen have some simple thoughts: “We encourage getting ahead of forthcoming life changes by considering a move to a Life Plan Community like Presbyterian Village Athens,” says Kelley.

“Our friends haven’t stopped to figure out what you get for the money and what you don’t have to pay for anymore. We believe in it totally and are trying to get my brother to move in. Once we’re there, we’ll have him and our friends down and they’ll see,” adds Gretchen.

“We’re pleased to become Founders and eagerly look forward to meeting all the other Villagers,” says Kelley.

“I think the best phrase that sums up what went into choosing to live enjoyably in a Life Plan Community is: smaller living, bigger life!” concludes Gretchen.