Embark on a new chapter of life filled with tranquility, community and cherished moments in beautiful Chatham County. As you consider your retirement options, Pittsboro emerges as an irresistible destination for those seeking a fulfilling and enriching place to spend their golden years. Be sure to check out Chatham Magazine’s complete list of retirement communities in the area.
By Renee Ambroso
The best of both worlds
Sue Blaustein and Mark Blaustein (pictured above) chose to retire in 2016 to Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, citing its pastoral atmosphere and proximity to downtown Pittsboro and Chapel Hill. Sue says the community provides the right mix of “beauty and pleasantness” with “a lot of cultural opportunities. … Everything about the county is an ideal mix.” She adds that Chatham offers a welcome change of scenery without losing a sense of familiarity from the couple’s previous home in Orange County.
If you share their love for outdoor adventures, you’ll be delighted to know that Chatham County offers a wealth of parks and walking trails to explore, as well as fishing, pickleball, paddle boarding and golf courses. Mark and Sue are avid walkers and hikers, and they appreciate easy access to a variety of trails. The couple often makes the short drive to nearby American Tobacco Trail access points or strolls along the dam at Jordan Lake. “We walk the trails at Fearrington [Village] all the time, [and] we go down to the Bynum Bridge,” Sue adds. Pre-pandemic, Mark took part in Galloway’s “Green Trekkers” social group, joining 10 to 12 residents to embark on short hikes throughout the spring and summer months.
A community that cares
Mark says Galloway residents get their flu shots every year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, retirees at Galloway Ridge were pleased with the community’s quick response. “You get a sense of comfort [and] reassurance,” Mark says. Sue adds, “That’s really an outstanding thing in my book … how well they rose to the challenges of keeping residents safe, fed and entertained.”
Lifelong Chatham resident Irma Ellis, 87, first learned of Cambridge Hills from Ronda Stubbs, Cambridge Hill’s director of admissions and marketing, when they were co-workers at Allen & Son Bar-B-Que. Irma decided it was time to move after her husband, Charles Ellis, died. “I was always used to a crowd [of people around],” Irma says, “and [then] I had no one.” Now, she bonds with many fellow residents through bingo, exercise and art classes and themed parties.
For Irma, Cambridge Hills’ location was just right. She needed assisted living and also wanted to remain close to her old Bynum neighborhood and her children in Pittsboro. Irma has lived at Cambridge Hills for three years and has no plans to uproot again. “This is where I want to stay,” she says.
Mary Ann Browning came to Twin Rivers Independent Senior Living from Wilmington, North Carolina, to be near her daughter, grandsons and two great-grandchildren. “I couldn’t stay in Wilmington without anybody else named Browning,” Mary Ann says.
Similarly, after living in Pamlico County in North Carolina for most of his life, Von Stokes moved into an apartment at Twin Rivers to be closer to his daughters – one lives in Hillsborough and the other in Raeford, North Carolina. Von is now retired after 32 years of teaching at Pamlico County Schools and at YMCA Camp Seafarer.
A third Twin Rivers resident, Virginia Myers, 97, relocated there to be near her daughter in Fearrington Village. Virginia says she is “happy, healthy and enjoying life,” at the independent living apartment complex, where 21 residents are a close-knit bunch. “It’s small enough that we are much more like a family than we are a group of friends … it’s a convivial group,” she says.
Home sweet home
Engaging in philanthropic endeavors and participating in community service programs can bring immense fulfillment and purpose to your retirement years. After 25 years living and working in Pittsboro, Carol Licht moved to nearby Twin Rivers. The Chatham Habitat for Humanity volunteer always knew exactly where she would go when it came time to sell her house, having known previous residents of the community. She’s been a Twin Rivers resident for five years.
Cost of living
Linda Harper and Dan Harper arrived at Encore at Briar Chapel from Southern California two years ago. The choice was a long time in the making – the Harpers sold their previous home and lived in a rental house for a year while considering options up and down the East Coast. Chatham stood out from the rest – the reasonable cost of living and being within a day’s drive to each of their daughters’ homes topped their wishlist. Plus, Dan and Linda love the accessibility to North Carolina’s beaches and mountains.
Retirees in Chatham County enjoy the best of both worlds – the tranquil rural lifestyle during retirement and easy access to metropolitan amenities, including shopping, dining, and world-class healthcare facilities. After teaching at UNC for 40 years, Julia Wood, a retired professor of communications and humanities, says Chatham feels very much like home. She moved to Galloway Ridge at Fearrington in 2014 with her husband, Robert Cox, who also taught at the university for more than four decades. “It didn’t really occur to me to leave the state,” Julia says, noting all her paternal ancestors were North Carolinians and that she feels “deeply tied” to the area. Julia and Robert especially enjoy Galloway Ridge’s vicinity to Chapel Hill – just nine miles down the road – and often hop on a shuttle to attend UNC football games. Also within driving distance are live performance venues, art galleries, festivals, museums and historical landmarks.
“Residents here are active in everything from literacy activities to fundraising for good causes in Chatham County,” Sue says. Mark serves on Galloway’s resident council, grounds committee and a communications committee that updates residents on community happenings. He also volunteers on what the couple calls “the geek squad,” which helps neighbors with technology issues. A member of the neighborhood library advisory committee, Sue says, “these committees are resident driven, so the resident voice is accounted for.” Galloway is home to retirees from a variety of careers such as foreign service agents, engineers, artists and scientists. Neighbors share their expertise by leading discussions or workshops. “The range of abilities … just blows my mind,” Sue says.
“We used to take our own kids and our grandkids down to see the cows [at Fearrington Village],” Sue says. That’s how she first became familiar with the area, and the Village’s restaurants, shops and entertainment offerings were a major draw when it came to choosing Galloway. “[Now] I walk there literally every single day and watch other families take their little kids to see the cows,” Sue says. “Some things don’t change at all.”
More to Explore
As you consider retiring in beautiful Chatham County, you’ll find that in addition to its perfect blend of serene natural beauty, active retirement opportunities, this area has convenient proximity to urban centers like Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill. To explore retirement options nearby, visit our comprehensive retirement directories for Chapel Hill and Durham.