Meet Lila Brown, Julia Hite, and Charlie and Jean Willis
During her two-year term as Vice Mayor at Southminster, people started telling Lila Brown she should change her title to Mayor of Vice. The dictionary defines vice as risky behavior, but at Southminster it means surrounding yourself with people who like to have fun, swim, work out, play hard, play bridge, stage plays and engage in a host of other life-enriching, friendship-building activities.

All across our campus, residents share the hobbies, passions and leadership skills they enjoyed in their pre-Southminster lives through more than 20 resident-led committees. This ongoing focus on Life Enrichment fuels the social, healthy, mind-stimulating “vices” that make Super-Agers seem more like people decades younger.

New Year – DO YOU!
At the start of every year, Southminster’s Director of Resident Life Enrichment, Christina Hall, and Life Enrichment Programs and Partnerships Manager, Brie Uzzell, meet with spiritual wellness and fitness colleagues to decide how to best celebrate and enrich life on campus over the next 12 months. Last January, they chose a theme that updated the typical “New Year, New You” mantra to “New Year, DO YOU!”

As Hall explained, “Our Life Enrichment activities are designed to meet every resident ‘where they’re at’ by finding out what is meaningful to them specifically. With our calendar of both big and small events, every resident can tailor how much or how little they want to do. For one person, that might mean simply playing cards three times a week or inviting new residents to dinner; for another, it could entail coming to every single one of our social events.”

Julia Hite: “My thing is hospitality”
Super-Ager Julia Hite had been social chair of her Sunday School class in Charlotte for 35 years, was on the forefront of pickleball in Charlotte, played tennis, organized two Social Duplicate Bridge clubs and much more. When she moved to Southminster, she clearly packed up her passion for bringing people together and brought it with her.

She started a social hour at 5 p.m. in the courtyard of her building and cleverly named it “Choir Practice.” She also hit a home run with “The Golden Girls,” a women’s group on campus that now does 10 trips and two luncheons a year. Key to the effort was Hite’s friendship-building protocol of assigning places at the table with a hostess to help the women get to know each other. “You can sit with your friends somewhere else, but not here,” Hite said of her executive decision. It proved to be an ideal way to engage newcomers and build relationships.

Uzzell explained that men, who have traditionally made up a smaller segment of the population at Southminster, had already started a resident-run Men’s Club, just for the guys. Now there’s sometimes crossover. When the Golden Girls do something like go on the beer-fueled Funny Bus Comedy City Tour in Charlotte, some men come along. If you see Julia Hite on campus, ask her about what she learned on the Funny Bus: why Queen Charlotte had such big skirts.

Charlie and Jean Willis: “The only thing I miss is my big screwdriver”
One pair of Southminster Super-Agers, former Southminster Mayor Charlie Willis and Jean Willis, current Area Rep for the South Terraces, didn’t think they would be at Southminster forever. “I thought after a few months here, I would say, ‘Well, that was a really wonderful vacation in a swell place. Now I’m ready to go home.’” For 50 years, home had been their family’s house in Charlotte’s Foxcroft neighborhood where they raised their three children. As their granddaughter said to Jean about their move to our campus, “You brought all your favorite stuff with you, and you brought granddaddy.’ Jean replied, “Well, not in that order of importance!”

Now five years later, Charlie said, “The only thing I miss is my big screwdriver. We really enjoy being here, and one thing I didn’t expect was how openly friendly people would be.” Other advantages of retirement community living surfaced during the pandemic. Jean said they never felt isolated like they would have in their old home during that time. “You could always walk around campus, speaking to people while keeping a 6-foot distance. And instead of the hassle of figuring out grocery deliveries, our food came right to us.”

It’s easy for the couple to stay involved off-campus too through the church they’ve been members of for 55 years. Charlie’s also been a member of the same Rotary Club for 40 years. And, they have the joy of Charlie’s sister and Jean’s sister and her husband living near them in the same building.  “There’s no doubt in my mind that being here has prolonged our lives,” Jean said.

Lila Brown: “I consider myself to be a raging extrovert”

Lila Brown is a native Charlottean who says her biggest problem is learning to say no. Her ties to Southminster run deep, starting with her father who helped found Southminster 37 years ago when Christ Church and Myers Park Baptist joined forces to create the city’s best retirement community. After her parents passed away within a year of each other, Brown took early retirement from her richly rewarding banking career. But, even then, she didn’t become “shy and retiring,” finding equally interesting and engaging work in retail and volunteering with the Junior League.

“I made up my mind when I moved here after my husband died that I would be involved,” Brown said. Now, in addition to being Vice Mayor at Southminster, she chairs the Volunteer Committee and has led efforts to bring independent living and Embrace Health residents together. “The volunteering I do to bring our neighbors in Embrace Health to meals and activities means a great deal to me.”

Brown says there’s so much to do here that a resident could choose to leave their apartment at 8:30 in the morning and not come back until 7:30 at night. She knows that because she sometimes does it herself. In addition to going to a recent board retreat, she attends as many committee meetings as possible to observe how they work and learn about initiatives they have underway. Like Jean Willis, this Super-Ager has also served as an Area Representative.

Area Reps and Ambassadors: Fully Engaging Newcomers
Area reps at Southminster serve for two years and are in charge of representing the 17 campus zones. For every 25 apartments, there is one, and sometimes two area reps. They are basically responsible for building community, showing newcomers the ropes and representing their constituents to management. Jean Willis also got very involved in the campus Ambassadors Program for the new North Terraces during the pandemic. She and other volunteers wrote letters before people moved in, helped connect them with existing residents, and dropped off goody boxes from Reid’s the day they arrived.

“I have more friends here than I did when I was working,” Brown said. “I really enjoy reading the bios of people moving here to find out their interests and reach out to them. When I lived in my house, I was by myself. As a single woman, you feel so much safer here. And the healthcare that’s part of this continuing care retirement community was a huge deciding factor for me. My advice to those who are thinking about an exceptional place to move for the next stage of their lives is this: do the research, talk to people who live here, and above all, don’t wait too late – come when you can enjoy it all!”