Mike McDonald has gone from focusing on blue chips to bluebirds.

After college and a stint in the Navy, Mike moved to Winston-Salem in 1970 and joined Wachovia Bank. He spent the next 36 years there, first as their Director of Investment Research and then as part of their high-end wealth management group. It was a career that suited him. “I enjoyed working with clients and discovering what their needs were and their expectations for their money, how it should be handled and distributed and so forth. And because I had only a few clients, I had a lot of contact with them and we often became friends,” he says.

He retired in 2006 and moved to Charlotte to care for his mother and step-father. It was there he started to learn about Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) like River Landing. He helped his mother and step-father research different CCRCs in the Charlotte area. They moved into one in 2009 and lived there for several years, so he became aware of the advantages of living in a CCRC and developed a very favorable view of them.

After his mother passed away, Mike moved back to Winston-Salem in 2015 and decided to look into a CCRC for himself. Being research oriented, his search was very analytical.

“There’s no real roadmap for making the decision to move into a CCRC,” he says. “So, I broke it down into three questions: One, do I want to be in a CCRC? Two, if I do, which one do I want to be in? And three, when do I want to move in?”

As to the first question, he decided he did want to move into a CCRC, and he had three reasons. “Anyone in this age range is facing potential health care issues, and I believe you get a higher quality of care in a CCRC,” he says. “In terms of social life, I felt that once I couldn’t drive, I would be isolated living home alone, and I’d be a burden on my children. And finally, I was just tired of home maintenance and yardwork and didn’t want to do it anymore.”

So, then the question became, which one? He has children in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Wilmington, so he looked at a number of different communities from Winston-Salem eastward, and had actually gotten on the waiting list for a couple when a friend, Bob Reagan, recommended the place he and his wife had chosen – River Landing. Mike visited our community several times and found it to be a friendly, welcoming place. “I liked it better and better each time I visited,” he says.

He began to research River Landing and discovered it met all his criteria. “I did a lot of investigating of health centers in CCRCs, and I wanted one that was CARF-CCAC accredited and Medicare Certified. River Landing is both and has a five-star rating,” he says. “From a social standpoint, River Landing is just what I was looking for. River Landing has a younger, more active population than I saw in other places I looked, so it stood out from that standpoint. It also has a very high quality of maintenance and is well cared for. And the food here is good, plus they have a nice fitness area that I use a lot.”

So, Mike put himself on the waiting list and soon the opportunity arose to move in. Which brings us to his third question – when do you move in? He says he would never advise anyone about that, because it’s a personal decision. In his case, he says he realized he was ready to make a lifestyle change, so why wait? In May of 2018, he became a resident of River Landing.

He knows he made the right decision. “It’s been great,” he says. “The move was very easy and getting acclimated to this lifestyle was easy.”

He has tried a lot of different activities since moving in, and the one that has really taken hold of him is the community’s bluebird group. “That is my biggest interest here,” he says. He always liked birdwatching – his home in Winston-Salem had a big backyard that attracted a variety of species – so joining our bluebird group was a natural fit. Jim Burke, the vice-president of the North American Bluebird Society, is a resident of River Landing and he and the other group members have been maintaining a bluebird trail for a while. (You can learn more about Jim in this earlier blog entry.) The group has 23 bluebird nest boxes throughout the community, many of them on the golf course. “We maintain them and repair them, and we monitor them weekly to see if there are nests, eggs and then fledglings,” Mike says, and adds that they had over 80 fledglings this year. According to the Audubon Society, bluebird trails like ours have helped bring back the bluebird population in the U.S. after it had greatly declined due to the loss of their natural nesting sites. The group has also started to add boxes for the Brown Headed Nuthatch, another endangered species. And Mike has helped form a River Landing Bird Club for those with a more general interest in birdwatching and study.

He also works at staying fit. A swimmer in college, he kept at it off and on over the years but had a shoulder replacement six years ago and hadn’t been swimming a lot since. He started again after moving to River Landing, however, and after a little training was able to bring home a Gold in swimming in the PHI Olympics.

Ironically, the one thing he doesn’t do is play golf. “I’ve dabbled,” he says, but chances are if you see him on the course, he’s just out checking a bluebird house. That’s what keeps him busy these days.

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