Getting Better With Age


   Forget everything you thought you knew about retirement communities, and forget every scary thought you’ve had about getting older. Banish visions of sitting around all day watching bad TV and waiting for the phone to ring. Aging doesn’t have to be boring and it doesn’t have to be lonely.


    Transformed from a farm field in the late 1950s into 27 beautifully-wooded and landscaped acres, Grace Presbyterian Village takes a cue from its name and gives a whole new meaning to growing older gracefully. President and CEO Godwin Dixon likes to call living here “not just the next phase but the best phase of your life.”

    The onsite Hillcrest Spa and Fitness Center boasts a hair and nail salon with manicure and pedicure stations, a massage therapy center, an aquatic center, a locker room area in warm blue hues, and a relaxation room with recliners, TV and a refrigerator. Dixon says the Hillcrest Foundation made the lead gift for the center, but when he had the idea to treat donors to the Vichy shower, letting them know that would be part of the facility once built, “the rest of the funding to build came very quickly.”


    Residents might need that pampering because the Village emphasizes physical health. Group aerobics, yoga, tai chi and Pilates take place in a large sunny workout room equipped with exercise bands, balls and steps. The cardio fitness room is filled with equipment specially selected to meet user needs. Instead of taking the easy way of a bulk purchase from one manufacturer, staff carefully selected the finest of each type of machine, ensuring that the equipment worked for both individuals in good health and those with disabilities; Village residents then tried them out and gave final approvals before purchasing.

    Keeping core muscles strong is important, especially as we age. Leta Lassiter, an Oak Cliff native, says she and her husband, Frank, think Pilates is “great for keeping limber.” They moved into one of the two bedroom/two bath cottages after she had rehabilitation for her stroke here in 2005. “We liked it so much we decided to move in,” she says. Frank likes the idea of not having to keep up a yard. “I can do the manual labor,” he says with a smile, “but I don’t want to.” He keeps his gardening activities to growing caladiums in pots now, and Leta can see them from the kitchen window.


    The cottages are being updated with energy-efficient windows and appliances, and are currently being wired for the internet. Average cottagers are in their mid-70s when they move in, says Dixon. “We like to say, ‘Come when you can enjoy your life.’” Dixon’s 71-year-old father will be moving into a refurbished cottage in February.

    The Village also offers assisted living, three levels of Alzheimer’s care, nursing care, and a transitional care Medicare Rehabilitation unit. The Medicare Rehabilitation unit serves not only Grace’s seniors but also other clients recovering from surgery. These Medicare recipients come to the Village from all over Dallas, stay through their rehabilitation, and then return home. Featuring state-of-the-art therapy and rehabilitative services, Grace offers both in-patient and out-patient therapy options.

    As the only nonprofit retirement community south of the Trinity, the Village is highly specialized. Dixon points out that every hospital bed has a special pressure mattress that is not only very comfortable but helps prevent bed sores in the very frail, and every bed is fully adjustable. The beds can be lowered to the floor or even raised high enough to make it easier for staff to treat debilitated patients, creating less back strain for employees and making moving a patient from a gurney to a bed much less traumatic.

    “Being a nonprofit has its advantages in that regard,” says Dixon. He can use donations to obtain the best equipment and staff. He notes that T. Boone Pickens gave $2 million to the Village this year.

    The philosophy of giving back to the community is alive and well at Grace Presbyterian. Many residents volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and mentor students from local schools. And Cedar Valley Community College students can receive nurse’s aide training here and their senior students use the pool for water aerobics.

   Not only can anyone in Oak Cliff whose doctor prescribes physical therapy get it at the Village, but one can also come for just exercise and fun. If you’re 55 or older, you can buy a membership at the Hillcrest Spa and Fitness Center at Grace Presbyterian Village.

    Despite the name, you don’t have to be Presbyterian to live here. “We welcome all faiths,” says Dixon. Several area churches come and worship with their members at the Village’s soon-to-be enlarged chapel, and Christmas trees decorated by area churches ornament the halls for the holidays.


    As he warmly greets everyone by name during our tour of the campus, Dixon says colleagues thought he was crazy to leave north Dallas for Oak Cliff. But he’s never regretted his decision for a moment and calls this his dream job in a dream location. “Our residents don’t live in the facility,” he states, “we work in their home.”   

For more information about the facilities, or to make a charitable donation, visit