Gatesworth resident Kathryn ‘Kayo’ Stinson with Martha Kessel, executive director at The Gatesworth since it opened in 1988.

Making the move from living at home to life at a senior living community may at first seem like a concession to many seniors. But once they’re settled, many find the transition an overwhelmingly positive one.

Such was the case for Gatesworth resident Katherine ‘Kayo’ Stinson, who moved to the Ladue campus four years ago. A Clayton native living in Chesterfield, Stinson was persuaded to make the move by Gatesworth director of operations Bob Leonard. “Bob was very persuasive, promising me that living there would make me more independent, not less,” says Stinson. And shortly after moving in, she says, she found out he was right. “I have fewer responsibilities, and more time to enjoy life. Plus everyone here, the staff and the other residents, is so interesting!” Stinson says the Gatesworth’s many amenities, including a fitness center, topical lectures and diverse entertainment programming, are a big bonus.

But it wasn’t until an unfortunate fall landed her in the hospital that Stinson realized just how much The Gatesworth meant to her. “I was at my bank, and not paying attention to where I was walking. Next thing I knew, I had fallen, hit my head on the ground and was being rushed to the hospital,” she recalls. Stinson, whose children live out of town, was terrified. “It was very traumatic. I was alone at the hospital, until all of a sudden; I heard this sweet voice say my name.” The voice belonged to Martha Kessel, executive director at The Gatesworth.

“She was an angel,” Stinson says. “She had my purse, had made sure my belongings were safe, and stayed with me until 9 p.m. that night so I wouldn’t be alone. I realized then how lucky I was to live at a place where I wasn’t just a resident. They really care about me.”

Leonard says Stinson’s story is not an exception. “I get calls all the time from residents who, for one reason or another, share with me how happy they are they made the move and settled at The Gatesworth,” he says. “It can be scary at first, because many seniors feel like leaving their homes means giving up something. But what they don’t realize is that you can be more independent without the frustrations and responsibilities of owning a home.”

Life at The Gatesworth also offers valuable opportunities for social and intellectual stimulation. “Not only do you have less to worry about day to day, but you also have built-in opportunities to pursue hobbies and interests you love,” explains Leonard. Residents enjoy chatting with friends at breakfast each day, playing cards, visiting the fitness and spa facilities and attending The Gatesworth’s popular Visionary Speakers Series. “That program is a great example of how life at The Gatesworth can expand your horizons,” Leonard says. It was organized by resident Harris Frank as a way to bring high-profile and interesting St. Louisans in to talk with residents. “Since the program began, we’ve hosted former Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox, Sen. John Danforth and U.City developer Joe Edwards, and we’ll be welcoming Chancellor Mark Wrighton, Fr. Lawrence Biondi and Bill McClellan in the coming weeks,” Leonard says.

The senior living community’s success is a testament to its reputation. “Our overall occupancy is in the high 90th percentile,” Leonard beams. “Since we opened the 38 apartments in our new West Wing, only five remain unoccupied. In normal times, we would expect these kinds of stats, but in the middle of a recession, when other communities are closing, we feel very blessed to be where we are.”