From the Starlight to the Towers

eleanor norton

Eleanor Norton

Although her high school teachers encouraged her to apply for the Rockettes because of her flexibility and dance moves, Eleanor Norton was neither tall enough (5 ft.) nor big enough (97 pounds) to meet the height and weight requirements.

So instead she turned to other career paths that helped her use her flair for entertaining.

One of her all-time favorite jobs was guiding tours at the upscale Cherry Hill Inn, across from Garden State Park, a grand horseracing venue built in the 1940s in New Jersey. For Norton, the best part was showing visitors the Starlight Room, a ballroom for weddings and other celebrations. With an office right down the hall, she often got cake and flowers after the ceremonies.

These many years later, Norton is still giving tours several times a week at Wesley Woods Towers, a retirement living community at Emory. She takes visitors through a newly renovated lobby and past a bulletin board where residents sign up for transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments. She shows off a library with well-stocked shelves, a gallery that features the art of the people who live and work there, a computer room, a beauty shop, and a foot care clinic. 

Usually, she has just one or two people in tow who are looking for a home for an elderly parent, but sometimes she gets a group of 15 or more Emory University students.  “It’s hard to get them all in here,” she says, gesturing around her efficiency apartment on the sixth floor, decorated with photos of her late husband (a “cracker-jack” salesman), three children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandbaby.

In the decade that Norton has lived at Wesley Woods Towers, she has run an on-site thrift store, worked at the front desk, been active in the residents association, and served as a floor representative. “They keep me busy, and that’s why I like it,” she says. In fact, she recently turned down an invitation to join a regular group that plays Rummikub, a popular game at the Towers, because it would interfere with her other activities.

Norton admits that getting old is not easy. It helps to have family nearby—all three of her children have settled in Georgia, and she frequently entertains her grandson (“over 6 ft. tall,” she points toward the ceiling) and other family members. Still, she’s lost some friends at Wesley Woods, and recently, she herself experienced a transient ischemic attack. 

After a few days in the hospital and recovery, Norton feels back to normal. Just in case, she’s taking it easy now and cutting back to only two tours a week. But she can still show you the flower planters that the residents association installed from money made in the thrift store or where to play a round of Rummikub or to find a good read.—Rhonda Mullen

  wesley woods

A community for the young at heart

Wesley Woods Center offers comprehensive geriatric care to aging seniors and their families. The Towers, which offer independent living for seniors, assisted-living services, and a full meal plan, are next door to Wesley Woods Clinic, Wesley Woods Hospital, and a health building with dental services. Specialty services on the 64-acre wooded campus include rehabilitation therapy, inpatient geriatric psychiatry, medical acute care, and dental care. Researchers at Wesley Woods study Alzheimer’s, late-life depression, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, and age-related conditions, with the goal of improving the lives of the young at heart.

To schedule a personal tour of Wesley Woods Towers, call 404-728-6663. Virtual tours of the entire campus are available.



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