David Nottingham says: “The major thing we were looking for – because it’s something you can’t put your finger on and it varies from individual to individual – is a place that we felt comfortable living in. When you get up in the morning, you’ll be glad you’re there.”
Margaret Keene and David Nottingham Interview, December 2013
M: Margaret Keane
D: David Nottingham
J: Jill Hofer
I: Ines Newby
J: Hi there, this is Jill Hofer and Ines is here with me as well.
M: OK, this is Margaret Keane and David Nottingham.
J: Hi Mrs. Keane, hi Mr. Nottingham – how are you both?
D: Very well, thank you, now that we got through to you.
J: Oh good, I’m glad. Yeah, this fancy technology…
M: Where are you located?
J: Tucson, Arizona.
M: OK, I just like to know.
J: Sure, absolutely. Watermark is the company that owns The Fountains, and we’re headquartered – we’ve always been in Tucson, Arizona, oddly enough.
M: Well that’s a pretty area; we’ve been there.
J: Oh you have?
J: Yeah, it’s different out here, isn’t it?
J: Well thank you for taking the time to meet with us today; we’re really trying to learn about what kind of a process people go through as they’re making the decision to move in the first place, and B, where they’d like to live. We’re really not looking to learn how to better promote the Fountains; we’re really looking to promote, psychologically, you know, what’s that process like for people? Everybody’s a little bit different, but we’re learning by talking to a few different residents who went through the process. You know, they had their own research methods and what not, and that’s really helpful, so don’t worry a bit about any of it – whatever you tell us is going to be extremely helpful and we really appreciate your time.
D: Well, I just would comment that I was in the process of looking for a place that we would spend our end years by meeting Margaret here. Until I met her, I really thought that I would spend my end years either living by myself or living with my family. But Margaret has the experience of parents who had lived in a continuing care facility that they loved, and it was kind of the gold standard for us for a while in Florida. So we didn’t really know if it would be the best for us or not – I felt like we had plenty of time based on our health and our age, so we kept looking with a systematic approach using all the things we thought were important to us about 7 years ago.
J: Oh, no kidding?
D: No kidding. We started looking – actually, I have a home in Philadelphia, and so we were up there when we started. To gain some knowledge, we looked up there, so we went there and my daughter lives in Virginia, so we looked at one there, and during this time, we learned a lot about the different companies and the things a person in our circumstances should be observant of. And one of the things that we were interested in that became important to us, was that one of the big companies, Erickson, went bankrupt with enormous problems, so we’ve got to know when there’s financial security. The major thing we were looking for, because it was something you can’t put your finger on and it varies from individual to individual – we were looking for a place that we felt comfortable living in. When you get up in the morning, you’ll be glad your there, so we started talking about ambiance. And some of the – to be fair, most of them had good ambiance, but it never felt exactly right. There were some that were very attractive in various ways, and the thing, which was a comparison for all of them, was the financial cost, and I think that’s a natural thing. One of the things that came from our study was that you guys in the industry are really competitive, because while there were some that had substantial cost, or substantially greater cost than the others, most of them came with costs variably similar to what we found here at the Fountains, or maybe slightly less. But none of them had the ambiance, and when we – we actually found the Fountains as a result of Margaret’s cousin who told us that they had had their grandparents live here at the Fountains and were extremely happy here, so with that, Margaret and I came down and visited Sarasota. And we went to three different places here, and were immediately attracted by the general appearance, the upkeep, the feel, and the guard at the gate who welcomed us like his lost family and I think he knew our names the second time we were there, but always extremely friendly. And we – so anyway we felt the general appearance and everything felt great. We started to look up north and decided the winters were all too cold until we got to Florida. We looked in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and they have some nice facilities too, Orlando, all around St. Petersburg, but in our total search, counting the other states, North Carolina and South Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania, we looked at 29 different facilities before we –
J: I’ll be darned!
D: Yeah, and you know, one of the things is the quality of the food – I would say the quality of the food here, because you know, you’re going to be eating a lot of meals, so the quality of food is important. The quality here ranks in the top three I would say.
M: Let me interject here – I appreciate the flexibility of different plans, you know, the dining room plans, so we didn’t have to come every night and eat here at the Fountains. We could cook at home or go to a local restaurant. That was really helpful for us, because we’re still cooking part time and enjoy being home more rather than going every night to the dining room.
J: That’s a nice choice.
M: Yes it is. And we also have a little dog, so that was important that they have a place for dogs.
M: Yeah, we have a rescue dog.
J: Oh good for you, me too!
M: So we’re in a villa, because it has to be on the first floor. And also it was nice to have a choice whether we wanted to be in the main town center, which is older, or be in the villas, which are newer. So we had some choices here that were very important to us.
J: That’s wonderful.
M: And we had – I have appreciated the activities. Three times a week we have a really good exercise class, and it’s really fun and a good way to meet people. We have music and it’s just great – it gets you up at 9 o’clock in the morning for exercise. So they have a lot of different activities here.
J: That’s great – what kind of different programs do you enjoy?
M: Well, David goes to a computer class and I have started a yoga class here.
D: We have found that the welcoming by the residents here is almost unbelievable – we’re having a hard time keeping up with our dining engagements because we’re asked all the time if we could join people in the dining room.
J: Oh, that’s great!
D: It really is. We’re active here – you know, I’m active in the community. I spend a lot of time on the computer, and we walk our dog, and I’m in photography and that sort of thing. But one of the – I lost my train of thought here… One of the things that drove us towards a retirement place like this in the first place, at the time that we did it, because we’re both in reasonably good health, maybe very good health even, was that Margaret raised a very good point that she wanted to get settled someplace where she could meet her new neighbors and get settled so as we age, we wouldn’t have to do this later and then catch up and make friends some place. And that turned out to be a very accurate reason for coming in at our age.
M: Would you like to know our age?
J: Well sure!
M: I’m 75 and David is going to be 80 in May, so that was my goal that we get settled before he turned 80.
J: Well that’s a good milestone.
M: Yeah, we’re very happy that we actually got settled last May, and we can relax and take trips and enjoy life a little more.
J: Right, you don’t have to worry about all the hassles that come with being in a separate home. In fact, where did you live right before you moved to the Fountains?
M: Well, as you may have figured out, we’ve only been together 8 years, so it’s been a new experience for us –
J: Oh, congratulations!
M: I actually lived in St. Petersburg the last 7 years because my son and his family were there, and I had been married before and I was a widow, so I had wanted to be near my family. And David – do you want to tell them?
D: Well, I’m a retired Army officer, so I’ve lived all over the world and certainly the United States, but I had finally decided that I would live in Philadelphia where I have a son and his family. My grandchildren – they have three of my grandchildren – and my daughter…all of my grandchildren were seven years old or younger, and I said, you know, I’ll just spend my time growing older with my grandchildren. That was my objective and the reason I’d settled up there. I was renovating a row house and that sort of thing, and Margaret convinced me there were better places to live.
M: Blame me! I was not a city person even though he lived in a very nice area of Philadelphia. I had a home that I’d loved in the summertime, and we still do, and so he liked that. And I got him looking further south where it’s warmer, and he likes that too.
J: Great! And it’s a great place for the grandkids to visit too, on their little school breaks.
M: And it’s great for Christmas, too.
J: That’s perfect.
D: Yeah, along those lines, my daughter’s husband, after coming to St. Petersburg, actually this will be the first year that they’ve come down here, St. Petersburg made it a tradition for them to come and visit for Christmas.
J: Perfect, and you’re in a nice spot for it with all the public spaces, and you can have catering if you want to be in your house.
J: Well that’s super. It sounds like you didn’t have a lot of the reluctance that people have. You were very proactive, very forward thinking, but a lot of folks, as you probably notice, they could have really benefitted if they’d come five or ten years earlier.
M: Sure. Well my mother had educated me about the benefits, because she loved the place where she lived in Orlando, and I loved visiting them. And she loved the place she was in and would say, “Don’t wait until it’s too late!”
J: Good advice, right? Mother knows best.
M: Yes, that’s right.
D: I would interject one thing, that probably the most concerning thing when we were looking to move here was weather we could afford the continuing cost. You can readily see how to make the necessary down payments, but you think about the estimate cost that’s required for maintenance to live here, that can be a bit concerning. So anyway, I think we share that concern with most of the people that live here. Nonetheless, we’ve decided it’s worth it, so we’re giving it a go. But I think the true cost of a place like this is probably the most daunting factor in making a decision to finally make the move.
J: I think you’re probably right.
M: Well you know, they have different payment plans, you know? Whether you pay for the long-term care up front or pay as you need it you know? Again, you have choices.
D: Well, I’ll make one addition to those comments – one of the things that appealed to me, and I don’t know if that’s true of all the Watermark – here you pay for what you use. Some places you’re paying for things you might never need or other people are going to need, which is a bad thing if it’s a concern to fund over your lifetime and you don’t want to pay for things you might never use.
J: Right. And not to mention you know, you just want to be a smart consumer, you just want to be a wise purchaser, and you know, we are all – I love how many communities that you guys looked at, you really – I can’t imagine anyone having a bigger, broader picture of how to go about this process.
M: Well it’s a fun project. Every vacation time, we’d take a trip and stop to look at a facility.
J: Huh….huh! That’s an interesting bit of advice! People should look at it more as a fun adventure instead of something they have to face with fear.
D: Well our technique was to search for continuing care facilities – in some aspects, while this doesn’t totally fit the continuing care facility, but there are a lot of aspects that are similar to it, at least for us – we would look at continuing care facilities online in the places we thought we might like living, and I developed spreadsheets for the various factors so we could make a comparison. And after a while, it just kind of fell out. Really, the most important thing is how are you going to feel living there year after year? And the staff, the quality of the staff, the enthusiasm here, all of these things were extremely important to us.
M: Also, the size of the community – we looked at some, there was one in Orlando that was just so crowded, they built and built and built more units, and we just decided it wasn’t for us. You want one that has enough people that you have choices of who your friends are, and that’s here. It’s a nice sized community.
D: I would say that’s extremely important. If anything, it’s what builds the ambiance and appeal to us, and that is – this is a large enough community to be sustaining, but on the other hand it’s not jammed up and you don’t feel crowded. If you all had used your land space to maximize utilization, we would not be here, because…so that’s – if you’re interested in getting people to come here, it has to have the feeling or at least it would for us.
M: And another thing I wanted to say is that we did look at the Assisted Living and the Nursing facilities, which could be very important for us down the line, and this place has one of the nicest – it’s rather nice now. I know a few years ago it wasn’t so good, but now it is very appealing.
J: That’s wonderful – it’s one of those things you don’t want to have to use, but if you do, you want it to be close.
M: Right – have you all seen this area?
J: I have, I have. It’s beautiful, and it is a really good thing that we didn’t overbuild on that land because one of the most amazing things about that community is the open space and the greenery and I mean, who needs to take care of a yard when you drive in through there, you know? It’s really terrific. Now, did anything surprise you when you moved in? You said, “OK, we’re doing this, now we’re here, the last box is unpacked.” You probably had some expectations because you knew so much and learned so much, but was there anything that made you think, “Huh…I didn’t expect that!”
D: Well, one thing – we spent our life moving.
M: He’s military.
J: You’re professionals! That’s different – a lot of people, we’re talking about 30-year-old stuff in the same cupboard.
D: We really – there weren’t that many surprises – if there were any surprises, it was that seldom your expectations get answered. We feel like everything has been as good as we expected or better. The service here, the sales staff here has continued to be interested because they’re unbelievably good and thorough in getting our bills prepared for us even though there are certain things that had to be done. They got them done for us.
J: Oh, that’s great.
D: And so a lot of the impression we’ve gotten has come from our sales staff – Joe Kessler and Bria Rymond, who were just, could not have been better. It felt like they had our interests at heart with everything we asked for. They certainly gave us their best shot – at least that’s the impression I had, a very strong impression.
J: Well, that’s great! You have to ask!
D: It’s been an extremely positive experience for us, and really I can’t think of anything really to complain about.
J: Well that’s spectacular! There are a lot of elements of life, you know? From the repairs to the people, and you said the ambiance was so important, and that’s a lot of stuff to not have anything to complain about.
D: Oh, I could think of something to complain about, but it’s pretty low in the pecking order, but I could find something to complain about if you really wanted me to.
J: That might be more indicative of your personality than the community that you live – you might be one of those people that sees the bright side, too. Let me ask you this – when you think in general, people across the board – what are some of the general benefits that you think just about anybody would experience moving to a good community? Not necessarily the Fountains, but a good, nice, supportive, retirement community. What are the overall benefits people might experience?
M: Well, I think the interactive ability with a lot of other people and not the “going it alone” as you age, but having friends and nice places to eat and that sort of thing – that’s the most important to me, and also to feel safe. As a woman, I want to feel safe.
D: Yeah, I would echo that, and I think Margaret brought up an important point – this is a gate community. Access to the community is restricted and I think that’s extremely important in this day and age in our country. I grew up when we didn’t lock the doors, but at this point it’s an extremely important thing particularly for a person who might expect to be a single person very shortly. But I would echo what Margaret said in that it is the way the community makes you feel when you meet them and talk with them. The people here, the residents here are knowledgeable people; they’re smart, they have the same interests – if not the same interests then they’re closely associated. They’re interesting people. Oh, I need to mention just one other thing that’s important to me, and this varies from community to community – I’m a person who likes to have wine with my meals. Some communities, A, don’t allow you to do that, and B, they only allow you to drink theirs, and I find theirs to not be very good and be over priced. So the flexibility here that allows me to bring my own wine to meals might be a small thing, but we’re talking day after day, meal after meal, and all this sort of thing for the rest of your life? That’s important.
J: Right, that becomes a lot less small at that point, because it’s sticking in your craw with every single sip that you take, when you’re restricted! Well, you know, maybe we should have done – I think this last weekend was some big anniversary about the repeal of prohibition – we should have had a marketing party for that!
D: We’d agree!
J: Yes, we’d toast to that!
M: Well we – I gave David one of the closets in our villa for him to make a wine cellar.
J: Oh you’re kidding!
M: It is so clever – from top to bottom, there are wine bottles layered.
J: Oh that is so neat! Boy, I bet that looks really cool.
M: Oh, it does, but we keep the door closed because we don’t want people to know what’s in it.
J: That’s right – just let them think it’s clothes!
D: If you’re thinking about expanding, you might want to put a wine cellar as part of your construction requirements. I currently have about 150 bottles of wine and I’ve run out of space.
J: Oh you’re kidding – well wouldn’t that be a nice amenity to list, really? And it would say a lot about the merriness and the liveliness of the community if we had to have something like that for our residents? It would speak volumes, wouldn’t it?
M: Well they do have lockers – I don’t know, I guess people pay for them?
D: No, next to the dining room they have a place where people meet and can enjoy wine together. In fact, wine is served, it’s just that I like my wine better, but you can bring and meet there, and one of the residents here is a [can’t understand 30:18] like I am, and we’ve got a starting point here –
J: And plenty to talk about! That’s wonderful – I have sincerely enjoyed speaking with you; what a fun conversation this has been! You had some wonderful insights!
D: When you come visit next time, stop over and we’ll sample some wine!
J: Sounds good – I want to see the closet! And I want to meet you little dog! What kind of dog do you have?
M: Well, because he’s a rescue, we’re not sure, but we were told that he’s a Chinese Crested Powder-puff.
J: Oh my gosh, how cute can you get? I’ve heard of them both! And one of my little dogs, they say she might have some Chinese Crested and terrier – it really adds a look, doesn’t it?
M: Yes, well, because it’s a powder-puff type, he has lots of wooly hair.
D: He’s very soft. He’s very, very soft.
J: Oh, what a little sweetheart. Rescue dogs are the best kind – they’re the only kind for me. There are too many dogs to not save one, and they’ve all got the same heart underneath whether they’re a pedigree or a mutt.
M: I agree.
J: Well thank you two so much. If you have anything else to add, we’d love to hear it, but I can’t believe the treasure troves and insights that you’ve given.
D: Well it’s probably worth about what it cost you!
J: I think it’s worth many multiples, although you know what happens when you multiply by zero if I’m following your joke! But it’s really valuable – it’s really great to speak with someone who’s had a very different way of coming about it – someone who was, the fact that you described it as your adventure? That’s very unusual guys – that’s more of a kicking and screaming kind of thing for a lot of folks. I mean, the Fountains at Lake Pointe, it’s different because it’s such a very, very nice community, and it is a destination. It’s a nice, nice place, and Sarasota is a great place to retire. But, nonetheless, few people see it as an adventure.
D: Well I’ll distill this – most people probably start too late in looking for a place like this. It doesn’t mean that you have to move in your first year even – we looked for 7 years.
M: And also, it took…after we found the Fountains, we still waited two or three years before we were ready to move it.
J: Interesting – that’s true. It’s never too early to look.
M: We were invited to the luncheons, to the events, and one was at night when Shannon was there…what was his name?
D: Shannon, the director.
J: Uh huh – sure – Shannon Rudlinger.
D: We also found that the events were quite interesting, they had doctors here to talk about health problems. All of it was very supportive in our decision.
J: Yeah, you do have a really interesting program schedule there. It’s not your – it’s not high tea every day and it’s not burgers and fries every day either. You guys are learning and stuff, and I mean Cassie does a great job. She really enjoys her job and it shows, you know?
M: Yes, there was a wonderful event for us. It was a cruise, a boat cruise, with 16 people at a time that could sign up, and they had two boats. We got taken around all these beautiful mansions – it was so neat.
J: Well isn’t that fun? I would love that – I haven’t talked to her in a while, I should give her a call and if you don’t mind, I’ll tell her you commented on that. She’d love to hear it.
M: Oh yeah – when we stopped at this one beach, they had the chef there cooking lobsters, and picnic tables were up with linen tablecloths.
J: Oh how fun!
M: It was really a blast.
J: Well that’s great – that’s the stuff that life’s made of. It beats cleaning out your shudders and shoveling your walk in Philadelphia, right?
D: Particularly now!
J: That’s right. Oh beautiful – well, I thank you both again. If we think of something that I forgot to ask, because I did get kind of caught up in our conversations, if I’ve forgotten something, do you mind if I ask Joe or see if I can call you again sometime? I really loved our conversation and thank you both.
D: Well you can call us anytime you feel like it. We’re happy here and we’re happy to talk to people that are interested in it.
J: Oh thank you – that means a lot. Well Ines, before I let everybody go, did you have any questions before we go?
I: No, it was a really good interview. Thank you guys!
J: Absolutely. Happy holidays, and you two have a good new year and we’ll talk sometime soon!
M: Ok, bye!