Carole Carey says: “It blows my mind when friends tell me ‘Well I just love it where you are and if I ever reach that point…’ And I’ll say, are you waiting to come in a wheelchair?”
Carole Carey Interview, November 2012
CC: Carole Carey
J: Jill Hofor
I: Ines Newby
CC: Hi, this is Carole Carey and I’m calling you from the Fountains in Sarasota, Florida.
J: Well hi Mrs. Carey, how are you?
CC: Who am I talking to?
J: My name is Jill Hofor, and I’m the Director of Communications for Watermark Retirement Communities. I work with Joe Kessler and I’m also joined by Ines Newby; she’s the Marketing Manager.
J: Ok, well thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, I really appreciate it.
CC: That’s ok.
J: Great, well what we’re looking to learn here is really just a few different personal stories from people who have had the experience that you’ve had; they’ve lived in their homes, they made the decisions, they moved to a community, and we’re really looking to get a better insight into that situation so that we can relate to the folks who we’re communicating with that aren’t quite ready to make that move.
CC: Oh! That blows my mind when they say that. “Well I just love it where you are and if I ever reach that point…” And I’ll say, “Are you waiting to come in in a wheelchair?” My feeling is to come over here when you’re not quite ready, and that is when you make your friends, that’s when you get into your routine and that’s when you realize how few checks you write each month because most of the stuff is included, and it gives you much more freedom.
J: Now that’s interesting, already I’m learning some things I haven’t thought about yet. I love the thought of how your checkbook sort of gets dust on it –
CC: It does!
J: And I love the idea of “not quite ready” is the perfect time to be ready.
CC: Right, I was 72. Of course, my husband had a health problem, and that’s what really got it going. I can’t say that if Jack didn’t have a health problem that I would do it, but I did and I felt that it was the best place for us in the coming years, and let’s do it now while I was able to.
J: Well what we’re taking away really, from these interviews, is not so much to tell people, “Hey, you need to move to Lakepoint because it’s the best,” although we do love that community, especially, but more just to help people go through that process, whatever community may be right for them. What kind of general thoughts, ideas and insights we might learn, we’re really just looking forward to helping people and being better communicators with them, so again, I really appreciate your time. Now what year did you move to the Fountain?
CC: I don’t remember…I think this is my fifth year? So we’ll say I’ve been here five years.
J: Ok, well that gives me a good general idea; you haven’t been there for very long –
CC: No, and I’m not brand new. I mean, I’ve been here long enough that I know the ins and outs of the place, you don’t know that right away, but I have to say one of the outstanding – two outstanding features of this place are, why they didn’t call it Central Park is beyond me because in the middle of a busy area, you come in the gates and it is just like leaving New York City, the city proper, and coming into Central Park. It is all trees and lakes and fountains and bushes; we have our resident eagle who we all have a picture of because he takes his little bath around five o’clock in the pond right outside my villa. And I count the ducklings in the morning when I’m reading my paper, and I find all of that very peaceful, and that’s important, I think. It’s very peaceful here and very quiet.
J: That’s an interesting analogy; it is just like Central Park when you put it that way.
CC: It is! I can’t believe they didn’t call it Central Park!
J: Nice, we’ll have to write that one down. I like that! Where did you live before you moved to LakePoint?
CC: Most other houses we had were in gated golf community. One was The Oaks, and they’re all – we’ve moved many times, and it’s in a two-mile radius. It’s the same dry cleaner, the same bank, which is great, you know? It’s not like moving far – we’re in South Sarasota – not like moving from here to downtown, to Main Street. I know the whole area, so it’s same-old, same-old, only you’re going out a different front door. What I do find, is now that I’m alone – my husband is in a nursing home, he has been for four years, I’d just about gotten my feet wet when he went, but I have to say, the comradery over here is fantastic. I’ve seen women whose husbands have died on Monday, and Tuesday they are in the dining room, they’re laughing, and you say, “Oh my God! How can they do that?” But it’s fantastic, because they’ve got their table of six pals, or eight pals, or whatever it is, and in fact, I had a friend of mine whose husband died two years ago; I’ve had her over here twice for dinner, and the first time she came, all of a sudden, she got really quiet, and she’s looking around the room and she said, “Carole, every place is so happy!” And I said, “Yeah! That’s why I’m trying to get you over here!” You know, she is by herself, and if she goes out to dinner twice a week, it’s a big deal, and this is what happens when you’re in a gated community. I have a lot of friends from The Oaks – we also lived at TPC Vistancia, I had a lot of friends there, but they kind of – they don’t deliberately say they forget you, but I’d be lucky if I was out to dinner twice a week. This way, I go over here three maybe four times at the most – I love my villa, I don’t mind cooking; lots of times I’ve got my nose in a football game or golf match that’s not done and I do not want to walk out the door at five o’clock and eat. I’d rather stay right here. Or I go out with friends, and what I’d consider a real biggie with this place, of course we’ll get into the gourmet chef later, is we’re in a very busy area, especially during the season, and I can get my hair done, have a facial, play bridge, go to the movies, have my dinner and never have to get in my car and go out that gate and beat myself up in the traffic, and that is a biggie.
J: Nice, I like that.
CC: Especially for a woman – you know, if Jack was here to drive I’d say, eh, whatever, it’s the traffic, let him battle it. But when the season starts, oh my God! And I switched right away; as long as the conveniences were here – I left a girl who had done my hair for fifteen years and started right up with Margo and it’s fine. She’s right here. And I get a facial once a month, and it’s right here. I use the library a lot. I’m a member at Books A Million, but I find myself going there less and less – why would I buy it when I can go to the town center, go to the second floor and there’s the same book? I mean, the amenities here are fantastic, and then also – are you still there?
J: I’m here!
CC: Ok, because sometimes my phone goes nuts. And of course, for people that don’t have a car, they’ve got a bus that goes how many times a week to the different malls, to the different cleaners, the banks, the supermarkets, you know, and it’s free transportation to your place and all that downtown. And we’re quite a cultural place; I’m fortunate enough that I’m still driving, so I can do those things on my own.
J: Right, when and if you want to.
CC: Right, if I want to! You can be busy every single morning, noon and afternoon. I don’t choose to, but that’s just me and that’s sort of my pattern. I’m very content to sit here in the afternoon; I’ve got a little seven-pound yorkie who entertains me and rules the house, all seven pounds of her.
J: What’d you name her?
J: That’s just cute.
CC: She’s precious. And everybody around here just adores her because she’s got such an attitude – she thinks she’s an elephant! But really, our dining facilities are fantastic. You know, you’re forever hearing complaints; I don’t know how these guys do it. To them that complain I say, “You are so spoiled!” And we are spoiled, because the food is fantastic. It can be a lobster bake by the pool; it can be a pig roast outside. It could be hotdogs in the carports, plus our very, very outstanding good food in the dining room. You have three choices with everything. And a lot of people are like, “It’s too much salt,” or “It’s not enough salt,” and those are the ones that I say, “You are so spoiled!” And you don’t get the feeling that it’s institutional food, dear Lord, no! And our servers are all high school kids and they are great – I don’t know how they put up with us. I’m sure they think to themselves, “Oh God, here she comes and I’ve got her table,” because it’s these constant complainers no matter what it is. There are people you just can’t satisfy.
J: That’s true.
CC: But there are plenty of places to take my dog for a walk; I take her quite often and we have bridges – I don’t know if you’re familiar with our –
J: I am!
CC: Oh, you are! I mean, I’ll walk Lily over to the bridge and I’ll sit and watching these very bad, huge turtles eat those darling little ducks!
J: I know…
CC: You count the new babies and then a week later there are only three left and you say, “Oh those damn turtles!” But it’s very peaceful in the afternoon in the sun on the bridge; there’s a beautiful breeze, and I’m out! That might be all I want to do that day, because as they say, there’s a golf match on at three and I’ll do that then. I really love it here. A lot of us refer to it as “The Home,” but it’s kiddingly. We’ll say, “We’re eating at ‘The Home’ tonight,” but it’s a nice group of people. All in all, I don’t love all 128 of them, but I don’t think you have to. If you’ve got three or four good friends over here, that’s fine. Add those to the ones you’ve got outside to the gate, and life is good!
J: Right, and you don’t have to walk so far to see them and they’re there when you need them. It’s great.
CC: No! And we’ve got a tremendous artist group now – it’s too bad our facilities aren’t a little better.
J: You mean Bay Two?
CC: I beg your pardon?
J: The Bay? What’s your area called? The Bay?
CC: Yeah, I mean it’s like a bay, like in a garage. It’s very primitive, and some of our artists, their pictures and paintings are worth thousands, and they’re on display – they’re featured a couple of times a month in the lobby with champagne and wow, I’ll tell you, we’ve got some outstanding artists here. You know, you don’t know these peoples’ backgrounds, and then all of a sudden, Whoa! It’s a real mixture – I mean this one lady over here, she’s wonderful. She’s in charge of our beautiful butterfly garden and she’s been here twenty-one years! I would have shot myself, twenty-one years, Oh my God! But she loves the butterfly garden and she took it under task a couple of years ago and we got some kind of an award for it. It’s her baby and it’s beautiful. And it’s something else that we can enjoy. In fact, I live down the street from it, and I’ve been on my front porch and had butterflies all over my bushes, which is kind of neat!
J: That is nice. That makes a special morning.
CC: It does. And you really can’t find anything negative from me. I’ve been on the Ambassadors committee for a number of years and I love to have dinner with them.
J: So do you work then with folks that are coming in to potentially move?
CC: Right, right.
J: What sort of things do they say that – kind of like that not ready stuff?
CC: Well, “I haven’t even started to try to sell my house,” and they’re there – they’ve kind of cut it out, thank God, because you’re going to have – they call them Potlickers – you’re going to have the people who come to everything because we always have an outstanding lunch. And some of them, how they have the nerve to come in time after time after time and then if you’re seated with them, you find out they haven’t started to clean out their closet and they really don’t know if they want to move, and I think to myself, then why are you coming over for the free lunch? It just annoys me! They call them Potlickers.
J: Well, in every group, we usually have folks who are really just, maybe torn? I mean are they generally looking to move or really looking?
CC: Well I think some of them, yeah, I don’t know, because we do have other facilities around here. We have a couple, close by, and I’m sure they get the same song and dance when they go over there – a lunch and all this stuff. I don’t know – all I know is I knew this was here; I never came here. And then I started thinking about it, and I did hear that the prime, and I wanted a villa, I do not want – well you can’t say that in your article – but I didn’t want to live in a hotel. And that’s how I feel the Town Center is – it’s three stories and no thank you. Other people love it, and that’s fine, but I do like the front porch, and I heard that one of these units, and there’re only four of them, on the pond, was for sale. I came over the next say – I heard this at bridge – I came over the next day and spoke to Shellie, who at the time was working here, and she took me around, I never had a free dinner – I wasn’t offered, I didn’t need one. I went home and brought my daughter over, who lives down here; she loved it and I brought my husband over – he loved it, and I signed the papers. I was probably the quickest sale they ever had.
J: Nice – I bet you were!
CC: You know, no one had to wine and dine me or give me a long sales pitch; I just knew the unit is beautiful, it’s 2100 square feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a den. I came from a 3600 square foot house – it was a push, but you know what? I did it! And in fact I did it on the 17th of December!
J: No kidding? Right in the middle of everything!
CC: Would you believe it? Oh my God, that was pretty funny of me.
J: Pretty outrageous!
CC: I guess so! I don’t know, but I’m kind of an organizer, and it just fell into place.
J: It just happened.
J: So you have a very different story. You story is not very typical where most people, you know, they visit lots of places – their grandkids have lots and lots of input.
CC: I did go to this other place, and I went twice, um Glenridge, because it’s the coming place; it’s brand new. I didn’t like the feeling – first of all, when I walk into a place, and I did this with my husband’s – he has dementia – I did the same for the Assisted Living places for Jack. The first one I went to was Clearbridge. It’s beautiful, it’s new, it has beautiful chandeliers. Now, a place like that turns me off, and Glenridge was the same thing – new and beautiful and chandeliers. And I got the feeling it was clicky, and that turned me off immediately. I got the idea, you know, “And what did your husband do?” And that turned me off – I got that impression from the only other place I looked, and I got no impression of that here – None! I mean, it could be that a man that I meet is the head of a corporation and I wouldn’t know – I wouldn’t ask! But there are people where that means so much to them – blah blah – so I think the hominess of this place is what got me, and the beauty. And then everything else that slid in was a plus. You know, the food and getting my hair done – great!
J: That’s wonderful. That’s great, and it is extra different because you didn’t have all the reluctance, because you wanted to do your best by your husband and make sure that he was ok.
J: So that really spurred you forward and you didn’t have to overcome a lot of those obstacles, those mental obstacles.
CC: Well – I don’t know. I was just in a rush to get him someplace, while I could. I had hoped he could have stayed here on the campus when the time came, but they don’t have a locked facility, and you have to have a locked facility with Alzheimer’s.
J: Right, you have to be able to be safe and secure.
CC: Absolutely! Absolutely – that’s why he didn’t go here. But he’s only like ten minutes away, one of those things. But I don’t pick – I try not to get in on conversations with the picky ones because I want to scream. Ya know, the butter pads, and whatever – oh please! I can’t handle it! And in fact, I was dining room chair a couple of years ago.
J: Oh, that’ll get you right in the mix!
CC: Oh, it certainly did! I’m telling you, oh, God Almighty, but I had a great committee and they did a great job. Yasmin and Ricky and Francis – we all still get a long – they all keep rolling their eyes, they’re afraid I’m going to come back. I go, “Yasmin! Did you see that girl? Her capris were no where near her ankle!” (laughing) And then Yasmin has to go throw them out, oh boy!
J: Oh that’s so fun. You’ve got to keep it lively, huh?
CC: Oh yeah, you’ve got to have a sense of humor.
J: Keep them laughing, that’s right.
CC: I know, I know it. They do look at me and just shake their heads sometimes. Somebody said, “Why are you doing this?” And I said, “Probably because I’ve got the biggest mouth on campus!” Oh dear…
J: You’re funny.
CC: But I do like. If I didn’t like it, now that Jack isn’t here, I could move, I could go someplace else, but it’s not as convenient as this is.
J: Well, let me ask you another question, before – we’ve taken too much of your time probably already – but it’s great to hear all this. Let me ask you a question: if you were just generally asked, what type of advice do you have for people that still live in that big old house and they just don’t see themselves as being able to move or to make that decision? What advice do you have for those folks?
CC: Probably that those days are gone forever, and everyone had memories – I mean I’ve been married 57 years to the same man, and everyone has memories, but as you get older, everything changes, and your family is scattered all over and they’re all taken care of, and now it’s time to start your new memories and do something for yourself. I played bridge yesterday with a lady, she’s in her eighties, and she’s had a fit – her dishwasher’s broke and something went wrong with her sprinkler system, it went crazy, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I looked at her and went, “Ginny, all I do is pick up the phone!” And she’s all, “Shutup!” (Laughing) Which is another easy thing, because it’s not my refrigerator, it’s your refrigerator.
J: That’s right, and you don’t have to worry about –
CC: That’s right, and they’ve got a master key and I said, “Help yourself!” And that’s all it is, is a phone call. And I think it’s time – I can’t expect to live now at 78 the way I – we had a wonderful, travelled all over, we had great friends, we raised a lot of heck, but first of all, my body couldn’t stand that anymore, and second of all, it’s time to move on! And I don’t know; I can remember saying to my mother when she had to go to a nursing home and she didn’t like it at all, and I remember saying to her, “Hey Mom, you’ve worked hard all your life and now it’s time for you to sit back and let people wait on you.”
J: Right. Well that must have helped her a lot.
CC: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. But she just plain didn’t like it. But you know – you can’t live in the past. The old house and my grandson built this and my son gave me that – you can’t! Because you’re going to get sad. You’re going to get sad; those days are gone, and it’s sad that they’re gone, but you had them and you enjoyed them and now start some new ones of your own!
J: That’s wonderful advice, I think, at any age. That’s great. Now when you say you play bridge, do you do that right there on campus or do you go out for that?
CC: No, no, I don’t. I play – they have a round robin over here – I played for two years, but it got too confusing with everybody’s calendars, you know? When are you free? When are you free? It was a nightmare. This is two outside groups – outside of “The Home.” We go outside the gates! Whoa! And they let us back in!
J: That’s great – that’s funny. Well, as far as that other program at LakePoint, do you do any of the classes? You said you do some of the champagne and art receptions – anything else that you love to do, activities program wise?
CC: Well, I was into exercising three times a week, we got great exercising, but once you quit it’s so hard to get back. No…I’d like to do something now that I’m not the dining room chairman, but my husband has been really dwindling, dwindling, dwindling, with his dementia, so I don’t like to pin myself down, but I like to keep it that if I want to sit in on something, I do it. I don’t want to HAVE to do it every Tuesday, you know what I mean?
CC: I’m at that point that I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because Lord only knows what’s going to happen next Tuesday. But that’s just my choice; it’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just my choice.
J: The drop-in stuff is nice, the non-committal. You know, book clubs are nice, but only if you’re committed.
CC: Right, because you know, I manage to get out every morning – I’m a morning person – every morning for a couple of hours, do something around here, read a book, maybe nod off, and go for dinner. That’s plenty. Or I meet friends for lunch or I’ll go down to Venice, it’s a little teeny town just south of us.
J: Oh, I’ve been there! It’s nice.
CC: Oh it’s so nice – their downtown is so nice.
J: I love that beach!
CC: I think it’s good that I don’t have to be busy twelve hours of the day. It probably doesn’t sound nice, but sometimes without my husband here, I’ll think to myself, “I can read a book and I don’t have to listen to the damn football game.” I’m in complete control of my life, which, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but if I’m not in control of it, I don’t know who else is.
J: That’s right – you’re left to your own devices.
CC: Yeah, and it might be to do nothing and sit on the front porch or it might be to come in here and I don’t know, clean a closet or if I have the ingredients, make a pot of spaghetti sauce and put it in the freezer.
J: Sure. Right. Well, it’s all about choice, right?
CC: Yeah, and it’s too bad because there are some friends of mine that, oh, but you can’t – I mean, I don’t harp. Anyone that comes in here, because I’m in a two-table bridge and I do it, they come here every two months, they rave about it! “If I could have one of these, I’d be over here in a minute!” And I say, well, so far, there are only four, but go look at the apartments. People have put two together; they’re beautiful. They have the same view I have. One whole half of the whole building looks at the same stuff I do which is fountains and ponds and ducks and, you know, it’s not just here.
J: Yeah, and they might just come to love it. They might just think that I’m glad I have a little less space, and it might just be perfect for them.
CC: I know it. Sometimes I can’t believe I did this.
CC: Yeah, every once in a while I’ll say, “My God, here I am in a home!”
J: Well, that’s interesting!
CC: Here I am in a home, and I just bought myself a new Lexus! Life is good!
CC: I don’t have too many down times; I really don’t. I’m even used to eating at that ungodly hour over there and being home at seven, when years ago we hadn’t even left to go out yet! But I’ve kind of gotten into that routine, but that’s ok – I get undressed early and turn on Bill O’Reilly and take a book at nine o’clock and go to bed!
J: And wake up and start all over again and do what you want to do.
CC: That’s right – my feet hit the floor and I look at my little Yorkie and I say, “Well, what are you going to do today?”
J: I was going to say, probably before your feet hit the floor, little Lily looks at you and has that request in her eye!
CC: Oh yeah, I’m hungry! I’m hungry mom! And not until mom reads the paper and drinks her coffee! She just looks at me and she lifts that little thing and I’m like, “Oh well!” Honest to God, she looks at me and is like, “Alright!” And she sits in her basket – she’s not going to budge.
J: Oh that’s so sweet; I want to see a picture of her someday – I’m going to ask Joe.
CC: Oh yeah, she’s adorable. She’s all, um, pale beige and silver and I have this lion cut on her – all her hair on her face goes back on both sides, so all you see are these gorgeous little doe eyes. It’s funny I called her little Lil, because my grandchildren all call her Little Lil. And in fact, Little Lil, she was two years old when I bought her; she was a rescue dog –
J: Good for you!
CC: Oh, absolutely! She still will not play with a toy. She knows nothing about toys, it’s just whatever. It cost me $250 to have a trainer to try and get her to go potty outside, and the trainer threw her arms up in the air and said, “She just won’t do it!”
J: Oh my goodness.
CC: Well, she’s so low to the ground, she doesn’t like the grass because I’m sure it tickles her belly, so I said, you know what? I’m in my 70s, and I don’t want to be standing out there with a hurricane and an umbrella, so I’ve got these piddle pads, and I put them in the laundry room and everything’s fine. She piddles inside on the piddle pads, and that’s fine.
J: Hey, that’s probably what she’d be doing if you lived in a high-rise in Manhattan!
CC: Oh, I never would have allowed it with our other dogs, dear Lord! But I just said, you know, I’m not fighting this, here are your piddle pads.
J: Go for it, kid!
CC: You’ve got it! Oh, I have to share one silly thing with you. Every once in a while she’ll get confused, oh dear Lord, she puts her front paws on the piddle pad and of course her little fanny is on top of the tile and I’ll say, “Lily! You did it again!” She completely misses the piddle pads because her two little front paws are on it. Oh Lily, you did it again!
J: But it counts in her world, right?
CC: I guess so. Two feet is better than none, I guess, I don’t know. But she’s a joy. She’s my joy, she really is. I’ll tell you, if you haven’t been through dementia, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s a horrible, horrible disease. And it’s awful. You go over there and he’s just been a shell for years, and it’s awful. So she is absolutely – the other night, I had a bad night, and I picked her up and said, “Lily, give momma hugs,” and she’s so soft and she’s little and she’s cuddly, and she helps me a lot.
J: They really do add a lot of joy, don’t they?
CC: Absolutely. Absolutely. And she’s so spoiled and she’s so naughty, it makes her absolutely precious.
J: That’s their job – to get away with murder.
CC: She doesn’t like any of the maintenance men that come in. She goes right after their ankles, and of course, they’re hysterical, and she barks like she’s a pit-bull, you know, and of course they all giggle and I go, “Oh Lily, get out of the way.” One of them, I was like, “Oh, Jim, did she bite you?” And he said, “She can’t get her mouth open big enough to get it around my ankle!” She tries. Right now she’s listening to me and she’s in her basket, upside-down, and I’m looking at her belly, and all four paws are up in the air. She’s just precious, but she protects her mom.
J: Well, I tell you what Mrs. Carey, you have made me – I’m going to be distracted for the rest of the day. I’m going to go home and kiss all my dogs as soon as I get there.
CC: Ok, don’t forget!
J: I won’t and I really, really appreciate all your insight; it was a different kind of an interview and a very insightful one, and I just think that your story is an inspiration to everyone. I really appreciate you sharing.
CC: Well how is it different? What do other people talk about?
J: Yours is a little different because you’re such a go-getter, and you’re such a person who’s already willing to help, already willing to share your story with others and say to people, well, you can have this too! And here’s what you can do to make it happen!
CC: I try to do that when I go to those luncheons, because they always thank me at the end and they say, “Boy, I learn more from you…” And I just talk normally. I’m not lying. It’s not that the food is awful and I’m saying it’s good, because if they move here, they’re going to come shoot me! But it was nice talking to you!
J: I really appreciate it. It’s been a real pleasure. I hope to see a picture of Lily, I’m definitely going to make that request to Joe.
J: If you don’t mind, if I think of any other questions, if you don’t mind, I hope you’ll take another call someday. I hope to speak with you again.
CC: Sure, no problem.
J: Oh, great, thank you. Well, I hope they keep letting you back in that gate!
CC: I know it! A couple of months ago, my friends took me out for dinner, and the guard wasn’t there, so we had to get the concierge, and he said, I almost killed him, he said, “I’m taking Mrs. Carey back!” I said to him, “I sound like I’m a piece of luggage and you’re returning me!” I said, “Can’t you say that a little nicer?” I’m taking Mrs. Carey BACK, like she was a reject. (laughing) Alright my dear –
J: Thank you so much – you have a great day. Thank you Mrs. Carey.
CC: Ok, thank you. Bye bye.