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Cathy and Fred Crehan talk about their decision to move to a retirement community.

FLPW_Crehan-InfangerCathy Crehan says: We’re eighty-five and we’ve reached the point where taking care of our house and all that business suddenly got to be too much so it was time to move.

Cathy and Fred Crehan Interview, March 2014

J: Jill
I: Ines
C: Cathy
F: Fred

Interview starts at 4:41


F: Good morning!

F: Hi.

F: Hi, how are you? Or good afternoon I should say, we’re out here in Arizona so it’s three hours difference for us.

C: Hello. We’re both on the phone.

F: Oh great, oh great. Well, I’m Jill Hofer and I also have my coworker, Ines Newby, she’s here with me as well.

I: Hi, how are you?

C: Hi.

F: Fine. We were told you would like to hear some interesting things about The Fountains.

F: We would love that, we want to learn from as many residents as we can. We’d like to hear about your experience, not quite, it’s not really all about “Hey, here’s why The Fountains is so great and why everybody should move here” but it’s more about, you know, everybody’s different perspective, everybody’s different experience with that transition, you know the mental and emotional and physical transition from “Let’s move from our old house or condo that we’ve been in and let’s think about going to a retirement community.”

F: Let me just tell you first off, I put down what I consider the four major reasons why this is a good place and we can move from there.

F: Oh, ok.

F: First of all is the people here, they are incredibly good and fun to be with, there’s no such thing as a stranger. You’re here and immediately people want to eat with you, want to talk with you. It’s a very warm and welcoming group. The second thing that’s great about the place is the food. The guy who runs the food service is a graduate of the Culinary Institute, which you may or may not know is a training school for expert cooks in Hyde Park, New York and the food here is spectacular. There’s like two kinds of soup at dinner, four kinds of salad, a half a dozen major entrees and like five ways of potato and six ways of vegetables and a half a dozen desserts and they’re all spectacular.

F: No kidding?

F: So, your food is great. The other thing that’s great here is the grounds; there’s fifty three acres of grounds, have you seen it?

F: Yes, I have and it’s gorgeous.

F: And it’s very well maintained and finally the fourth thing is the young people that wait on you are just in the last year of high school and early college and they are so nice. All they want is to take care of you and make you happy, the nicest young people you’d ever want to meet, the four major reasons I think the place is great.

F: Well, those are important reasons really because it’s your environment for one and I mean the people obviously come first, you could be almost anywhere and if the people were nice it’d be the place to be.

F: That’s right.

F: And you know food, my goodness, that’s just every day, you know, part of life.

C: I’d rather eat here in this place than any restaurant I know of.

F: No kidding.

C: No, I’m saying it’s really…

F: We’ve lived here in Sarasota for twenty-eight years.

C: And we’ve been here five months. It’s seems like about two months because of the time has flown by but we can’t even believe we’ve been here about five months.

F: Almost half a year.

C: Pardon? Oh, yeah, almost half a year, that’s right.

F: Oh wow.

F: We’re eighty-five and we’ve reached the point where taking care of our house and all that business suddenly got to be too much so it was time to move.

F: Wow. Well, sounds like you didn’t agonize over it very much.

C: No, what happened is my brother wanted to go to a place by this past Christmas and it was in the summer and he went up to Rhode Island and he said why don’t you go look at places and then you can help us make a decision. So, we said, “Gee, that wouldn’t be very honest” because we had no intention to move but we started looking at this place and Glenn Ridge which is across town and went back and forth and everybody is being so nice and treating us to dinners and both places were really nice and then Phyllis Cusack, the lady here who is such a peach of a lady whispered in my ear after a lovely lunch, she said “we have two places you and your brother would like” and I said “Oh gosh, I don’t know about my husband I’ve never really discussed it with him.” So anyway on the way home I said to Fred “do you think maybe we could just look at it.” He said “ok”. So the next morning we signed up and he called my brother up in Rhode Island and my brother signed a check that night and that’s what happened.

F: Wow.

C: But you know what it was, I told him, my husband, I said you know I felt like living up there was just too much, the house and the yard, it was just a constant battle with the rain and the weeds, I mean we had a yard man but there’s just so many other little things to do and it’s too exhausting. It was a wonderful move for us.

F: Oh, that’s just terrific. Oh and how nice that you live there with your brother.

C: I know, that’s really good. We try to eat at least one meal a week with him and we’ve always visited at least once a week but here everybody’s sociable, everybody keeps calling everybody else for dinner so we always arrange at least one meal a week and that’s good together.

F: And how easy is that? That’s terrific.

C: I know.

F: Oh, I love it.

C: We haven’t been torn. I never had one bit of sorrow about the house. I felt like we loved it, but it’s gone and I’m grateful.

F: I personally would still love to be on the key, close to the beach, but this was a good decision. You got to get ahead of the curve.

F: Nice, that’s true, boy that’s the advice in a nutshell right there isn’t it?

C: Yeah, and luckily we have good health and we love to walk the grounds and see the birds and the few animals or anything. We just love it.

F: How old are you guys?

F: I am forty-four.

C: Young.

I: I’m thirty.

C: That’s younger than our children.

F: Oh yeah?

C: Between our grandchildren and children is what it is.

F: Oh, ok. And are your kids in Sarasota, are they in the area?

C: Nobody is down here. Fred has said he doesn’t want to travel anymore, we traveled a lot, he has two artificial knees and he didn’t want to go north anymore so they’ve come down. All of them have been down at least once, we have five and they have all been here at least once and some are coming again next month and they call it “the spa.” They love it down here.

F: That’s great.

C: They love the food, we have an extra bedroom, we have two bedrooms, we have a good sized apartment with two bedrooms and baths so they have a bedroom and bath to themselves and they love it.

F: Oh, that’s just ideal.

C: It is ideal.

F: Why did you guys pick on coming east rather than staying in Arizona?

F: Well, I tell you, I do love that community and I really like when I do get to travel to communities, I’ve been here in Tucson since 1996 and you know Watermark, believe it or not, Watermark’s home office is in Tucson, that’s where the two founders started. It’s kind of an unusual place for a headquarters but I think I’ve got some deep roots down here. I’m originally from Ohio so I’m kind of familiar with those cold winters.

F: A lot of folks here from Ohio and Illinois and stuff like that.

C: The Midwesterners are great people.

F: Oh, that’s nice, thank you, I’ll take that compliment.

C: We’re from New Jersey and New York.

F: Oh, are you?

C: Yeah, but the Midwesterners are always solid citizens, very fine.

F: Oh, that’s so nice, now what made you chose Sarasota twenty-nine years ago?

C: My parents came here in 1951 when there were only four hundred people on Siesta Key and now there’s I don’t know how many, seven thousand or something you know plus probably another ten thousand during the season.

F: Wow.

C: They went all around Florida and just felt it was a beautiful town, full of the arts and of course it still is. It’s an exceptional town.

F: We had to wherever it would be on salt water, because we just love salt water so…

C: And another thing about this place, we still have a car and we drive but they’ll take us to our church if we’re unable to drive. Of course they take people to the doctors, we don’t need that help right now but they will do all that. It’s amazing what they do. And the building itself is, Pardon?

F: That’s great, really great, plan for tomorrow. It’s like you know, do today to plan for tomorrow.

C: Exactly. And also the building is warm, it’s all in gold and sort of a rust color, it’s just I don’t know, everything about this place is homey and warm and loving.

F: That’s so great.

F: Have you visited? Have you spent time here, eaten here?

F: Yes, yes.

F: Oh, ok.

F: It’s been a few years, it’s been maybe three years but I did, I got to meet Cathy I got to see the turtles and the ducks and walk around and the gazebo. Yeah, it was really great. I had breakfast, lunch, dinner, just stayed on campus really the whole time, like I didn’t need to go anywhere else.

C: You don’t. You really don’t. We still have a lot of friends on the outside but that will, of course, gradually change too.

F: You know as they decide that it’s time to kind of have that life they’ve earned and maybe let go of some of those old hassles and chores, we hang onto those too long sometimes. Thinking of your friends you have, do they just sort of run the gamut from “I don’t ever want to move to a retirement community” to “I can’t wait to move to a retirement community” are they kind of across the board?

C: We have two couples we know particularly where the woman is in bad shape and the man, the one wants to go live up in Cape Cod, another in Maryland and both women would love to be here because of the cold up there. They can’t face the cold in the winter.

F: That’s not a problem for you; it’s plenty warm out there.

F: Yes it is.

C: But you know where two people don’t agree it hasn’t come to a battle but you can see it’s a problem where my husband and I, I don’t know, we kind of think more alike I think than a lot of people and I think perhaps we’re more sympathetic to the other’s feelings.

F: Nice.

C: And so that’s why he, when I said “let’s look” he just said “oh, ok.” I said “I’m ready to give up.”

F: My feeling was looking is easy that wasn’t going to cost anything.

C: And it was cute, one of the ladies here was quite crippled and we didn’t even know her, she whispered in my ear the first day, she said “it’s much harder for men.” And I thought about that afterwards and I think because a man’s home is his castle and, I don’t know,a woman I think is looking around constantly trying to keep everything shipshape, it’s the little stuff that men don’t even notice, maybe feels more anxiety than a man.

F: One of the sets of people here that we know said that he looked at twenty-five different retirement places.

F: Wow.

F: And picked this one.

F: Nice.

C: My brother thinks it’s heaven.

F: He says it’s as close as he’ll ever get to heaven.

C: He came because his wife is very bent over with spinal stenosis and she needed to not cook ever, at all. He loves it. They love it; I’m telling you this place is great. And if you come back you’ll have to visit us all.

F: Oh, I’d love to do that. Oh, I’d love to.

C: Now is there anything else we can tell you, I just never looked back even once I think Fred was more missing you know walking to the beach, we walked to the beach every day and swam and everything and we loved it but there’s just a time to move on.

F: Wow. Well and you know if you can still get to the beach and make sure it’s part of your life.

C: We can and we have looked at it, of course we can’t walk there anymore and we hopefully will be going swimming in the summer but you know what, we’re getting older too.

F: We don’t like the water unless it’s seventy-four degrees.

C: Anyway.

F: So when that starts to come we’ll drive down to the beach and go swimming three or four times a week.

F: Beautiful, and I bet your kids will be coming then and they can come.

F: They’re all working and they’re all busy and the grandkids are working and busy.

C: And see we closed that house on the key, that was a three bedroom house and we did that five months ago, giving away huge amounts of stuff and a year and half before that we closed our three bedroom place up in Connecticut where we had gone for eighteen years just to see grandchildren and everything and gave away stuff. We’ve just given away, given away and given away.

F: But if you do move here you should get in touch with these people, they move in, Senior Move-in or whatever they call themselves.

F: Oh, yeah?

F: They will help you a lot and The Fountains…

C: But this lady is only forty-four, she’s never going to move into this place.

F: Well, you never know, if I work hard now I will get to soon. Yeah, that’s the nice thing about working for Watermark, we get to know the industry and what’s important and you learn what matters and what doesn’t, you know.

C: Well, the food and people, of course, like, you know, are the biggest features but this building also is a beautiful building and it’s in perfect shape.

F: Oh, I love that.

C: And also the help, the staff is terrific. I mean, it’s amazing.

F: That’s so great, that’s really important because that happiness or unhappiness is definitely contagious.

C: Well, they said before we came in that you called the concierge, what did they say Fred?

F: What do you want and then they’ll do it and say “What do you want?”

C: They’re very, they aim to please and all the help, and they even know our names, it’s amazing, they know them right away, they just seem to be so attentive. Yeah. Are all the Watermarks this size?

F: No, there is a big variety, big big variety, we have some with less than ability to have even one hundred residents, we have a high rise on Logan Square in Philadelphia that is much larger, we have a high rise community in Boca Ciega Bay there in Tampa, outside Tampa and really it’s just a big range. We have some of those more, oh you know the ones you picture in the Midwest, we have about four or five handful in the Pennsylvania, Delaware, Jersey type area.

C: I didn’t realize that.

F: And you’ve got one in Southbury Connecticut.

F: Yes, we have Southbury Connecticut.

C: That’s where we bought our condo for eighteen years in Heritage Village.

F: The one in Heritage, oh, you were in Heritage, sure.

C: We loved it there but again it was time to move on, we didn’t want to have two places anymore.

F: It’s darn cold. All the folks are just snowed in and cabin fever right now, everybody’s just crawling up the walls because of this winter.

C: Oh, I’m sure.

F: Yeah.

F: Well, is there anything else we can tell you?

C: We just love talking.

F: Oh, good. Well, I’d love to know if you’re involved in any programs there, do you take exercise or…?

C: I try to go to the exercise classes every day and they’ve been great.

F: Oh, that’s wonderful.

C: And we play bridge, but we play bridge with our outside neighbors and I do puzzles.

F: And I love to read so the library is wonderful.

C: Right down the hall, the library.

F: Oh, that’s great, it’s like you’ve got the biggest house ever.

F: And there are a bundle of things you can do here. We just haven’t managed to get into them yet.

C: I don’t know what we’ve been doing, we’re happily ensconced in our house here and of course every night when you go to dinner you have an hour and a half of sociability with somebody in the place or a couple or more to visit with and you know, but they have a lot of interesting things going on here. We’ve played bridge with our outside neighbors; we still go to our same church. We’re sort of living in both worlds a little bit still.

F: That’s perfect.

C: Yeah it is perfect.

F: That’s just ideal. Now did you even look at another community with your brother?

F: Oh yeah.

C: Glenridge.

F: We looked at Glenridge. We looked at three or four others around here.

C: We were very familiar with Bay Village, my husband thought that was like a hospital, it’s a high rise and, I don’t know, and then we’re familiar with a few of them here around in Sarasota. We looked at one up in Pennsylvania just because our daughter said why don’t we look at it. I don’t know, none of them rang a bell. Glenridge is a beautiful place but it was far from Siesta Key and they won’t take you to church if you can’t drive and oh, they charge for their drinks and everything which, I don’t drink but my husband likes wine. Here they spend the money and they treat people to wine four days a week.

F: Nice.

C: So, I mean, and it’s very sociable and of course it’s only three stories high, it’s a very wonderful setup. And also I think about a hundred and eighty people, it’s a nice size I think.

F: Yeah, enough to know plenty and, you know, big enough that you don’t have to see the same folks every day but small enough that, gosh, you’re going to pretty much recognize most of the people by the end of the year.

C: Oh you recognize everybody.

F: Yeah.

C: Yep.

F: And if people don’t know who you are they say “my name is Joe Smith, what’s yours?”

F: How nice.

C: And we also drove past the entrance to this place for twenty-eight years and never knew it was here. And we drove by all the time, it’s just never saw it, never knew where it was or anything. It was really amazing.

F: It was a hidden gem, wasn’t it?

C: Pardon?

F: It was a hidden gem.

C: I know! Really, I mean, it’s interesting. I think my father, my parents lived way up into their nineties. They say you shouldn’t go to a place like this until you’re ninety but I think that would be waiting too long. And we luckily have our health and can walk around the grounds and just enjoy.

F: That’s great.

C: So, we’re very very fortunate.

F: Yeah, you really don’t want to wait too long, you know you want to enjoy that time and be able to take advantage of all the programs and classes and get around.

C: Oh yeah, absolutely. So that’s what we do.

F: Well, before I let you go I’ve got two more questions. Now, first of all we are learning a lot about how, you know it’s usually up to the couple, the folks who move in, they make the final decision but it really can be kind of a family affair. Are your kids all real happy, how do they feel about you being out of the house?

C: They were in total shock because overnight we made a decision and we’re used to making decisions quickly, our son said, “But mom you’re supposed, you always told me I should sleep on it at least a night.” Just like that.

F: (can’t understand) because they think it’s our business to do what we want like that and we talk on the phone a lot and they visit. They were not involved in the decision.

C: But they had no idea we were going to do it, none what soever.

F: Are they glad to not worry about you with the house?

F: I don’t think they were worried about us at all.

C: They don’t worry about us, they came down to help pack some stuff, they are always generous and jump if we need them and a few of them came down to help pack and stuff.

F: We worry more about them than they do about us, I think.

C: But you see, we have been fortunate, we have each other and we’re in good health and we’ve been married sixty-two years.

F: Oh, congratulations.

C: That’s the whole story I mean we just.

F: You said you had another question?

F: Oh, general, what advice would you have to people who are just “should I?” “Shouldn’t I?” “Should I?” “Shouldn’t I?” “What should I do?” What kind of general advice do you have for those people out there on the fence?

C: Oh, you mean that they don’t know what to do?

F: “Should I move?” “Should I stay?” “I love my house”

F: Don’t wait too long because you don’t want it to be at the point where you can’t do anything when you move.

C: And I would say to a person, if you’re thinking about doing it and we know this place, I always say, “You would just love it here, the people are great, the food is great, there’s nothing wrong with it. You would love it, you just absolutely should do it.” I tell that to people in the hall when they come through with one of these salespeople because you know it is hard when you first look at a place and you don’t know anyone and you think, you know, “What’s it going to be like and I’m all alone,” I mean, I just tell them “You would love it here.”

F: You’re also for people thinking about making a change. You know some of these women die in a couple, one of them is going to go first and this is a great place for widows because there are so many of them, they collapse around the other person. Of course men and women are the same way so they immediately have friends and an internal support group. So, you are going to think about the future when you do make a move.

C: And I used to say to Fred, we were in the three bedroom house in a neighborhood, I said if one of us is alone you just absolutely can’t stay in a situation like that it would be terrible because the neighborhood on the key is a vacation area, there’s no one around, a lot of people are going north in the summer, it’s just not a good place to be and you don’t want to be alone and also people as they get older don’t feed themselves properly.

F: Oh yeah?

C: They just don’t eat right.

F: Oh, feed! I thought you said.

C: They don’t eat right.

F: It’s true and that is one way to get older fast is if you can’t get nutrition.

F: When I retired a long time ago my wife stopped cooking and I took it up so I cooked three meals a day for thirty years.

F: She retired right along beside you.

C: I did. I did. I mean, I did a lot of other things but I mean it was great. He enjoyed the cooking or at least seemed to enjoy it and…

F: The big thing now for anyone kind of thinking of making a move, get ahead of the curve, don’t wait for it to catch up to you.

F: That’s beautiful.

C: And also look positively because this place is so great I would never hesitate to tell anyone to just jump because it’s so wonderful. It’s so much better than just being in a house, even for the two of us, it’s better here because it’s more sociable, the food is terrific, I mean and we can still eat in our room if we want to.

F: Sure!

C: You know and it’s just wonderful, there’s nothing wrong with it.

F: Oh, I’m so happy to hear that, I really really appreciate your time, thank you so much.

C: We’re happy to tell you all about it and that sales force is great too, everybody is great.

F: Oh, I love it.

C: Including the man at the gate, I always say to him “you’re half the reason we’re here.” He’s a wonderful guy.

F: That’s great, those people really set the tone, a lot of places don’t understand, you know it’s the same thing for the person at the reception desk who answers the phone. That person has more power to influence the vibe of a place than just about anybody there.

C: Absolutely.

F: That is true.

C: It just makes such a difference.

F: Well, if we can give you any other thoughts give us a call.

F: I will, I will, thank you two both so much and enjoy the rest of this day.

C: And if you do get out here you have to look us up.

F: Oh, you know I will. I absolutely would love that.

F: Ok.

F: That would be great. Alright, well, thank you.

C: You’re welcome, take care.

F: Bye-bye.

C: Bye-bye.

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