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Alex and Kathy McKenzie talk about their decision to move to a retirement community.

Alex McKenzie says: I have a small boat and I like to day sail. Kathy is an artist and wanted to be in a community where there were art activities.We both wanted to be near a city that was big enough to have a good hospital and a lot of cultural activities. We’re in our low 70s now, but we’re still pretty active and we didn’t want to feel like we’re moving into a hospital ward. Everywhere we went we asked people ‘If you could change one thing, what would it be?’ Here, people thought pretty hard and most of them said, ‘Nothing I’d do.’

Alex and Kathy McKenzie Interview, July 2013

A: Alex
K: Kathy
J: Jill Hofer
I: Ines Newby

I: We’ve been interviewing the residents at Lake Pointe over the last couple of months now to try to understand the decision process that you made in not only deciding on a retirement community, but also deciding to take that next step and move into a retirement community. So we want to focus more on not Lake Pointe Wood, per say, but more on retirement living and why you guys decided to make that choice.

A: OK.

I: So we set up an interview just to get some background information. Where did you guys live before moving to Lake Pointe Woods and where’d you reside before?

K: Probably our situation is going to be fairly different from most people. In 2007, we were living in Massachusetts where we had been living for the past forty years, and we were living on the coast and going away every winter, coming to Florida or somewhere warm. And we decided that it was time to sell our house; we were right on the ocean and every year there was some damage from the storms, so we decided to start looking at retirement communities, and after looking at a few in various places including North Carolina and Tennessee, we decided we were not old enough to move to a retirement community. At the time I was 60 and Alex was 65. So we went back to Massachusetts and put our house on the market and decided we would buy a big RV and we would live in that for five to ten years. So that’s what we did; we sold our house and bought a thirty-eight foot RV, and we lived in it until March of this year.

I: Oh, wow! How was that?

K: It was wonderful and we loved it.

I: Did you guys travel all over?

K: Yes we did.

A: Well, mostly we went up and down the East coast. We did go to California twice, through the southern states, during the New England winter, but we spent some part of every winter in Naples, Florida, and we spent some part of every summer in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is roughly where we had lived before – the next town over from where we lived. We had originally thought we wanted to settle in a temperate place; we thought it would be a good idea to go to a continuing care kind of place, so that our kids didn’t have to worry about us when we got older and so that we didn’t have to worry about where they decided to put us. And we had made, in 2007 we made a deposit on a place in North Carolina, but as Kathy said, we felt like we were way too young to move there yet.

I: And that was a decision that you guys made? That you were too young?

A: Yeah, we decided in 2007 that we were too young to move; we were, you know, I was 65 and Kathy was 62, something like that, and we thought we would be fifteen to twenty years younger than the next youngest person.

K: At the place that we looked at.

A: At the place that we looked at. But anyhow we figured that we were going to go there eventually, but a year ago, having spent six winters in Naples, Florida, we decided that North Carolina looked temperate from Massachusetts and cold from Florida, so we would look farther down along the Florida coast. And so we looked at a bunch of places going north from Naples and we found Lake Pointe Woods and we really liked it. But we still weren’t going to move until 2014, sometime, we had some plans to go see the Pacific Northwest in our RV, although we’d been there four years ago, we hadn’t been there with the luxury of having our house with us. But we got a call after we’d been away from here about a month from the sales person, Joe Kessler, offering us a fantastic deal on a place. He sent us floor plans and pictures and we said, well, that looks pretty good, let’s go look at it. And we came down and looked at it and we were sold. We said grabbing this is better than going to the Pacific Northwest, so we’ll take it.

K: We had stopped here in the spring on our way north.

A: When we saw it, we knew it was the right place. So we negotiated over the summer and signed a contract in, I think, August, and moved our stuff here in October and went to California with the RV for the winter to watch our daughter graduate from nursing school, came back here in March, and sold the RV and moved in, and have been happily getting adjusted to it ever since.

I: Wow, yeah, that is a very different story from what we’ve heard these past few months. Definitely unique but also very incredible and interesting. So you guys were not really that adamant about living in a specific location. It seems that you were looking pretty much everywhere that just seemed interesting and nice to you?

A: Well, we wanted some place that was warmer than New England. I have a small boat, a day sailor, and I like to sail, and we wanted to be somewhere where I could have the boat nearby and sail in it. Kathy is an artist and wanted to be in a community where there were art activities; we both wanted to be near a city that was big enough to have a good hospital, and a lot of cultural activities, and we wanted to be in a place that wasn’t too institutional. We’re in our low 70s now, but we’re still pretty active and we didn’t want to feel like we’ve moving into a hospital ward for the rest of our lives; that seemed like hopefully many years in the future.

J: Good morning!

A: Good morning.

J: So sorry about that; I was calling your home number and I don’t know why I have that for the number to call. Thank you so much for waiting – I’m not sure if you guys got started?

I: We did. They were just telling me about the decision process and how they ended up at Lake Pointe pretty much.

J: Well if you don’t mind, I’ll just jump right in? Where did you two live just immediately prior to moving to the Fountains?

A: In an RV.

J: Oh, that’s amazing! For how long?

A: Six years.

J: Oh my gosh, that’s awesome.

A: From August of 2007.

J: So you guys had a rolling lifestyle?

A: Yes, that’s right, but we mostly just went up and down the East Coast; we’d spend some part of every summer in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is where we had lived before we bought the RV and we spent some part of every winter in Naples, Florida.

J: Oh, ok.

A: And the more winters we spent in Naples, the more we decided we wanted to be someplace that was warm all winter. We were telling Ines that we had moved to a place near Charlotte, NC, and we put a deposit on it and told them we’d be back in five to ten years to move in. But after living in Naples in the winter and North Carolina – instead of looking temperate as it had from Massachusetts, it began to look pretty cold in the winters.

J: Perspective is everything, isn’t it? And what kind of a place was that? Was it a place like the Fountains?

A: It was similar, yes.

K: Yes, it had cottages and a main building, and all your meals and activities and all of that.

A: It was a continuing care place where regardless of the facilities that we used, the price stayed the same.

J: OK, flat rate.

A: So it was different in the financial aspects from the Fountains, but it was a pretty similar place. It was a big campus with a lot of trees, and they had an indoor swimming pool and you know, separated cottages and a main building with a lot of apartment units in it. So pretty similar.

K: And near to Charlotte, North Carolina because we wanted to be near a big city.

J: Yes, that’s nice – that’s handy to have all those amenities. When you found yourself loving Florida, did you stay in the Florida in the RV for quite some time?

A: We were here for some part of every winter. Typically we’d arrive around December and leave around April.

J: OK, that’s a little bit of time – at least enough to get to know the place.

K: And at least one year we were here almost six months, I think.

J: OK, all right – and then when you came to find that you knew you wanted to be in Florida, did you look at a lot of places like the Fountains right there in the Sarasota area?

A: We looked at a number of places starting at Naples and working our way north until we got to Sarasota.

K: And then we got to the Fountains and we knew that was it.

J: You did. Now what was so different that made you say, “Aha!”

A: I think basically it was the friendliness of the people.

J: Oh, that’s nice.

A: To begin with, it’s a beautiful campus. We looked at one other place in Sarasota and it was a high-rise building and felt very industrial, and no apartments were at ground level.

K: Couldn’t have a dog.

A: They didn’t like dogs to be there, although if we got a note from our psychiatrist that she was necessary for our health, they would grudgingly let her stay. But mostly when – each time we’ve gone to a place, we’ve tried to wander around the campus without a salesperson or a guide and just talk to people and see if they act like they wish we weren’t talking to them or act like they’d like to get to know us? And the Fountains – the campground we stayed at in Naples for six winters was that kind of a campground and the Fountains was that kind of a place, more so than anywhere else we went.

J: So just kind of warm and inviting?

K: Right, and of course, the fact that the campus is beautiful and there are trees and flowers and amenities.

A: And that the Villas are here, so we can have semi-detached living. I’ll tell you that there was another place that we found in Fort Myers, that if I could have signed on the dotted line the instant we saw it, but then we discovered that they don’t let you drink wine on your terrace or in the dining hall. They only let you drink in your room with your blinds closed, so Kathy figured that out and from then on I was not nearly so enthusiastic.

J: Yeah, you weren’t exactly saying cheers to that place at that point.

A: No. We enjoy a drink at five o’clock with company and the Fountains has been very social in that way too, and I guess we found that out when we came in June.

J: I love that you visited without a salesperson. Is that something that you would advise people?

K: Absolutely.

J: Because we’re just looking to figure out how to help people make that transition whether they come to us or not, and a lot of people are just not living life. You don’t sound like you were in that situation at all, but what advice would you give to those people?
A: I would say the two tips we picked up early on, whether somebody gave them to us or we figured them out for ourselves – the one thing is after you tour the campus with a salesperson and see what the facilities are, try to walk around on your own. Have a meal or two there in the dining hall, even if it’s hard as it is for us, we’re both shy, strike up a conversation with the people at the tables. Another thing we tried to do everywhere we went was ask people what’s the very worst thing about this place? If you could change one thing, what would it be? Here, people thought pretty hard and most of them said, “Nothing I’d do.” One person said they feed us too much – I can’t keep my weight down, they can reduce the portions some more.

J: Oh, I like that!

A: That seems pretty good.

J: That’s a nice problem – definitely. All right, well that’s something I’m very keen to find out – what you can convey to other people. Now when did you move into the Fountains?

A: We were going to move in next year, and we had plans to travel the Pacific Northwest in our RV during this past Spring and then go to Naples one more time and Gloucester one more time, but about a month after we were here in June, your salesperson, Joe Kessler, wrote us an email and said here’s a floor plan and some pictures of one of the villas that is very unique and I think you might be interested in it? And we were, and we came down in June and spent a couple of nights here and had dinner in the dining hall with residents every night and looked around and decided, yes, this is a neat place and this particular unit is worth trading another few months in the RV for. So we negotiated during the summer and signed the papers in August, had our stuff shipped here in October, and then we got in the RV and went to California to spend the winter with our daughter who was graduating from nursing school, and then we finally moved here the middle of March. Part of our negotiation was getting a deal – although we had to sign the commitment and the clock started ticking on our entrance fee – that we could have four months, we were asking for six, but we got four months without paying a fee. So that let us do the California thing – being accommodating like that was certainly very nice.

J: It all kind of came together! Were you surprised by anything when you moved in? Was anything different than what you expected either on the plus or negative side?

A: Um…we knew that we were going to be invited to dinner as new residents, and the hospitality committee made sure we never had to eat dinner alone for a while, but we figured that was special treatment for new residents, and would end after a month or so, but it hasn’t ended. People continue to be very, very friendly. And we enjoy meeting new people and we enjoy having dinner with the people we’ve already met, so it’s great.

K: One couple offered to take us for a tour of Sarasota, just to drive us around and show us where things were – their favorite restaurants and museums and all of that. It’s just kind of typical of what life is like here.
J: Oh, that’s terrific – they always say the people are what make the difference, so…

K: However, I should also say, the staff has been incredible. Particularly, the dining staff who we see everyday – the manager of the dining room is incredibly friendly and cordial and just gets the right people in there – the servers, the kids who go in and work, the people at concierge – everyone we’ve met. There’s nobody grumpy here. A couple of the residents are grumpy, but no one that works here. It’s nice.

J: Well that’s terrific – that’s really important because they’re there for you and wouldn’t be there without you, and I’m glad they actually really do love their job. The more people I meet that work at Lake Pointe, they really do seem to love where they are.

K: I mean, they learn your name in a week – it’s just phenomenal.

J: That’s great. Well you touched on this already, but what would you say are the greatest benefits – I mean, maybe your perspective would be on the Fountains, but the greatest benefits of moving to any kind of place with the support that you have?

K: Freedom. You don’t have to worry about the lawn or washing the windows or whether, if you want to go to dinner, you go to dinner, and, I mean –

A: Or getting sick in the future! We don’t have to worry about that either, you know? I don’t know – I hope that it never happens that we need any kind of assistance, that we just chug along living independently until we die peacefully in our sleep, but it’s really – it’s freeing to know that we don’t have to think about that anymore.

K: Right, and it’s freeing for our kids who feel that we’re in a comfortable, happy and safe place. They don’t have to worry; they can live their lives.

J: Beautiful. Well that’s a good benefit – that’s a life changer.

A: And this place is like living in a resort! So, you know, maybe even our kids say, “Aren’t you a little too young to be there?” And we say, “You wouldn’t want to move into a resort and live there?” As soon as they could!

K: And we have friends who are older than us, in their 80s, who’ve said to us, “We should have done this ten years ago. It’s too late for us.” So that was very powerful to hear.

J: Absolutely! Is that part of why you started looking so early – back in 2006?
A: I think we saw… the last time we were living in house instead of an RV in Massachusetts in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, we were surrounded by a lot of people who were ten years older than us. And you know, things began to go wrong with their lives and they spent a lot of time worrying about it and worrying about what was going to happen to them next? But none of them wanted – I mean, they were wedded to where they were and didn’t want to change that, and when we decided to sell the house we had there, because we were worried about storm damage every winter, and finally the worry got to be pretty strong. We said, you know, sometime in our life we should move to a place where we can get old and sick and not have to worry the way all these other people are. And so that’s when we started looking, and as Kathy and I said, we decided we were a little too young to do it at that time, and maybe we’re still a little young, but not so bad. There are other people here our age now. So yeah, it was seeing the people around us worrying about their health and what to do next and feeling like they were too old to go find a whole new community to live in.

J: Right. OK, well that makes good sense. You guys are good planners!

A: Thank you – we try!

J: And look what’s it’s brought you – look at all this adventure you’ve had!

K: Yep, we’ve been very lucky.

J: That’s wonderful. Well, ok, I guess I can’t really think of another question – it all just flowed like a conversation – I can’t think of any other questions that I might have. Ines, did you have anything else that comes to mind?

I: I was just wondering if there are any classes or clubs or activities that you participate in at Lake Pointe that you’re really involved in?

A: I’ve gotten involved in bridge.

K: Yes, he plays a lot of bridge. I’m an artist and there are several artists here and there is a very small art studio, which I have – now that we finally feel settled, I’ve begun going there. And there’s a variety show which the residents are planning – they did one last year as well – there’s one that will happen in the Fall and we’re already rehearsing for that and we’ve gotten pulled into that. Some volunteering – some active recruiting.

A: We’ve signed up for quite a large number of cultural activities in Sarasota that we’ll start going to next fall with the transportation that’s arranged by the Fountains.

K: Yeah, you know, that’s a wonderful thing.

A: Yes, with groups of other people from here, but we haven’t started doing that yet.

J: What kind of things are those – like museum trips?

A: Um…ballet? Opera, theater, concerts, you know, those kinds of things.

K: And there’s a lecture series that we’ll probably go to.

J: How nice to not have to drive for that.

K: Absolutely.

A: We both still can drive, and do.

K: And do!

A: Quite a lot – but it’s nice to not have to hassle with parking and go with friends and sit on the bus and we imagine it’ll be fun to sit on the bus and talk about what we’ve just seen with other people who’ve seen it. And we can come home and not worry about traffic.

K: And then go to dinner with them!

A: Yes, right.

J: Awesome – oh that’s great.

K: Another piece is that we’re planning to go up north for a month and a half – leaving in a couple of weeks, and to be able to leave our house and feel that it’s safe and taken care of and if there should be any problems, somebody’s aware of it, you know? Rather than trying to have neighbors check up to see if the heat’s on or the AC’s on or the water isn’t running or whatever, and that’s a very nice feeling.

J: Oh, that’s great. I just love it – I love to hear all this great news and your good work – it just seems like you guys have made the right move and I really appreciate you helping us help other people.

K: Sure thing.

A: OK, happy to do it! We love this place!

J: Oh, thank you so much.

K: Ok, have a good day!

J: Ok – bye bye!

I: Thank you!

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