Mary Ann Usher says: “[My kids and I] all talked about it and it was my choice. I said ‘This is what I want to do, I don’t want to live someplace by myself, I want to be with other people.’
Mary Ann Usher Interview, January 2014
M: Mary Ann Usher
J: Hi, good afternoon, how are you? This is Jill and I also have Ines here.
M: Alright, well, this is Mary Ann Usher and Joe told me I would talk with one or maybe both of you.
J: Great, oh super, well thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate you coming on the call and we are looking forward to learning more really just about the process that you experienced and we are hoping to understand kinda the overall feeling that people have as they go through that transition where they think “maybe it’s time for me to look around at a different place to live.”
J: We are not so much about “move here, move here”, but “gosh people, take a look, are you as happy and healthy as you can be where you are right now?” And, “here’s a process that you might relate to no matter where you end up at a retirement community”. Ok, great. Awesome. I didn’t want you to think… Uh…you didn’t have to tell us all the great things, we love to hear nice things, and why you are happy where you are, but really don’t worry, anything that you let us know will be very helpful.
M: I told Joe I would do that. I consider Joe a friend and he’s very nice, very nice to me and I have been here for nine years so you know I’m happy. (Laughing)
J: Oh, that’s great!
M: I’m not thinking of going anyplace else.
J: That’s wonderful. Where were you before?
M: I lived here in Sarasota. We moved here in ‘91 and I lived at a development close by, but we were familiar with it, this end of town, and when we thought it was time to think about retirement we looked at several places and decided this is where we want to be and before we could move in my husband died.
J: Oh, I’m sorry.
M: That’s ok, it was a long time ago, but I just decided regardless of what you do, you go to a condo, an apartment or whatever, you’re still alone and you need to be with people and you need to be in a community setting. At least that’s the way I felt about it. And that’s why I decided that I would move here. I’ve just been real happy. I’ve made friends and uh, you go in together and there is always someone to talk with and I think that’s very important for all of us, whether you are single or whether you’re a couple or what your situation is. I think it’s a very good situation to be in and I’m very fortunate, I have an apartment that overlooks that lake. (Laughing). I feel really good about that.
J: That must be beautiful.
M: It is, but when you come in the front gate, it’s just a nice look and a nice feel about The Fountains. And, I like it because it’s smaller, it’s not a large community. And that way I get to know people.
J: I would agree with that, that makes a lot of sense.
M: It does. It did to me, now some people like something different, but for me it was the right thing to do. And I came in alone and I think that’s very important when you are alone to have other people around you. I just can’t say there is anything I’m not happy with. People are, the staff, is very friendly and helpful and they get things done when you ask them to be done. If it’s not done today, it’s done tomorrow or as soon as they can get to it. And if you have a problem, you don’t have to call a plumber and you don’t have to call an electrician and all those things. (Laughs). I like living here.
J: That’s great, it leaves you the time for the fun side of life, right?
M: Yes it does, and you know there are lots of activities here too if you want to do them. I do things outside, because I still drive but there are things to do. Right now everybody’s involved in jigsaw puzzles. Started that again, and that’s good. Someone comes in and puts in a piece and someone else comes in, it’s good. It’s a good thing.
J: That’s fun.
M: Is there anything, I don’t know what, I need to tell you, but…
J: Oh sure, oh here let me think of some questions, you gave a lot of good information. You have lived there for 9 years? And you moved to Sarasota in ‘91? And, before Sarasota, were you from a different state?
M: Yes, we lived in Indiana.
J: Oh really? I grew up in, part of my childhood in Indiana, in Liberty, near Richmond.
M: Yes, well, we called Fort Wayne home.
J: Oh sure.
M: Yeah, we lived other places too, but Fort Wayne was home.
J: I can see why you moved to Florida, especially this week.
M: (Laughs). I have a son in Milwaukee and one that’s up in Oswego, New York on business, so I feel sorry for them.
J: They’re not overlooking a lake right now, are they?! Maybe a frozen lake?!
M: No. They’re fine and things will get better so… for everybody.
J: Now, when you look back, when you and your husband were thinking of moving, what was motivating you to do that? Because a lot of people, you know, that’s where they are right now, they’re in that period where, “do I stay or do I go?” And what were your pros and cons at that time for staying or moving?
M: Well, we were both getting older and I’m 83, and so, you can figure that out, we lived here for 9 years, and um, we decided it was time to do something. We had a boat, and we decided it was time to give that up. And we didn’t want to be out on the water anymore and just umm… just things in general. We just decided that that was the way to go. We had a big house and taking care of it was just getting to be a little bit of a chore and I don’t know, you just sort of feel it. I’d say many people don’t, but we did and we were both agreeable about what we should be doing. That was why we decided to look around.
J: (7:30) That makes good sense. And then how did your process go? You mention that you saw a few places, so you were pretty proactive in educating yourselves about what your options were?
M: Yes. Yes, and the interesting thing was, I’ll tell ya, when we looked here, there was nothing available. We felt… but we still knew what we wanted, we wanted two bedrooms and two baths and nothing was available, so I waited a year to come in and in the meantime my husband became ill and he died. About four months after that, of course we just sorta put that in the back of our minds, didn’t even think about moving while he was ill, but they called me and said, “we have an apartment for you”, and I said, “well I don’t know what to tell you”, but I called my son and he said, “let’s go look at it”. (Laughs). And, we did. And I came in and looked at it and said, “I’ll take it”, and my son said, “now, mother that’s okay, but we’re going to sleep on it.” And uh, of course, but didn’t think about it. I just thought about all the options that I had at the time and decided I’m a people person and I didn’t want to be alone. So, I thought it was the thing for me to do. So, that’s why I decided to move. So, they got the apartment ready and I moved in and I haven’t looked back. I’ve just been really, really happy. And I have outside activities, which are good too, it gets you out among people. I have friends come in for dinner. I don’t know, I think many people wait too long. I hear that every day and I don’t know what to do to motivate these people. They don’t want to give up their house, they don’t want to give up their belongings and, uh, it’s difficult for some, but it wasn’t for me, I was just ready to do that. Fortunately, I have three children that took what they wanted and we just got rid of the rest. (Laughs).
J: Well, when you think about it, those people want to hang on to their house and their belongings, but what are they giving up to hang on to those?
M: That’s it, that’s it. Many, uh, we are getting more people now who are handicapped in some way, one or the other, somebody has a walker or some other handicap but it’s, uh, people are waiting, they are just waiting too long. And, that’s what I hear all the time. And, they say we’re just not ready. Or, my widow friends say, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready.” And, I don’t know what we do about, unless we just convince them that this is what they need to do and they’re going to be happier if they give all that up and don’t have all those worries.
J: Right, that’s what they’d be giving up, wouldn’t it be? They’d be giving up more worries than anything else.
M: I guess, I guess. You just have to worry about what’s going to work and what you’re going to need.
J: Give up some of those things like the plumbing and the cleaning of the gutters and all that stuff that you worry about.
M: Right! Right! And uhhm, I know, I just said to many of my friends, “I like retirement living, the retirement home, it’s close to everything that I was used to and my needs, and they’re not what they used to be either, and everything is right here close by and that’s a good thing”.
J: Yeah, that’s important, you want it to be like home.
M: (11:48) Yes, you do. And, it is. Everybody here is very, very nice. You know, you find your friends, people that you enjoy more, but we all know one another or you know who they are. It’s just a good feeling. It’s not like walking into some big place where you don’t know anybody.
J: Right, Right. There are just a few things that come together to make it feel like home and the people is definitely one of those.
M: Oh yes, I would say you need that.
J: Let me think, you did look around and that’s great. You found where you wanted to be based on things like the size and the beautiful campus and the type of apartment and the location. And then you moved in, and did you have any surprises? Was it similar to what you thought it would be like or very different? The new lifestyle?
M: Well it was different, but you don’t really know what to expect. But people are friendly, people invite you to dinner right away and… you just decide whether you want to play cards or dominoes or walk, and there is a movie, you can go to the movie and uh, yeah, if you are a person that wants to be alone you can come into your apartment and stay there. You don’t have to go out and do anything and some people, because of age and disabilities and so forth, are reaching that point but they still have their apartment and they still have their meals and the healthcare if they need it. I don’t know what else to tell you.
J: Well, that tells me. That’s a good answer, like you said, you can’t really know what to expect. It’s almost like when you move to a new town or go off to college or even more to a different part of town, you kind of take a little bit of a leap of faith and trust yourself.
M: You do, and when we were moving around with my husband’s work, I think that that helped too. Pardon?
J: That’s interesting, how so?
M: Well, my husband was transferred with his work several times and so we lived several places and there’s always new people and new things that you have to get used to and you have to do. And, the children and schools and doctors and all those things, so… so, we were kind of used to that and I think some people who stay in the same place all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if they haven’t moved it’s a bit more difficult for them to give up a home and do something different.
J: True, that’s a good point.
M: I’ve always felt that it was.
J: You mentioned that you have three kids. How do they feel now? Are they very happy that you’re there? Or feel less worried?
M: Yes, yes, we all talked about it and it was my choice. I said “this is what I want to do, I don’t want to live someplace by myself, I want to be with other people.” And, I’m still active in my church and I help with the tutoring program and I do things outside that are good, I think, with other people that way. So, that to me is a good thing. And, a lot of people do those extra volunteer things until some of us can’t do it, physically, so they can’t get out. I can still do that, and while I can still do that, I want to, I still drive, but I’ve told my children when you think I need to give up my car then just tell me, it’s okay with me. I’m not one of those…
J: You’re in the right place for it, aren’t you?
M: Yes. (Laughs).
J: Somebody to drive you when they think you’re safer that way.
M: Oh definitely, definitely.
J: That’s wonderful.
M: I know we have people here who are driving that should not be driving, but I don’t like to say that.
J: Well, that’s kind of true across the country, isn’t it?
M: Yeah it’s true every…not just here, but everywhere, yes.
J: And, what peace of mind, you’re not going to be cooped up, you’re not calling a cab, it’s someone who knows you and knows your routine and maybe you’ll have a friend in the town car or the van with you going to the same place.
M: (17:26) Yes, and I like that we have the transportation. And for those who go for medical reasons all the time, I think they’re very pleased. They get you there on time, they pick you up and uh, it works. So that’s a good thing to have that. Some places don’t. And, that’s what I was saying earlier, I like all the things that are offered. Maybe they won’t always be, but right now they are and uh, I think that brings a lot of people in.
J: What do you think are some of the biggest benefits that draw people into The Fountains?
M: Did you say what are they?
J: Yeah what do you think some of the, maybe the top one, that really any retirement community, you know the really nice ones, the good ones, that really change your life? Like you said, transportation would be one of them.
M: Well, the food, you don’t have to cook, you don’t have to shop.
J: That’s true.
M: And, I think that people can have their medications delivered here. Have somebody bring that in, any service like that, that needs to be done, they come here and will take care of your needs.
J: That’s great, that’s wonderful, you mentioned that you do go off campus and do a lot of things… do you also take part in any programs there at The Fountains?
M: I just gave up puzzle-working to come down and phone you. (Laughs).
J: (Laughs). Thank you very much. Any other programs or, you know, exercise programs?
M: I use the library.
J: Oh yeah?
M: And uh, when I first came I played a lot of games in the evening, I don’t do that much anymore, but many people do, and I don’t play bridge. I play bridge outside with some friends. I don’t play really good bridge so I don’t play here, we have some wonderful players, but um, they’re are enough activities for me to be busy.
J: Well, any general, you’ve been…gosh that’s a lot of great, wonderful information! Do you… oh you know, let me ask you this, have you ever taken a class there?
M: I’ve taken computer classes, yes.
J: Oh, you did?
M: Yes, I don’t do it very well, I’m still working, I’m practicing. But I’ve done that and I think the computer lab is great. They put that in. Many people are using that. It’s been very beneficial to everybody that wants to do that. I think that’s a good thing.
J: That is a good class. We can all use to sharpen those skills a little bit, I’m sure.
M: And, I go to some other things that they have here, you know, the programs that they bring. I don’t really do any other classes, I don’t go to any other classes. If there is something that I think I’m interested in, I attend it. I do exercise and go to exercise, I use the exercise classes.
J: Oh, you do?
M: Uh huh, I don’t go three times a week, I go twice a week and I walk all the halls once a day.
J: No kidding?
M: Yeah I do that on my own.
J: That’s weather proof isn’t it?
M: Yeah, it’s better than walking outside. I just feel better about doing that.
J: Well, it’s a nice option that it’s for … plus you can see people along the way.
M: Yes, yes it is. There are a lot of people that walk outside and we have a nice area to do that. If they choose to go that way, that’s ok, you know it’s just an individual thing, whatever you choose to do.
J: That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? And that kind of expands as the truth all the way up to where you choose and when you choose to move and all those things.
M: There’s a lot of things. And one of the things I appreciate about this and I hope it will stay that way is I have a phobia with animals and we have animals limited to the first floor, except for one. And, I do appreciate that, because I have a real hard time with it. I’ve always had this, and it’s just strange, I know, to most people. But, I hope they will keep it limited there. For people like me…
J: It’s all about choice isn’t it, and they should respect everyone’s choice, whether they want that or whether they are like you and they prefer not.
M: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
J: Absolutely true and no one can explain a phobia, there’s a lot stranger phobias than that and gosh, just think of all the people who are just allergic.
M: Yes, yes, a lot of people here say, because we have a lot of cats they have problem with it, but that was just kinda a little criticism, well not a criticism, but something that I hope Watermark will limit that, and respect there are lots of people here who are not happy with that situation, I know so.
J: There are two sides to every coin and we want to keep that in mind. If they are on the first floor that seems smart, because then you know elevators and stairs are always a free zone. I’m happy to learn that, and I do think that probably for every person who says out loud that they are happy to not have pets around there are probably two more who feel that way. I really do respect your preference on that.
M: Well, you are asking me things about The Fountains and I’m trying to be very up front and honest with you and I’ve been very happy here. I do have to avoid those areas where I know there are animals, this is something that I can’t help. I’ve heard people say, “I’ve had a dog, and I like dogs, or I had a cat, but I don’t want to live with them any more now that I’m in a retirement home. It’s for people and it’s not an animal retirement home. So I know, I respect that too.
J: Interesting, ok, well, no that’s good. I love hearing everything that you’ve told me. In fact, I think that takes me through my whole list. If you have anything to add, gosh, have at it, but you have really given us a lot of good insights, I love the comparison that some people move a lot in life and some people might not even move once. That’s a really interesting thing for us to be thinking about and no one has mentioned that yet. So I really appreciate that and lot of other things. It’s a great interview.
M: Well, I, thank you, thank you, I’m trying to do my best and be helpful and very honest with you, so, and I told Joe I would be happy to do it.
J: Well, I was just going to say, I can really see why Joe recommended you to speak with us, because this was very insightful, and fun. It was nice speaking with you.
M: Well, thank you.
J: Thank you, I hope you can go back to that puzzle and if not, we appreciate your time.
M: It’s time for dinner, so I’ll get ready for dinner. So, ha ha, it was nice talking with you too.
J: Thank you so much, Happy New Year!