What We Learned When We Moved to a Retirement Community With Liz Givens

October 7, 2021

Season 2, Episode 4

Listen to the podcast at: Purpose in Retirement

Liz Givens: We were purchasing a community, and with that community, came all the amenities that we were hopping in the car and running out to get: the gym, the pool, this club, that club, the restaurants. We also looked at the fact that we were purchasing peace of mind for our kids.

Introduction

Scott Miller: This is a show where we’ll explore what it means to retire with purpose.

Juanita Fox: To make a difference, to invest in your family, your community, to live to your full potential and explore abundant opportunities to live with purpose in community.

Scott Miller: From Garden Spot Communities in New Holland, Pennsylvania, welcome to

Juanita Fox: Purpose in Retirement.

Scott Miller: Hello, I’m Scott Miller, the chief marketing officer at Garden Spot Communities.

Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox, the storyteller. Scott, have you ever purchased something and then actually realized you purchased something else?

Scott Miller: What do you mean by that?

Juanita Fox: Good question. I guess I’m thinking about memories. About five years ago, we bought tickets to see the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the first major league baseball game my children had ever seen, and we were all excited about the game, right? But, when we think about that day, one person will just need to say one thing and we’ll be right back there, experiencing that amazing adventure that we had. All the memories come flooding back. So, while we thought we were purchasing tickets to a Phillies game, we really purchased this family history and this story that everybody holds dear.

Scott Miller: You know, I completely get what you’re talking about, because, you know, Cheryl and I have that same experience every summer. We always went to the shore with her family and we rent a house in Cape May and. In reality, we are purchasing the memories of our past family vacations. It’s time together and there’s just something really comforting about it.

Juanita Fox: Yeah. It might be a stretch, but I guess I see moving to a retirement community as the same kind of idea. So many times, people see moving to a retirement community as a real estate transaction. They’re moving from one house to another, but it’s really so much more than that. As Liz mentioned in the opening, she and Dave actually purchased a community.

Scott Miller: So in this season of Purpose and Retirement, we’re going to be talking to experts who can answer some of the tough questions about the process of moving to a retirement community.

Juanita Fox: After the break, we’re going to talk with Liz Givens, who moved to Garden Spot Village with her husband Dave three years ago.

Commercial break

Scott Miller: Liz, thank you for joining us.

Liz Givens: Thank you.

Juanita Fox: In this season of Purpose and Retirement, Scott and I will be talking to a variety of people. We’ll be having conversations about the ins and outs of moving to a retirement community. Our goal is to answer all of the questions people may not know to ask, or may have been too afraid to ask, about moving to a retirement community. We thought we would go straight to the source: someone who actually lives in a retirement community, so thank you, Liz, for joining us today.

Scott Miller: So just to sort of start off, why did you and Dave decide to move to a retirement community?

Liz Givens: We decided that we should be in a retirement community by 75. And so we started before 65 thinking that through and thinking where we wanted to land. We were in the Midwest, but our extended family was in eastern Pennsylvania. We had both grown up in eastern Pennsylvania. Our kids were all over the world, and we refused to follow them in terms of living beside them. So, we began to look at retirement communities in Pennsylvania because we knew, from having visited friends here, that they were excellent places to live.

Juanita Fox: So how long did it take to make the decision? You said you started at 65 to begin to think about researching retirement communities, was that a 5-year process?

Liz Givens: It was. And let me back up just a little bit. I was 50 when I was dealing with my mother’s elderly years. My husband’s mother was a little bit later for us. Neither one of our parents, our moms because our dads had died earlier, really wanted to move out of where they were. We were left with the responsibility of making that decision for them so we decided long before 65 that we were not going to do that for our kids. Because our kids had been involved in that and had helped a lot, they saw what a strain it was on us. We did not want to put that strain on them.

So the making of this decision, I would say yes, it took 5 years. Partly because we were at such a distance, we were only visiting communities here maybe twice a year. That slowed down the process, but we also were working up until just before we moved.

Scott Miller: So, you might have touched on this a little bit, but I’m just curious. You chose a Continuing Care Retirement Community, which has both independent living and healthcare. The other option is a 55+ community, and a lot of people look at that. How did that factor into your decision-making?

Liz Givens: We had many friends who chose a 55+, and then had to make another decision at 80, 85, because they realized that they couldn’t handle all the maintenance and everything of the house they were living in. So we thought if we’re going to make a move of 600, 700 miles, we might as well make it one move rather than two moves. And we really had nothing in our area that suited our needs.

Juanita Fox: So talk to me a little bit about the benefit of a Continuing Care Retirement Community, you said that you don’t have to move twice. But what is it about a Continuing Care Retirement Community that appealed to you?

Liz Givens: I think it’s that fact that someone else is helping you make those continuing care decisions. The social worker came by our place as soon as we moved in and said, “You don’t need me now, but here’s what I do.” And just to know that if we reach a point where we need to move to something smaller, or we need to move into memory care, to personal care, there’s a whole staff here that can help us make those decisions, or help one of us make the decisions for the other. And looking at that from a distance really looked appealing.

I also think just the fact that there are options. We’re in totally independent living, but if we choose not to cook, we have that option. If we choose to move to something smaller, an apartment, it’s there. And if we need personal care or skilled care, it’s there.

Juanita Fox: So what did you look for when you were visiting retirement communities in Lancaster County?

Liz Givens: Everyone says this is a beautiful place, and that’s true, but we really were not looking at the cosmetics. The only cosmetic we were looking at is space and Garden Spot had space where some others didn’t. Coming from the Midwest, that was important.

But we were really looking for the kind of people in the community. Was it a diverse community? Was there going to be interesting kinds of different people who came from different places who were not the same background as we were. We had a few friends here, and that was great, but we were really looking for a diverse community.

Scott Miller: So you mentioned your children earlier, how did they respond when you said, “Hey, we’re moving from Michigan to Pennsylvania and selling your childhood home.”

Liz Givens: Actually, all three of them, it was, “Oh, we know where eastern Pennsylvania is, no big deal. We know how to get there. That sounds great!” And what they also bought into very early on was, “You’re going to be in a place where if we’re 6,200 miles away, halfway around the world,” which one of them was at the point we moved, “someone else is going to help you make the decisions that we can’t get there to make.”

Juanita Fox: So in our industry, in the retirement community industry, we talk about entrance fees. They can be comparable to the purchase of a house, right? But, in a retirement community, you don’t own your own home, which is a bit of a paradigm shift for people. From your perspective, what do you purchase when you move to a retirement community? 

Liz Givens: We looked at it like we were purchasing life. We were purchasing end-of-life care. We were purchasing a community. With that community came all the amenities that we were hopping in the car and running out to get: the gym, the pool, this club, that club, the restaurants. We also looked at the fact that we were purchasing peace of mind for our kids. We have friends, and still have friends, who say, “Oh, you don’t want to go to one of those places, they take all your money.” Well, we did a lot of investigating and found that you don’t take all our money, first of all. Number two, in some way you’re going to get all your money taken eventually, if you live long enough, so why not put it where you’re happy?

Scott Miller: That is a really great perspective. So you and Dave lived a life full of ministry, you traveled all over the world meeting all of these different people. What does life look like now?

Liz Givens: We’re still doing the same thing, but it’s just a little bit easier to fill out the vacation form and walk out the door. It’s nice to know that somebody’s mowing the lawn and checking the house if it needs to be checked. It’s just a lot simpler. The only problem is we’re not ten minutes from the airport. That’s a bit of a bother.

Juanita Fox: Liz, what are some of the ways that you’re involved in the community here, as well as some of the broader involvement that you might have either regionally or nationally?

Liz Givens: Well we are involved here. I tend to be administrative, and so I help with things like the art guild, keeping them in line. My husband and I both are involved in teaching Bible studies. We have just good relationships here in the community, but we have held off on leadership positions in a sense, because we wanted to see how things sorted out.

We’re really busy outside of the village. That means both involvement in training teams at our church, but also globally. I serve on a number of boards. Some of that is done in-person, but a lot of it’s done on my computer, so there’s days when I’m tied to my computer. I’m an editor, so I’m sitting there editing scholarly journals, looking out the window at somebody else mowing my lawn, which is lovely.

I have the freedom to just say, “Yeah, I’ll take that job. I can crank that out this afternoon. I don’t have to do the yardwork. I don’t even have to cook dinner if I don’t want to.” If it takes until 6 and I’m still editing, I’ll say, “Okay, let’s run up to the Harvest Table.”

My husband has been able to reconnect with a number of his high school friends, which has been really fun after many, many years away. In fact, he’s out this morning for coffee with a fellow photographer. They’re comparing notes on a lifetime of doing international photography.

Juanita Fox: So do you have any advice for people who are looking at a retirement community? Is there anything they should be looking for? Is there anything they should be preparing themselves for?

Liz Givens: I think the first thing is decide that you’re going to look. Make that decision, and then make it a conscious decision. Talk it over with your kids. I was talking last night with a friend who visited here a few weeks ago. They just had all their kids in and she said, “We had big family powwows talking about this.”

And then visit. Go spend time in the communities. Get the tour, meet residents, sit down in people’s living rooms, walk around the grounds, engage people that weren’t set up to talk to you. When we were looking, we were on a tour and we had certain kinds of things we were seeing. We were with a nice older couple that we sort of know and as we were walking from the last place we saw back to the big house, or as we call it, the apartment building, we passed the back patio of a couple. They were sitting on their patio, and they engaged us in conversation. We didn’t know that we knew them, but turns out we do know a lot of similar people. They immediately said, “Oh, well come in and see our place.”

We walked in and sat down in their living room and looked around. It was not a model we had asked to see. We looked at it and said, “This is what we want.” We came back over here and said, “Okay, there’s one kind of cottage house we want. Period.” And that was because a resident reached out and said, “Come in and see my place.”

So I think you really have to get there. As we would visit places, we’d get back in the car and we’d sort of debrief. “Okay, what was the feel?” Invariably, I mean maybe this doesn’t happen with all couples, but invariably we’d say, “Meh, thumbs down” or “thumbs up,” and we were pretty much on the same page because we had discussed it.

Scott Miller: Thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a wonderful conversation.

Liz Givens: Thank you for having me.

Commercial break

Juanita Fox: You know, Liz offered some great advice to consider as you think about moving to a retirement community.

Scott Miller: So we summarized the five main ideas from our conversation with Liz in a PDF. The PDF is entitled Five Things to Consider as You Move to a Retirement Community. And you’ll find that in the link in the podcast description. The five things in the list include: number one: Consider future care. Number two: Search for diversity. Number three: Consider your children. Number four: Realize what you are buying. And number five: Say yes to more.

Scott Miller: Thank you for listening to Purpose and Retirement, I’m Scott Miller.

Juanita Fox: And I’m Juanita Fox.

Scott Miller: And special thanks to Liz Givens for joining us for this podcast.

Juanita Fox: Our senior producer and host is Scott Miller.

Scott Miller: Our co-host is Juanita Fox. Our producer is Gavin Sauder. And our audio engineer is Jen Miller.

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