What happens is, you know, when spring comes you say, “Well, I think I’ll wait another year” and then along comes winter and I had a very bad winter the last two years with the storms and everything and dealing with the ice and I fell in the driveway… and I do recall my mind would wander and I’d say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get my mail inside a building like The Watermark?”.
Esther Spiegel Interview, May 2014
J: Hello there.
E: Hi, this is Esther Spiegel calling from The Watermark.
J: Oh, hi, oh great and this is Jill Hofer from Watermark Retirement Communities, how are you?
E: I’m fine, thank you.
J: Oh good, well thank you so much for taking your time and fitting in the call. I really really appreciate it.
E: That’s ok, it’s my pleasure.
J: Oh thank you, well we’re just trying to learn some different perspectives of what people experienced when they first got that kind of sparkle in their eye that they might go ahead and make a move to a community and anything you tell us will be so helpful. We’re not trying so much to sell people to come to us and nowhere else but just more to think about life in a different way maybe, you know, think about the possibilities.
J: So if you don’t mind I’ll just hear about your story to start off with and tell me anything that you want to tell me.
E: Ok, well first of all I lived in my previous home with my husband and children, my children grew up in that house and my husband passed away eight years ago.
J: Oh, I’m sorry.
E: Before eight years ago, I mean in most recent years, actually the last three years I did come to the Watermark for an exercise program.
E: So I was five minutes from here. I was actually on the Bridgeport Fairfield line. If you cross over one street and go five more minutes I would be at my home. So I did come for the exercise class. I got familiar with the building itself and made some friends in the gym and originally I said, “Oh, I don’t think I could live here, it’s like a hotel and I don’t think I could go up and down an elevator every time I need something.” Well, guess what? Six months later I’m not even noticing the elevator at all and it’s home. And as they say it was a difficult decision to make because I had been in my home so long and it just happened at the right time for me after the three years. What happens is, you know, when spring comes you say, “Well, I think I’ll wait another year” and then along comes winter and I had a very bad winter the last two years with the storms and everything and dealing with the ice and I fell in the driveway and that kind of stuff and I do recall my mind would wander and I’d say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get my mail inside a building like The Watermark and not come out for my mail every day and my paper?” So that was a big advantage and I wanted to be in a building with people and make a new life for myself. I did a lot of cooking and baking over the years and everyone seemed to come to our home for holidays always but now I find it so simple. I have things like a can of tuna fish in the apartment and make some lunch. I don’t even feel like doing that, some days I do, but having dinner every night is a treat for me and I’m enjoying that very much. I’m enjoying the exercise room, in fact one of the marketers said to me one day, when she saw me she said, “What are you going to do Esther, are you going to wait until you’re ninety?” And I said, “I’m almost there” because I’m one of the pretty active ones here. I still play golf and I’m still bowling and walking and exercising but I do like the service very much. I’ve made some new friends here and you know you can’t gravitate toward everybody but you do find people with similar things in common and so I’m happy with that. I even gave up my car because they take you to doctor appointments and things like that. In fact I got a ride to the golf course so I’m pretty content and I’m glad I made the change now. As I say, I still miss my garden and things like that but I did volunteer to work the garden here so I don’t know when that will start, it should start pretty soon but I made a whole bunch of pluses and minuses before I came, you know, this independent living as opposed to staying in my home and the pluses came up ahead of the minuses actually.
J: Oh yeah, what was on top of the list?
E: Well, on top of the list was not going grocery shopping, especially in bad weather and that meant a lot to me because I was alone and I didn’t have much help at the time. There were more advantages here than living alone in my house and let’s see, did I leave out anything?
J: Let me start this, what year did you get that house that you lived in before Watermark?
E: In the 50s.
J: And then?
E: I was there sixty-one years.
J: Oh my stars.
E: That’s a long time, I have a lot of memories, yes a lot of good memories also some sad ones but that’s life and I still, someone gave me some good advice though they said, “The house is just a house, you’ll take the memories with you,” and that’s what I go by. I just think of that and that helps me along and I do appreciate the housekeeping part. I don’t have to think about lifting a heavy mattress, the sheets and that kind of stuff, I do like that and I think the meal plan is ok but I think there might be something, maybe some adjustments to how they run the meal plan but other than that. I don’t know, everything is pretty positive so far; I’ve been here since the end of August.
J: Oh ok, not too long so that tells me that you started taking classes at The Watermark about three years ago.
E: Three years ago.
J: Ok, because you’re pretty recent, ok now.
E: That’s what I say, I knew the building and stuff, I had met people I know that are still here three years later.
J: That made it nice and you mentioned that you have, did you mention you have a daughter?
E: Two daughters.
J: Two daughters.
E: That grew up in my home, yes
J: And how do they feel about you moving out of the house and going to retirement community?
E: They feel great about, they feel that I’m safe here and know where I am, in fact they were kidding with me the other day, they said “we’re not going to call you anymore. You’ll have to call us because you’re never in your room.”
J: Oh my gosh, that’s so funny.
E: Yeah, so I am pretty active here. There are people here that don’t participate in exercise and things like that but I’m pretty good about that.
J: What are your favorite programs?
E: My favorite program?
J: Your favorite activities that you take part in there, what kind of exercising?
E: I take part in the exercise class and I do go in the pool but I haven’t gone recently. I like having the indoor pool too and I enjoy the lectures that they have and speakers and movies, there are current movies, classic ones also that go back and current ones and that’s enjoyable for me. And musical programs that come here, guests and things like that.
J: That’s nice and go ahead…
E: And they always have music or you know some kind of a performer, mostly good music while we’re having dinner which is nice and they seem to so far make a fuss over all the holidays and birthdays and things like that so you really, people don’t ever feel like they’re alone here, there’s always people around and I have mostly positive things to say, I’ve adjusted pretty well here.
J: Oh that’s great.
E: Its normal they tell me to miss your house, it’s different but you know you get to feel like, I haven’t said “home” yet, but it just started to actually.
J: Oh good.
J: The elevator got feeling normal to you, that’s a start.
J: Well, I do want to hear all your feedback. Before we do, I have one last question if I could. Just in general, if you were to be speaking to say a group of people who were here, maybe they came to The Watermark to hear, you know, whether or not they think they’re ready, you know, “Is it time?” “How do you know when it’s time to move to retirement community?” “What process can you take to find the right community?” What advice would you give them?
E: Well, for me I’m a native of Connecticut, and native of a bordering town but I did mention that I lived in Fairfield over sixty years which is a suburb of Bridgeport and so I knew in advance that if I were going anywhere, this was the nicest place in the area because I know about it. Many years ago I had friends who lived here and I just like the facilities here and I do have family and, you know, relatives rather that are in Arizona and they had a place that they had mentioned to me and I said, “I’m never going to go to Arizona,” even though your headquarters is there, right?
E: I wanted to be local, one of my daughters is here in Milford, Connecticut which is close. So I see her on a fairly good basis, regular basis and she’ll be retiring this year so I’ll see a little more of her and my other daughter lives in DC who manages to come every few months or so to visit with her husband so I’m in kind of a central place and I like the location, I like the facility and I like what it has to offer.
J: And how do you think their lives might be changed if they move from home to any good retirement community?
E: Well, I walk to the home community there, there’s a long corridor here, is that what you’re talking about, the nursing home?
J: Just that if they went from the house you know with the snow and ice and whatnot and the cooking to a retirement community like The Watermark, how that might change your life?
E: Well, I’m much more relaxed and I don’t have to think about the upkeep and having damage outdoors from the trees and the UI box and things like that and trees being uprooted and you know I don’t have that responsibility anymore.
J: Nice, I did have one more question for you. I heard that you had a bat mitzvah at eighty-eight.
E: How did you know that?
J: I heard about that, was that about two or three years ago?
J: I remember, I worked in, I do the writing for the ads and the letters and whatnot we do and I had heard someone in the news, it wasn’t you, it was someone else at a retirement community out there in the country somewhere and I had brought that up on a call to The Watermark, it was at least two years ago.
E: Yes that’s correct.
J: And they said “hey, we had someone who did something similar” and I said “well wow, what’s going on here, is this a new nice thing that people are doing and I remember researching it back at the time and I did find that a few women across the country had started to say “hey, I want to do this too” and you were one of them.
E: I was one of three at the time, we took classes together.
J: Well, that’s fantastic, how did you get that inspiration?
E: Well, because I wanted to know more than I did, more history and what it entailed and learn more instead of reading by rote, I wanted to learn the meanings of certain prayers and words and I had the time for it then and you know it seems like the right time for me to do something like that. I didn’t plan on it but the other two definitely wanted it and so I said “well, I’ll go along with it then.” Those gals were a lot younger than I was but it was nice. I enjoyed it very much.
J: Oh I bet, I bet.
E: In fact, my favorite nephew from Arizona, I told you I had relatives there, he sent me a prayer shawl as a gift and I thought that was significant.
J: That is, how thoughtful.
E: Very thoughtful, yeah. (15:32)
E: In general I’m pretty positive about this place.
J: Oh good.
E: And I would recommend it to anyone that’s interested.
J: Oh that’s great. Well thank you, and thanks for helping us improve the community because that’s very important on both sides we appreciate it.
E: Are you Ines or Jill?
E: Oh, ok.
J: Jill, yeah.
E: I like to know who I’m talking to, ok.
J: Yeah, absolutely she normally does join me on the calls but believe it or not right now she’s in India. She was invited to be part of a wedding of her friend and so she just jumped at that chance and she’s just having a really short trip but she said “I’m not going to miss this for the world” so she just that’s actually where she is, it’s probably right in the middle of the night for her.
E: The Methodist minister goes to India often on conferences too. Now he’s another gentleman who is quite ecumenical and I go to his talks whenever he’s here and also we have a rabbi that comes here that’s also very ecumenical and she’s here on a regular basis like once a month for service and every two weeks I think for her lecture. So they’re both very interesting people and always make our classes very enjoyable.
J: Nice, the spice of life, that’s super. Well thank you again so much.
E: They told me I was going to take a half hour but it isn’t a half hour.
J: No it hasn’t. Some of the calls, it just depends, some folks, I think my shortest one ever was fourteen minutes but that was a person who just wasn’t very too much talkative, you know, not conversational just answered questions a little more short answer but we do line them up about a half hour apart so we want to speak with about four people a week because, you know, everybody’s got something to add that’s for sure. Everybody has a different take that we’ll be able to relate to people a lot better the more people we talk to.
E: Oh good.
J: But no, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, I feel like I’ve learned a lot and I think you have a good perspective especially from someone who had been in their house for so very long and to be local is neat. There’s a lot of people right there in the area who don’t need to be moving too far and maybe they could be inspired.
E: Of course I think there’s some local people coming to a luncheon I think some time.
J: Oh good.
E: I spread the word myself to several people when I’m ever out but there are some people that will never leave their homes, I guess, and I found this to be the best situation for me and so far it’s been working. Nothing is perfect right?
J: Home or elsewhere.
E: That’s why I say my plus and minus list worked fine for me.
J: Well, I think that’s great advice, I think it’s a beautiful first start for anyone no matter what their decision might be.
E: That’s right.
J: And at least they know why they made that decision to stay or go, you know, and they can feel good about it either way.
E: It’s a much easier lifestyle.
J: Oh, good, well everybody deserves that.
E: There’s a lot between, a lot of people don’t think I’m as old as I am here.
J: Oh really? That’s never a bad thing. Nice, all right, well thank you again and I hope you have a terrific day and I hope to talk you again sometime.
E: I hope I was of some help to you.
J: Oh, absolutely, most definitely.
E: I hope the little negative things that I mentioned is not a big issue but it could be adjusted I think a little.
J: Well, I think that’s the only way that we can get better, can’t operate in the dark you know.
E: Thank you so much it was great talking with you.
J: Oh, likewise thanks so much.
E: Ok, bye-bye.