Helen Sachs talks about her decision to move to a retirement community.

3030_Helen-SachsI think I really adjusted very well… I think I did because I made the decision to make the move, it wasn’t said to me, “Ma, you’re getting a little older and you’re going to move now”. I was the one that said, “I am ready to move now”. Maybe I should have done it a few years ago, because I was getting lonely, you know, but you get lonely even if you’re happy. I still feel I want to make my decisions.

Helen Sachs Interview, May 2014

J: Jill
I: Ines
H: Helen

Interview starts at 0:57

J: Hello there, how are you?

H: I’m good, how are you?

J: I’m good thank you. I’m Jill Hofer and I’m here calling from Watermark Retirement Communities in Tucson, Arizona.

H: Right, nice meeting you Jill.

J: Likewise, likewise, I’m also joined by my coworker, Ines, she also works for Watermark and she’s here with me as well.

I: Hello, how are you?

H: Hi, is it raining there?

J: No, almost never.

H: Oh, ok. It’s raining here.

J: How’s the weather there?

H: Not nice today, ugly.

J: Oh, is it?

H: Yeah but we got to have those days too.

J: Right, that’s right. You appreciate the sunny ones that way.

H: Absolutely, we’re going into spring.

J: Thank you so much for giving us your time and sharing your perspective. We’ve been really enjoying speaking to a few residents about how the process worked for them when they first thought “maybe they might want to look around or see what’s out there in terms of retirement communities.” And then we’re going to use that information to try to better understand those folks who really just are kind of stuck. They’re just probably never going to feel they’re ready and they don’t want to really kind of open their eyes to the opportunities that are out there.

H: Right, I understand. I have to tell you a little about myself, I’ve been widowed for fourteen years.

J: Oh, I’m sorry about that.

H: My husband was sick, I still think of him almost daily but I understood why he had to go, so I did ok by myself and I lived in Florida, so I’m a long way from where I lived but one of my daughters lives here in Trumbull so this seemed a nice place to be near family and that was the first thought, if I made a move it had to be near family.

J: Well, that’s a great perspective because those people are important.

H: Very, you can have friends but in the end result you need family.

J: Right.

H: And I have another daughter in Jersey and so that’s not too far away.

J: Not as far as Florida anyway.

H: No, we don’t have to go on an airplane and then I have grandchildren. My grandson lives in New Haven and two of my granddaughters live in Hoboken, New Jersey.

J: Oh, ok.

H: And I’m blessed to have four great-grandchildren.

J: Oh my goodness, they must be right there as well, right?

H: Well, two are in Jersey, those are little girls, and the little guys are here in Connecticut so I’m lucky, I’m very lucky when it comes to having a nice family.

J: That’s wonderful, now are you from Florida?

H: No, no, I lived in Jersey. My husband and I moved to Florida twenty-six years ago.

J: Oh, ok.

H: A long time. We both worked part-time when we moved because we weren’t aged to retire yet so that was fine. We had the best of both worlds, we worked and we had a nice little villa in a very lovely community to live in.

J: What town?

H: Boca Raton, Florida.

J: Oh sure, ok, great.

H: Very nice, really very pretty and even though it’s hot in the summer I love the heat, I don’t like cold but here I am up north again, it’s ok.

J: You had quite a little winter this winter too didn’t you?

H: I looked here in November and I came up for Thanksgiving and by that point I had told my daughters that I’m really really getting very serious about moving back up north. I was getting lonely and my best friend died.

J: Oh, ok, I’m sorry to hear that.

H: We were very, really close because unfortunately our husbands died a day apart.

J: Oh, you’re kidding me.

H: No, no, so we bonded even though she was about, I would say, seven or eight years older than myself but age is not a factor when you reach a certain age.

J: Right, agreed.

H: We got along great, it wasn’t like an open door policy we would always call first and say if you’re doing nothing let’s go for a cup of coffee, or come in here or I’ll come to you, you know things like that. So it was really nice until she got sick and she had to pass too, so that was very strong that I was losing someone I had a very nice relationship and as you get older you have a lot of neighbors but you don’t always have a good friend.

J: Right that sort of cut one more good tie with Florida didn’t it?

H: Exactly, exactly. So that’s, you know, it was like a push, get up and start thinking. Florida was great, I have good memories and I have some sad memories, my mother died in Florida and that was two years after my husband. My husband died first and my mother died two years later and I was very involved with her because she was in a nursing home but that’s part of life.

J: Right.

H: And so when my daughter who lives in Trumbull, I said “Gail, go see what’s around your neighborhood and when I come in November I would like to look at some of the places.” Well, she did look at another place and she said it was nice and then she came here and she said “You know mom, I think I found a place that you will like.”

J: Wow.

H: So I was very lucky that she had her eyes and ears open to what I would want.

J: Right.

H: Her mother-in-law was in a place in Connecticut a few years ago, she’s gone a few years and my daughter said maybe we should go look there and I have to say I told her I could never live in that facility.

J: Oh, yeah?

H: I was not impressed and I really felt it was more, how can I put it, maybe like a nursing home?

J: Sort of your more old fashioned idea of what it would be?

H: Right and that was not what I wanted. I may have numbers on my birthday but I like to think I’m still young at heart.

J: Well, it’s a place to live, it’s a place to make friends and have fun and…

H: Right so we did come here and everybody was very nice and eye appealing, it is certainly eye appealing. The lobby is just very, very lovely and it’s like a giant living room that’s comfortable, which is nice, that you feel at home.

J: That’s really important, you need it to be not too fancy and a little bit comfortable and friendly and welcoming.

H: Exactly the only thing, I only wanted a one bedroom apartment, I didn’t want a studio apartment but I did want a one bedroom and at the time she showed me two and somehow the one I’m in now is the one that said I could live there so I was pretty quick to make my decision.

J: That’s wonderful, what did you like about that specific apartment?

H: Well, it’s very bright and cheerful and it has a lovely view. I’m on the fifth floor and I have a nice balcony and I looked outside, it’s like a park setting, I see all these bushes, the benches, the grass. I’m expecting to see flowers any day now you know. It’s a very comfortable look and I like that because I lived in a villa which was not congested you know city like, it was a quiet street, well, I did find out I said I don’t hear anybody above me so I took a ride to the next floor and the apartment is vacant so I guess I won’t hear anybody for a while. That’s ok and even I was very fortunate to meet a very nice neighbor on the floor and her first name is Helen like mine but her married name was my maiden name.

J: Are you kidding?
H: Nope. That was “wow”. So I think we clicked pretty quick.

J: They call you the two Helens?

H: Well, there’s about five Helens here, this complex.

J: Oh really?

H: Yeah, I mean it’s not an unusual name but I never came across somebody else having my first name and my maiden name too.

J: No kidding, that was meant to be. Are you finding that you’re getting some good connections with people who kind of have that attitude like your friend in Florida?

H: I think so, I met a few ladies, the only thing that as you come, I’m coming from long distance and a lot of these gals come from the area so sometimes when we’re sitting and talking I mean they’re talking about Trumbull and they’re talking about Bridgeport or the next town so I have to do a lot of listening, because you know they have a bond here. Right and I don’t want to call myself an outsider but I really am because it’s a big move to come from Florida to Connecticut and I never lived in Connecticut, I was a Jersey person, you know for many years and then Florida for many years. I know a little bit because my kid is here.

J: Sure, right.

H: That was not important, the dramatic part of moving was very hard I have to say as much as I knew what I was doing it was very hard to do.

J: All the organizing and the to-do lists kind of thing?

H: Well, my kids were very good they both gave me about a week a month before I was moving and they were very helpful to help me clean out my closets and discuss what I’m taking and what I’m not taking. Because I couldn’t take all my furniture, would be silly because I have no place for it. I only took one room which was my living room and I have to say my furnishings look as nice as if I went and bought it right yesterday.

J: Wonderful and that really makes it feel more like home.

H: Home with the pictures on the wall, some of them are up already. I had to buy a little dinette set which I needed and my apartment there is like a little foyer right outside the kitchen, little kitchen, I have it in the foyer, not in the living room. I like it this way, so it’s like having a breakfast nook for the kitchen.

J: That sounds comfortable.

H: Very comfortable, the bedroom is perfect. I had to buy a new bedroom set.

J: Well, that can be fun.

H: That was, listen I didn’t go crazy because I’m not a kid, I’m not starting over like when you first, your first apartment, you know, but I’m very comfortable and I have nice shelves in my closet. My daughter made sure I had extra shelves because I’m short so I can’t have a very high shelf and not be able to use it without stepping on a step ladder.

J: Right, you want to minimize that if you can.

H: That’s right, that’s right but I have, I mean I took all the things that I really loved so I am in my home.

J: Well, that’s perfect and wonderful.

H: I mean I could say once in a while I get down in the dumps, like a day like today, it’s rainy, it’s not pretty but you know what, that’s going to pass and I try to, I’m very outgoing, I’m very friendly, I’ll talk to people you know, I don’t wait for them to talk to me first.

J: That’s wonderful, that’s a great asset to the community because a lot of people want to talk but they’re too shy to come over.

H: No, you know I’m eighty-three years old, I’m not shy anymore. I mean really and truly I mean you know listen, there are so many women and I was friendly, I had a lot of support with women friends in Florida, we were all in the same boat, we were widows and you bond, you know you have to, you have to have people.

J: Right.

H: But I could also be alone and be comfortable.

J: Right and it’s perfect to be somewhere you have easy access to both those worlds.

H: Exactly, exactly.

J: You know I wouldn’t want to have to be social if I really preferred to sit and read a book, but I’d like to be able to open my door and find a bridge game or a cup of coffee or you know a movie maybe.

H: Right, the only thing is I’m not a card player, I’m not a game player and that always, years ago I did when my kids were little you had to have a night out, you know, so you learn to play a game. Living in Florida I didn’t have the need, because my husband passed away like I said fourteen years ago but he was sick, you know, and so I took care of him but I also worked part-time.

J: So that kept you moving.

H: Yes and then when I stopped working I volunteered in the local hospital.

J: That’s nice.

H: And now I volunteered here, you know, near the elevator where they posted the week’s entertainment and things, what we’re going to have, I volunteer and I put it up Sunday nights by the elevator.

J: Oh, that’s nice. What else do you do there at the community, do you go to any classes or?

H: I’m not one for exercise, I hate to tell you I’m not, but I tried a few classes. My nice thing that I love to do is walking and I found a few gals who like to walk also and sometimes I’ll take my morning walk, I’ll go by myself and I guess maybe I meditate and I don’t know it but in the afternoon I’ll call somebody or somebody will call me and they’ll say let’s take a walk. Like today we walked in the building because it was raining too hard to walk outside.

J: Nice.

H: Yes and then she had to go upstairs, it was getting near lunchtime and she wanted to go to her apartment and I said well I’ll see you this evening, we may not eat together but we see each other. But I like the (audio cut out) here and we really don’t have assigned seating and I like that idea because you get to meet more people.

J: Right, I agree

H: It’s much better I think to do that unless you’re really an introvert and you get comfortable with a couple women and you’ll always sit with them every night.

J: They can have a choice anyway. You still don’t want to get locked into it, you know.

H: In case it doesn’t work out then, there’s like could be hard feelings.

J: Right and then what happens, right.

H: Yeah, you know listen, we all live with people who we don’t really know and we’re getting to know each other. I’m new, I’m two months, some of these gals have lived here for years already.

J: Right.

H: So, you know, you have to respect what they like and I hope they respect what I like.

J: That’s the perfect way to look at it too.

H: I’m fine, I think if I asked my daughter and she’ll say “what did you do today?” and I say “well, I did this”, she’ll say “well you could have done more.” I said “Gail, I don’t need to do more I need to do what I want to do.” See, I don’t like when my kids tell me what I have to do. I like being independent. They can help me out and explain things to me or they’ll take a bill and say “mom, we’ve got to cut down on this” or whatever and I understand that but I don’t want to be like I’m a teenager and they’re going to tell me I have to be home at ten o’clock at night.

J: Right or you should have exercised twice today.

H: True. The only thing, I gave up my car and I had mixed emotions, but my daughter really needed it more than I, my other daughter.

J: Well, that was good of you.

H: She says if you want to sell it, I said “no you need it and I’m going to save because I won’t have car insurance and wear and tear on the car.”

J: And parking and all that. Yeah, plus you know that’s what the Watermark is for, they should just take you where you want to go and go to those outings and you don’t have to be worried about traffic.

H: And you know why I really did it, I didn’t want to learn a new area to drive in, I mean if you park me outside and said “what street are we on?” I know I’m on Park Avenue but the next street over I don’t know so I didn’t want to learn that. I had my driving years and it was wonderful but sometimes you got to change your ways a little bit.

J: Right, find the good in it.

H: I try to look at the good stuff.

J: Now did you just say you’ve only lived there for a couple months?

H: Two months, I think I really adjusted very well.

J: You seem settled, yeah.

H: I could tell you why, I think I did because I made the decision to make the move, it wasn’t said to me, “Ma, you’re getting a little older and you’re going to move now”. I was the one that said, “I am ready to move now”. Maybe I should have done it a few years ago, because I was getting lonely, you know, but you get lonely even if you’re happy. I still feel I want to make my decisions.

J: Right.

H: I’m capable still let’s say.

J: Right.

H: The only thing I see here, the forgetfulness is very catching, you know somebody will say “what did I say a minute ago?” You know something or “what did we eat last night?” And you know it’s catching because somebody else might say the same thing, maybe in different words but basically the women are nice, you know what I like really also? That there’s a bank in the building, there’s a beauty parlor in the building, you have a café if you want to have lunch downstairs, you know, in the afternoon, I don’t, I have my own lunch I make my own lunch. I have a nice breakfast downstairs and I enjoy the dinners tremendously.

J: It really streamlines your life to not have to make an appointment to drive or be driven to those, the beauty salon, the bank.

H: Yeah, I’ve gone on the bus a couple of times and the shopping, I don’t love it and I think once or twice I’m going to try to take the car service and go the day I want to go instead of going the day that is for shopping…

J: I’m sorry, go ahead.

H: There’s not enough time in the hour and a half that you get to go to the place and then go to another place, I think it’s too much of a rush. I don’t like to rush at anything if I don’t have to.

J: Right, agreed.

H: So I don’t have a car so I could spend the money on a car service.

J: That’s right and since you live in a nice area; you know you don’t live out in the middle of the farmland you can actually get somewhere pretty quick in a hired car.

H: Right, right and maybe one of the other women or two will want to say “let’s share a ride” and then it’ll even be financially more plausible.

J: And more fun too.

H: Yeah, yeah, you know so you learn I think every day I learn something a little bit, I do, but I think I’m ok here and I know I’m safe, like I say I have a very bright apartment and what more do I need?

J: Well, that’s wonderful, now do your kids feel the same way, do they feel real happy and relieved?

H: I think so, except my older daughter who lives in Trumbull, which is a stone’s throw away, she thinks I should be busy from the moment I get up until I go to bed at night and I’ve done that already you know what I mean, I don’t need to be entertained twenty four hours a day. I said to you a few minutes ago I could be alone and I’m content. For somebody else they can’t be, because they must have people around them at all times.

J: Sounds tiring to me.

H: Pardon me?

J: I think that sounds kind of tiring, I need to have a little bit of alone time myself.

H: Yes.

J: I’m not ready for that.

H: Yeah, I mean everybody has to do what’s good for them and there’s no set rules or anything. My daughter has a lot of energy, I might have had a lot of energy when I was her age too, but I don’t feel the need of being always, always busy so we’ll see you know how this works out, I hope it does. I should hopefully stay healthy and right now I’m ok so I feel, I’m ok you know what I mean, I’m ok. You know like somebody will say “how do you feel this morning?” and somebody will say “well, I woke up so I guess it’s ok.” Well, I don’t look at it that way, I wanted to wake up. I’m a morning person so I am up very early, my day is long and I don’t nap but I’m a very early riser, but I go to bed early too. Which I like and television is my friend at night and that’s fine.

J: Yeah, that sounds perfect. Now how would you say that your life is different now than it was say maybe a couple months before you moved in Florida? We try to figure out you know how to help people who kind of have their heads in the sand, they think they’ve just got it all perfect and that those frozen dinners are wonderful and Wheel of Fortune is all the socialization that they need.

H: No, no, no. No, you have to be a little stimulated. What I like best, I have to say, when they have the Reverend come and I’m not of that faith but he’s very interesting and he always talks, I mean he’s not talking religion, he’s just, you know, the talk is generalized or is a book review, I mean that’s very interesting. The movies have been pretty good, the only thing I’m disappointed that they don’t have is to play Bingo like once a week because you don’t need skill for that, it’s not a game that you have to be skilled like Bridge.

J: Right, Bridge can be tricky.

H: Yes, so but they said they tried it once or twice and something happened where they couldn’t get a caller and I’m sure it happens you know, but maybe if somebody volunteered to do the calling but that becomes more of a job than pleasure.

J: Well, maybe people could take turns.

H: Yeah, possibly. I spoke to, you know, the gal, the social director and she’s so sweet and I mentioned it to her once and she says “you’re not the only one that says it would be good so we’ll see.”

J: Ok, well, that’s good.

H: And like I say the pool, I’m not a pool person. I lived in Florida twenty-six years I think and I went to the pool a half dozen times.

J: Really?

H: So, that doesn’t excite me but it’s here for the people who want it so that’s good you know. And they offer enough, I mean everything you could try once or twice or ten times until you say what I like to do best and then you’ll go back to that again and try something else. Like I say I’m not a game player so that’s my fault, it’s no one else’s fault.

J: Yeah, sounds like there’s a lot of different options though which is pretty darn good.

H: Well, yeah and the atmosphere of this place is very appealing.

J: That’s great.

H: That’s very important I think more to women because they were homemakers and it’s like you want to be, somebody rings my bell or knocks on my door I want my place to look nice that they can come in and I won’t be embarrassed.

J: Right, right.

H: I mean I make my bed every day and you know little chores, I love the idea of having a cleaning lady and the laundry I mean the sheets and pillowcases and the towels, I love that idea.

J: It’s nice and then you can, I like tidying, I don’t much care for cleaning but I like to keep things nice and tidy so let that heavy work be done by someone else.

H: Yeah, that’s true and I think for the girls who work here as chambermaids or whatever you call them they do a pretty good job and it’s easy to keep I mean. I’ll ask if you like clutter, I was invited to look at somebody else’s apartment, she had me come in and look and I mean must have moved every piece of furniture that she owned to her place.

J: Oh really?

H: And one wall was just covered with pictures, see I don’t like that, that’s not for me but that’s ok, that’s her taste.

J: That’s right and it’s fun to see it and you didn’t have to get in a car to go see her place.

H: Right, right, right.

J: That’s nice.

H: So I hope I answered all your questions or thoughts.

J: You really have and it’s been a great call, I just have one more kind of overall, general thing and that would be do you have any general advice that you would give to people whether they’re single or a couple or otherwise and advice for those people out there who just aren’t ready?

H: I think everybody is scared because you’re, like, saying “I have to be taken care of.” Well, see I don’t feel this is a nursing home. This is “I’m getting, yes, certain things are done for me which I love but the rest of it I have to do on my own” and if they would have an attitude “it’s a home, it becomes your home.” It’s not like “I sleep here.” I want this to be someplace I feel comfortable for a long time and if you come, if you’re lucky to have a mate, your husband, and a man has a wife I think that’s great. I love to see the couples eating and then there’s one table that’s just men and they only eat together. I don’t know if they socialize with women or if they’re afraid of women or what but there’s like six men at a table, every night they sit together so they must be bonding very nicely, just like women do. The first night I did come I didn’t know a soul of course and they put me with another lady just two of us and it was a pleasant evening, you know, but that would not be for me. I don’t want to sit with one person.

J: Right, that’s a little bit of pressure.

H: It’s too hard because you’ve got to keep making conversation and you don’t know the person really and I’ve had breakfast with her, she’s joined us, you know, and stuff and that’s fine but I think six people at a table is more than enough and I think I love four even more so because then you really can talk.

J: I would agree.

H: It’s a little more intimate and I have to tell you, there’s a glass of wine every evening is very nice. I think it relaxes everybody and you don’t have to have it but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it.

J: Right and then you have kind of a more merry atmosphere and it’s more festive.

H: It’s like you’re dining out. Like you went to a nice restaurant and you had a menu and you pick what you want to eat but the better part is you don’t have to get a check at the end.

J: Or wash the dishes.

H: And tip the waiter, make sure he gets his twenty percent or whatever. It has more advantages than disadvantages.

J: Well, that’s terrific. Well, thank you so much, it has really been a pleasure.

H: Ok Jill, lot of luck to you and whatever you do in your life.

J: Oh thank you so much and you have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend.

H: Ok, are you a mom?

J: I’m a dog mom.

H: Ok, well, you have somebody to take care of too.

J: That’s right, we’ll see if they put their paw prints on a card for me this year.

H: Ok, have a good one. Alright, bye-bye.

J: Thank you, bye-bye.




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