Decisions, Decisions: Start With Your Head, Go With Your Gut

 Husband and wife on porch of new homeWhen Virgil Hoftiezer accepted a job working as an anatomy professor for Indiana University School of Medicine’s regional campus in Gary, IN, he promised wife Jan that they would only be there 5 years…but he was wrong! The Hoftiezers had four children, including their oldest daughter in first grade, a preschool-aged daughter and twin boys who were two when they moved to Gary.

They embraced small-town living and appreciated having a big city nearby. After a short stint as an adjunct faculty member, Jan began an accounting career, and eventually opened her own Mail Boxes, Etc franchise store. Life was rich and full, and the years passed quickly: first, they had all four teenagers living in the house and then, three were in college simultaneously for three full years!

The empty-nest years also brought the prospect of future retirement. As a couple, they thoroughly enjoyed the proximity to Chicago, with season tickets to four theatre productions, a local lecture group, many good friends, as well as easy access to many choices in shopping, dining and much more. Thus, their anticipated brief stay in Gary, IN had somehow turned into 40 years before the Hoftiezer’s finally decided it was time to move on.

Doing the Research

Older couple holding young lionUpon retirement in 2005, Virgil and Jan knew they wanted to travel and determined that they would see the world before making any other major decisions. During the next five years, they managed to visit all seven continents! Along the way, many friends were made, and one other couple shared that they lived in a retirement community which made it easy to travel: just lock the door and know everything will be taken care of until their return. That notion sounded particularly appealing, so the Hoftiezer’s started gathering information about retirement communities.

Shortly thereafter, Virgil was planning a trip to visit a distant cousin to discuss their genealogy. His cousin and wife were living in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) near Hope College, Holland, MI. This was the first time they had heard of a place where you can move as independent persons and stay in the same community no matter how your health status changed over time due to the full array of services available. What a great idea! Several of the people they met during their stay in that CCRC affirmed the quality of their lifestyle while urging them, “don’t wait too long to move!”

In between trips, when they would go home, Jan noticed that the stairs were increasingly more difficult to navigate due to intensifying knee problems. Of course, they considered the option of building a one-level home, but while toying with this idea, a contractor who the Hoftiezers had hired to do some work on their current home finished a job, saw that Jan had baked some brownies and promptly helped himself! Jan thought to herself, “no way do I want to spend the rest of my life dealing with issues like this!”

The List of “Must Haves”

As they continued to review options for their forever home, Jan and Virgil developed a short list of non-negotiable “must haves.”

  • CCRC—they saw the value of making one big decision, one more move and knowing their future would be secure, without any of their four children needing to take care of them
  • Small town feel, big city amenities nearby—Jan and Virgil are pretty down-to-earth people, and enjoy a small- town environment in which to live, but appreciate the things a larger city nearby offers
  • College or University nearby—Both Virgil and Jan are lifelong learners, and they realized that town/gown communities really expand their options
  • Airport—convenient access to an airport is a big priority, to assure visits from family and to facilitate future travels
  • Shopping—An easy commuting distance to some familiar chain retail and grocery stores such as Trader Joes, Apple Store, Container Store and Talbots was also important to balance the “small town” with convenience

Discovering Kendal

Jan says that they seriously looked at about six different communities located in Michigan, Indiana and Colorado. They went to visit the campuses, spent time in each place meeting staff and residents and generally checking out the options. It was during this time that Jan happened to notice an ad for Kendal Corporation, and she liked what she read about the values and practices. Since they were planning a trip to the Cleveland area, Jan called to see if Kendal at Granville had time to talk with them. Virgil exclaims, “As soon as we walked into the lobby, Jan said, ‘This is the place!’ We were so impressed: it was an open, airy space that felt genuinely welcoming.”

Older man watching and feeding birdsJan quickly agreed, “You know, there is a feeling when you walk into a place, and sometimes, you just have to go with your gut! But, everything about Kendal at Granville suited us: the staff were smiling and friendly, and when we were offered lunch, there were so many options on the line that all looked good! Marketing arranged for another couple to join us, who had ties to Chicago and were involved in an arboretum, and we just clicked. Then, what really stood out was a moment during the tour. I asked Bobbi to show us the Assisted Living area, and she said, ‘that’s where you are now!’ We continued to the skilled nursing center and that also was really nice. We finally found a place where we felt comfortable.”

The Hoftiezers knew that they wanted a cottage and applied for admission—holding their breath until they were assured they did qualify. However, there was nothing immediately available! So, over the next several months, marketing kept in touch and they made a few visits back to Granville.

During one stay in a villa, there was a tornado siren warning and the power was off for about one-third of the campus. Watching how the staff really took care of residents, making sure that they had meals, a place to shower, air conditioning, et cetera, convinced Jan and Virgil that truly this was a quality organization. Finally, in October 2011 they received a call that a cottage would soon be available: they took it to sight unseen and moved in during a blizzard in January 2012.

According to Jan, “It was important to make the move early enough to put down some new roots in the greater community. We have made some wonderful friends through the Lifelong Learning Institute, and we enjoy the cultural opportunities of Denison University, Columbus and adjoining towns.”

Virgil quickly added, “In Indiana we had Chicago, but here at Kendal at Granville we have the best of both worlds: rural living in a small University town with Columbus nearby, offering those city amenities within an easy short commute.”

This winter, both Jan and Virgil were down with a terrible case of influenza and did not leave their cottage for two full weeks. While nobody wants to be that sick, Virgil said that the services here were excellent. CVS delivered medications and sundries to the health center and the staff brought those items to their door along with dinner, delivered every evening.

When asked if they had any regrets, Jan said that she sometimes wished they had moved right after retirement, it would have made those traveling days so much easier! And Virgil stated that their contract had a portion of the entry fee refundable for each of the first five years; they always reviewed their options, and always determined to stay.

Virgil and Jan are both quite active in many aspects of community life, and we are all so glad they’re here! Their message to those considering the future is simple: make a list of what is important, do some research and then listen to your gut. When your head and heart align, you’ll make a good decision.

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