More retirees choosing to age in place

Carol Krauser, left, moved with her daughter Jeanne Krauser, right, to Gainesville in 2016.
Carol Krauser, left, moved with her daughter Jeanne Krauser, right, to Gainesville in 2016.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow

Carol Krauser, 83, and her daughter Jeanne, about 25 years younger, happily share a home in West End Village near Newberry. When Jeanne’s daughter, Kate, is home from college she is also part of what is now a three-generation household.

About 10 years ago, Carol and Jeanne decided to share a home on a permanent basis.  Jeanne, a nurse practitioner, and her mom were living in North Carolina’s research triangle, when Jeanne was offered a position at UF Health in 2016.

They had been living together for so long, there was no doubt in either of their minds that they would make the move together. Over the years Carol had suffered through several ailments that put her in and out of the hospital or a skilled nursing facility, but they both wanted home to be under the same roof and continue to nurture their family bond.

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“I’m most comfortable at home. I’m not particularly comfortable in facilities. I don’t feel private,” Carol said, emphasizing repeatedly how important privacy is to her. “I like to have my privacy and have my family around me.”

Daughter Jeanne said their decision is about comfort—with each other and their surroundings.

“In the end, your home is surrounded by your own things, your own environment,” she said. “Your schedule is how you set it. It’s not that you must be in the dining room at 8 a.m. It’s your place and you do what you want within reason.”

According to a recent University of Michigan poll on healthy aging, nearly 90% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 said they want to remain in their own homes, but less than half have given thought about how to be able to do so.

And as Jeanne and Carol make clear, how and where our parents live and age is also a concern for their children, something of which Star Bradbury is very aware. Bradbury, who has worked in Gainesville’s senior living industry for 25 years, is releasing a book this month titled, “Successfully Navigating Your Parents Senior Years.”  

“My book provides a framework and applies two critical principles that can be applied to any situation at any stage of life,” Bradbury said in an interview. “It is never too soon to develop a plan to age successfully or help others focus on developing a plan for themselves. We all understand that waiting for a health emergency is too late.”

For many, the time for choosing has already arrived. The 2020 U.S. Census found more than 20 percent of Florida’s 22 million people are over the age of 65. That percentage is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2030.

Affordable housing for those who are aging may become more of an issue in Florida and throughout the United States in the coming years as people live longer, and often healthier lives, and it is likely many will age in the homes where they now reside.

There are options in Gainesville – age-restricted communities like The Village and Holiday Atrium at Gainesville. Oak Hammock at the University of Florida is a life plan or continuing care retirement community. 

Nearby is the top-ranked and largest fun-in-the-sun community for 55+, The Villages, occupying a good part of Sumter, Marion and Lake counties. The census describes it as the fastest-growing metro area in the United States, now at over 130,000 people.

Not everyone may want or be able to maintain the kind of household Carol and Jeanne Krauser have crafted for themselves, opening the door to a world of options and decisions for aging people.

Carol Krauser, left, and her daughter Jeanne Krauser browse through a Mediterranean cookbook in search of dinner recipes for the week.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Carol Krauser, left, and her daughter Jeanne Krauser browse through a Mediterranean cookbook in search of dinner recipes for the week.

Stephen Golant, a UF professor and author of the book, “Aging in the Right Place,” said it usually isn’t just one thing that sparks people and their families to make decisions about where they spend the rest of their lives.

 “The most important motivating factors are usually linked with a cluster of precipitous events that affect an older person’s life,” Golant said. “It’s usually not one precipitous event like a fall, but it’s a fall in conjunction with another event, like an older woman losing a spouse in the past year.”

Financial concerns can also come into play, such as the need for a major house repair or an upswing in annual fees for condo dwellers, Golant said. Relationships with one’s adult children may also be a factor, determining whether the older individual can or even wants to depend on their offspring for help.

“This pushes the older person to the realization that as much as I thought I would live in this dwelling for the rest of my life, it is now clear there are too many factors I can’t cope with easily,“ Golant said. That leads many to pack up and go.

At The Village in Gainesville, three women took delight in sharing their stories about leaving their former homes and going to live there. Murray Laurie, 88, lived alone in a condo she owned for 30 years. But when she broke her ankle, she started to rethink her living arrangements.

“I found it difficult to go up three flights of stairs without an elevator and began to think about whether to stay there,” Laurie said. “It took me several years before I made the decision, and I took a lot of time to prepare to move.”

Laurie moved into The Village six years ago.

Viola Mecke is a California transplant who came to Gainesville to care for her aging sister and then decided to stay. She is finishing up work on her own book about the aging experience from a personal perspective, “The Ups and Downs of Growing Older.”

“I’m proud of being 95,” said Mecke, who was a psychologist. “It’s not a scary number at all.”

She and Laurie moved into their own apartments at the same time.

And then there’s Shirley Bloodworth, who at almost 94 is the matriarch of the aging in place movement in the Gainesville area. She lived in Turkey Creek Forest, another retirement community, for 40 years, until deciding last year it wasn’t right for her anymore.

“You stay in place until…” Bloodworth said with an easy laugh, “Meaning until it becomes too much for you. In other words, there is no right or wrong.”

At Wood Creek Village, a condominium community in northwest Gainesville, a group of women who live there reached out to Bloodworth for guidance about what they could do to make it easier for them to stay in their homes.

Dale Nemmers, Rosemarie Dinklage, Janice Russell and Alice Primack are in a book club, and they began to share their concerns.

“Maybe it was just that we love it here,” Nemmers said. “We talked about this in our book group. We talk about how lucky we feel to live here, and we wanted to stay.”

Carol Krauser, left, said living with her daughter gives her privacy that she wouldn’t have in a retirement facility.
Photo by Megan V. Winslow Carol Krauser, left, said living with her daughter gives her privacy that she wouldn’t have in a retirement facility.

The group has already come up with some solutions to help themselves.

“We started meeting once a month in 2022 to see how we could help each other stay here and age in place as long as we wanted to,” Primage said. “We’ve been sharing ideas, like making lists of what you can you do if don’t want to cook anymore, or making a list of service providers for remodeling for wider doorways, plumbers, and even mobility devices.”

Now Bloodworth and others, under the leadership of Elder Options, is holding a monthly Zoom meeting to take steps to make it possible for more people in Alachua County to take steps to age in place, if that is what the individual wants to do.

They have reached out to the UPLIFT Florida Network, a nonprofit organization that is part of a community-based network of villages and organizations. UPLIFT is a member of the Village to Village Network, an association of 300 communities nationwide, including four in Florida.

The villages are virtual for now, according to Emile Gauvreau, UPLIFT Florida Network Board President. He said UPLIFT has a lot of volunteers and what is done is to address the issues most prominent in a community, like rides, meals or sometimes even socialization.

“The whole concept of villages is to support aging in place at whatever level you wish to do it. All the surveys show that,” Gauvreau said. “Most of us as we age would like to stay in whatever home we’ve got and not be institutionalized or taken away. And villages are a way to get there.”

Gauvreau said the organization has already put together a handbook to help other communities get started to push the idea of people engaging with each other.

“If you get involved, then you are plugging into a group of people,” he said. “If you are not able, you are plugged into a group of people who can help you. You get things done more easily.”

The idea, Gauvreau said, is to keep people from being isolated to stay healthier – or as he puts it, “a day alone is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes.”

Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in Mainstreet’s Aging Matters series. It was independently reported by Ronnie Lovler and underwritten by Elder Options. Some reporting was made possible by Lovler’s acceptance as a fellow into the 2022 Age Boom Academy, a program of the  Columbia Journalism School, the Robert N. Butler  Columbia Aging Center,  and the  Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.  

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Interesting article. I read it twice and I didn’t see any real comments about the Village in Gainesville. I would like to know more about the Village and any other senior community living in the Alachua County area. Thank you.