"Why, as early-stage retirees, did you move into Covenant Living of Florida, where most residents seem to be older retirees?"The short answer is that it's a great place to live and kick off retirement. But there is more to the story.
When I took the call to serve as one of the chaplains here in 2018 we were not thinking of it as a transition into retirement. I originally intended to continue working full-time for perhaps 8-10 more years. But the stroke I had in 2019 coupled with the chronic fatigue from the autoimmune condition with which I've been struggling started to drag me down. And we decided I'd retire in October 2022.
That forced us to ask, where to next? Earlier we thought about returning to Guam full time but given my health issues and the distance from family, that didn't seem wise. Perhaps retirement in San Diego or on the Big Island in Hawai'i could work. But once we got to South Florida and discovered that the sub-tropical climate and consistently warm weather made my joints happy we decided to stay. We also found the cultural diversity in this part of Florida to be appealing, along with the many international connections at the area airports.
However, the townhouse we owned in Plantation (a mile west of our new apartment) had stairs and my legs were screaming at me with each up or down trip. We started looking at other options in the area and in the middle of that process had an epiphany. In all likelihood, we'd probably want our second stop in retirement to be at Covenant Living, the continuing care retirement community where I'd worked and which is owned and operated by our denominational family, the Evangelical Covenant Church. We'd grown quite fond of the people and enjoyed time spent in the community. But did it make sense to plan on another move in five or eight years? Why not move to Covenant Living as early retirees? After all, we'd been hearing our Covenant Living friends bemoan the fact that they didn't move in sooner when they could take better advantage of the amenities. (And there are lots! A fantastic gym with fitness staff, two swimming pools, planned activities for almost every interest, libraries, prepared food, on-campus nurse and health care…)
We began crunching the numbers and figured out that it was doable if we moved into a one-bedroom apartment. So we started going through all our stuff a little at a time in the spring of 2022 after we signed a contract with Covenant Living for apartment C114. The Breast Cancer Foundation collection truck was a weekly visitor to our townhouse as we downsized from three bedrooms to one bedroom. (Better to do it now than in 10 or 15 years when we have less energy or to leave it all for our kids to deal with after we've died.)
So, it was a bit of a challenge but definitely worth it. We're now living in a beautifully remodeled apartment, renovated for openness, with all-new kitchen appliances, and a stackable washer/dryer in the bathroom. The layout is even more efficient than our old place and we got to choose the flooring, paint, and lighting. When we don't want to cook we walk down the hallway to either fine dining in the Orchid Cove or for casual meals in the Common Grounds Cafe (You can't go wrong with any of the soups or with Del's omelets). I have room for lots of plants outside the backdoor and in the enclosed Florida patio room. My bike Mintee lives on the patio, too.
The staff handles all the regular maintenance as well as storm preparation during hurricane season. There are backup generators for when the power goes down. Housekeeping comes in to clean every other week. Reliable internet and cable television are included in the monthly maintenance fee.
When we need to see our primary care physician we can either make an appointment to see her in the health center or drop in on the days she's on campus. This morning I rode my bike 1.5 miles to our dentist. Someday I'll quit driving and we'll take the campus bus to go shopping – although there are lots of stores including Publix, Aldi, and Target within easy walking distance. Trader Joe's is 3.5 miles down the road and the Ft Lauderdale Airport is 13 miles away. Las Olas Beach is 13 miles to the east down Broward Blvd. IKEA is 4.5 miles from Covenant Living in the other direction. Oh, and did I mention that Plantation Central Park, where I've gone to ride my bike each morning for the past four years, abuts the Covenant Living campus? We even have our own gate into the park. So we can keep up with all the community people we've met there.
There is A LOT more to be said for landing here as early retirees. Probably the richest aspect of Covenant Living of Florida is the diverse community of residents and staff. We really enjoy our neighbors. Even though this is a faith-based community and many people talk freely about their faith, perhaps only half the residents would describe themselves as "devout." But on a whole, even the least religious residents are good-natured and tolerate the faith that makes this kind of place possible.
We really love the vibe of the community. It's a great place to work; and now we're discovering that it's also a fun place to live – meeting and exceeding our expectations. Let me know if you're at all interested in joining us. (Yes, I'd love to have some old friends as neighbors, too.) I'd be happy to put you in touch with the right people.