Harvey and Linda McCray knew they were doing the right thing. They had several good reasons for leaving their home in Olathe, Kan. — a home they had built 32 years earlier — and moving into a senior housing community in Columbia. But knowing it was the right thing to do did not mean they weren’t concerned about their adjustment.
“Even when we got here, we were a little unsure about how things were going to work out,” 83-year-old Harvey says, “but we were really amazed at how nice people were and how easy it was to acclimate ourselves to this style of living.
“In fact,” he adds with a chuckle, “I’ve grown really fond of this style of living.”
For the McCrays, no crisis spurred their decision to move into senior housing. Instead, it was a desire to avoid a crisis and to remain in charge of their situation.
“We discussed the fact that we didn’t want to move twice, that if we moved, we wanted to move someplace that we could stay,” Linda, 77, says.
There were several reasons a move seemed like a wise choice. To start, their home had two levels, and their bedroom was upstairs. With three artificial hips between them, Harvey and Linda struggled to get around. A stair glide made it possible to get from one floor to the other, but not convenient.
Another problem was keeping up with chores.
“There were a lot of things that were getting too hard to do, so we just decided to get away from all the work around the house,” Harvey says.
That decision was made easier as they watched friends make similar moves.
“When we would visit them, we would have dinner with them and see their apartment and how much they enjoyed it, and we were inspired to do the same,” Linda says.
Choosing A New Place
At first, the McCrays looked at senior housing near their home in Olathe, but then it occurred to them that eventually, it might get difficult for them to make trips to Columbia to visit their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. It was very difficult, however, to leave their daughter who lives in Kansas City.
Columbia’s draws didn’t stop with grandchildren. Harvey was born in Boone Hospital and grew up in Columbia, and both he and Linda, who went to high school in Jefferson City, graduated from MU.
When they told their children they were thinking about moving to a retirement community, their daughter-in-law mentioned that the mother of one of her co-workers managed The Terrace, an independent living retirement community with apartments ranging in size from studio to two-bedroom, two-bath.
“We really liked it when we came to visit,” Linda says. “The people were so friendly.”
“It just felt like the place we’d like to come to,” Harvey adds.
Along with the friendly, welcoming atmosphere, the McCrays liked the apartments. They chose an apartment with two bedrooms, so the grandkids could sleepover, and a full kitchen. The dining — both the setting and the food itself — was another attraction, and the McCrays were glad to hear about outings to places such as Hermann, Rocheport and Jefferson City.
“They’ll also take you to doctor’s appointments, so we knew when we couldn’t drive, we’d have a way to get around,” Harvey says.
Other amenities, such as the library, barber/beauty shop, fitness room and billiards room, were just nice extras.
The Hardest Part
“The hardest part was, of course, downsizing,” Linda says.
“It took us seven months of working on it about day and night,” Harvey adds.
Their house had four bedrooms, a full basement and a double garage. The first step was to choose which furniture and other belongings would make the trip with them to Columbia. Then, they invited their children to come get the furniture, pictures, tools and whatever else they wanted. Harvey and Linda also donated to charities and, finally, had an estate sale.
It was a big job but one the McCrays were glad to be “forced” to do.
“We were just happy that we could do it ourselves, that we didn’t have to rely on our children to do it all,” Linda says. “We could make our own decisions and go through our things and pick out what we wanted to bring.”
The McCrays also liked getting to see their children and grandchildren receive treasured belongings.
“A good example is our baby grand piano,” Harvey says. “Our son has it now because our granddaughter is going to be starting lessons. We look forward to going over and hearing her play.”
Despite parting with more than half of their belongings, the McCrays still ended up bringing more than they needed. They have made good use of a storage room that came with their apartment.
“You think when you first move in, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ll never get rid of all these boxes and put all this stuff away,’ ” Linda says, “but it’s worked out.”
“She doesn’t have to go down to the storeroom,” he says. “I still do that.”
Upon their arrival, a welcome sign on their door let everyone know their names, and more signs in the elevators also helped introduce them.
“People would come up to us and say, ‘Are you the McCrays?’ and we’d introduce ourselves,” Harvey says. “Also, the staff would seat us with different people at meals. That’s how we’ve come to know almost everyone here.”
Harvey and Linda have their son’s family over frequently and also invite friends they’ve made, or reconnected with, in Columbia.
“The food here is really good, so we don’t have any qualms about inviting friends over to have dinner with us,” Linda says.
Harvey and Linda have both been involved in skits and programs at The Terrace and a singing group. Linda joined a bridge group, and Harvey, a pitch group. Outside The Terrace, they both sing in their church choir, and they meet with the high school class of 1949 at the Golden Corral once a month for lunch. Harvey also golfs, and Linda has joined Mothers Singers, a P.E.O. group and a Bible study at her church.
All in all, they say they couldn’t be happier with their choice to make the move to senior housing.
“For people trying to make up their minds, my suggestion is to do it before you get where you can’t manage it yourself,” Linda says. “Do it soon enough that you can make your own decisions and enjoy your retirement. … It really only took about a week for us to feel at home.”