Resident Highlight: Interview with Jan C. and Joanne P.

Meet Jan and Joanne, twin sisters and both residents at The Cottages! As sisters, neighbors, and active members of the community, the pair (affectionately nicknamed “The Twins” by fellow residents) can offer a unique look into life here at The Cottages at Allen Springs.

Q. How long have you been living at the Cottages? 

Jan: I’ve been here for three years (as of July). We came over because our daughter and family are in Rockford, and we wanted to get closer to them, so we decided to look in the GR area.

Joanne: I’ve been here for just over a year. Of course, my priority also was that my children are over here in West Michigan, in the Holland & Grand Haven area. I was just looking for the right place where it feels like home, and I love the cathedral ceilings and the attached garage. It felt really homey to me from the first moment I came in. Janice and I are by ourselves now, and it’s been a blessing that we’re both here and so close to each other.

Q. Why did you choose to move to the Cottages?

Jan: We found out about the Cottages in an interesting way. Coming from Lansing, we did not know anything about Grand Rapids. My daughter connected me with an organization where they would interview people who are looking for a place, and they would ask questions to find out where we wanted to live and our wishlist for a new home. Out of what we told them, they helped us narrow it down to about 20 places to look at. From there, we eliminated ten, and then even more until we had 5 places to seriously consider. After we went to look at the communities, we took a family vote. Everybody voted The Cottages as the best. Something that I think is important and that I’ve heard others say is that these are rentals, and you don’t have to buy in. I think this is a plus because those of us in our 80s or 90s don’t want to have to pay for something that we might not be in for more than 10-15 years. We don’t want to go in debt like that at our age.

Joanne: I came over because of my children, and this would also let me be close to Janice. Originally, I was going to get a condo about 5 miles from here because being 5 miles away is better than 80 miles. But then I thought that when it comes to the point where I can’t drive anymore, even that 5 miles will feel like 80 miles. When I got here, I loved the layout of the Cottages, they were really homey, and I felt comfortable.

Q. What are your favorite aspects of your home? 

Joanne: The attached garage is a real plus. It’s amazing that we can come into the house and it really feels like it’s a home.

Jan: The cathedral ceilings!! I told myself that if I were to ever make a move, it would have to have two things: It had to have cathedral ceilings and it had to have a connected garage. This place has both, and it was like God just put us here! Another big selling point is the sunroom. The sunroom provides that extra room and light and it makes you feel like you have so much extra space. It’s a versatile room, and I’ve seen it used for ever so many things.

Joanne: That’s what’s interesting- they all look the same from the outside, but you go in and they look entirely different. Some people have dark furniture, some have light furniture- you can really make it your own home, not just a cottage or apartment.

Q. What services & amenities do you use?  

Joanne: We use a lot of the offerings and we’re looking forward to using even more of them. The amount of amenities we have is overwhelming- in a good way! They print out a full sheet of different activities and events close by for us to experience culture and music.  A lot of people can still drive but we also have busses to take us to places like the symphony.

The fact that we have the option to going up to the Lodge and using the opportunities up there is a nice part. We don’t use it all the time but it’s always there which is nice.

Jan: We have wonderful & safe sidewalks around the pond, there’s a lot of birds and rabbits and wildlife that people enjoy seeing. They keep the grounds looking wonderful! If you’re used to having a nice yard, this just adds to making your new cottage feel like a home. Everyone comments on how beautiful the landscaping is.

Another thing that’s neat is that they’ve put in a place for a community garden. People come and plant strawberries and tomatoes and such, and they water the garden. There’s one gentleman who had worked in gardens his whole life, so this is a great hobby for him to keep up with and he does a great job taking care of it.

Q. How would you describe the community environment?

Joanne: Wonderful! I think it’s very positive, because we’ve all gone through similar things and we understand each other. We have block parties, which helps people get acquainted. I think the more you put in, the more you get out of it. They really work well to bring together the Cottages and those in The Lodge as a community. They have the Connection once a month- the beach party we had last month was so fun! There’s activities for everyone here. It’s fun, and there’s a large variety of activities.

Jan: We can’t give enough credit to the staff, especially Jennifer and Natalie, they’re superb! I can’t say enough good things and I know many people feel the same way.

Joanne: -and they do it with such a positive attitude! If you ever need something, they’ll be right on it!

Jan: We sing in the talent show- one year we did some yodeling, last year we sang Hawaiian songs and got Jennifer to do the Hula with us. In fact, we go to different places in the area to perform for our friends. There’s about 5 of our neighbors here and we get together each month for dinner. We go to each other’s houses and have just a blast.  We have such an active group on this street. We consider it more as a friendly neighborhood instead of a “retirement home.” We help each other when we’re gone for a week, it’s wonderful. We all come in here, and we have a lot in common. We’ve all had to downsize, which is a big thing. We’ve all made a move because we want to be closer to our children, or health wise maybe one of the spouses are not well. So we all have an understanding of what we’re going through. Especially if one of us loses a spouse, everyone is so supportive.

Joanne: My neighbor wasn’t feeling well and went to the doctor, so I went over and told her, “if you need anything, give me a buzz,” and she did, and I feel that I can do the same with her. It’s a great thing. I’ve been widowed for 25 years, and Janice has gone through that recently, and it’s a really big help to have that support.

Q. If you could give advice to someone considering The Cottages, what would you say?  

Joanne: There’s a lot of good things we could say. Our homes are nice and homey, the community is great and very friendly.

Jan: Just come and let us show you the place. Sometimes it’s more helpful to see someone’s real home and not just talking. People who visit us are stunned that we don’t just live in a big box building, because that’s what retirement homes used to be like. Something we point out a lot is that this is not a nursing home- there’s nothing wrong with them but this is a home, not a nursing home. But that facility is here if you need it.

Joanne: It’s such a blessing to have those options here so close for if that need comes.

Jan: We would show them the Lodge and the community, and of course if they were really considering it, then we would take them to talk to Jennifer. Jennifer is a wonderful people person. She was full of a lot of information when I came for the first time, and that was very good for the listening ear.

Joanne: We’ve had folks come to our house and see what a real one looks like, not just the model and I think that is helpful for people.

Jan: Our financial advisor had just finished finding a senior home for his uncle and came here to see this. He said, “oh my gosh if only I had known sooner,” and he wished he could have put his Uncle here. He said nothing compared to The Cottages! So don’t wait and just come visit.

Joanne: If you take all of the expenses of not just your home, but the upkeep, insurance, and other items that add up while you’re in a home and compare them with the perks and value of The Cottages- it’s a no brainer.  We are just absolutely happy and satisfied here.