Hear from the people who know us best.
These people are living the retirement they’ve planned for – and loving it. Wonder why? Read on.
Avid mystery readers know her as Eugenia Lovett West. But at Essex Meadows she’s just Jeannie and that more casual moniker suits her just fine.
“The living is easy here!” she says. “You don’t have to cook; you have cleaning and laundry service. You can fully relax. You have time to do what interests you most.”
Jeannie moved to Essex Meadows in 2006 after deciding to downsize her 1820’s 5- bedroom farmhouse. She chose a 2-bedroom apartment that offers lots of natural light—and a quiet spot for work.
Jeannie has authored three published books – the Ancestors Cry Out through Doubleday and Without Warning and Overkill through St. Martin’s Press. Her new novel is set during the Revolutionary War – and at Essex Meadows she is able to pursue her writing.
For that she gives credit to the staff. “The staff keeps the community cogs all running smoothly, doing the work behind the scenes we never see or know about,” she says. “Everyone from Executive Director Jennifer Rannestad on down is extraordinary.”
Perhaps fitting for a writer, Jeannie is constantly struck by her fellow residents’ backgrounds.
“There’s a great variety of people who live here. You go down a hall and there’s an interesting story behind every door.”
Daphne & Bob McGill
In their nearly 60-year marriage, Daphne and Bob McGill have lived in several cities across four states. They’re not shy about meeting new people wherever they go.
“We’ve moved enough to know that when you go somewhere new, it takes a while to make friends,” Bob says.
So how did they feel about moving to a retirement community where they knew no one?
“Well, we did know a couple of people,” Daphne laughs. “But I was surprised at how quickly we made new friends at Essex Meadows.”
The couple knew they’d eventually want the security of a retirement community. They also wanted to live near major airports, so their kids could easily fly in for visits.
They found security and convenience here – and quickly discovered so much more.
“There’s a conviviality,” Bob says. “We noticed it the moment we walked in. It’s such a welcoming feeling.”
Adds Daphne, “This is the first time in my life total strangers call us up and invite us to dinner! I didn’t expect that – the people are so friendly.”
They now spend their time volunteering on resident-led committees, exercising in the fitness center, hiking and joining in on discussion groups. They enjoy meeting friends for cocktails or beer at the pub – and there are always new dinner dates to make.
“There aren’t cliques; there’s no such thing as an ‘in group,’” Bob says. “People are so welcoming and diverse you’ll fit right in.”
For Dick Buel, choosing Essex Meadows was all about timing.
In 2011, Dick and his wife, Marilyn, started looking at retirement communities. They had just visited Essex Meadows, when a week later they learned Marilyn had acute myeloid leukemia.
Intensive chemotherapy treatments left Marilyn too weak to climb the stairs in their home. The couple decided it was time to make the move to Essex Meadows.
“She liked the idea of moving here,” he says, “because she couldn’t take care of everything, and she knew Essex Meadows could.”
The couple moved in Oct. 29, 2012 – the evening before Superstorm Sandy ravaged the New England coast.
“The house lost power for five days. We were so much better off here,” Dick says. “We watched the destruction on TV of a restaurant we knew in Saybrook, but we were safe and sound at Essex Meadows.”
Marilyn passed away in August 2014, and Dick now says moving to Essex Meadows was the best thing for Marilyn then – and for Dick and his family now.
“I think Marilyn was a wonderful realist about human situations,” Dick said. “And she knew this would be a very good fit for me.
“Another reason we did this is for our children. Our children don’t have to worry about me. I’m in reasonably good health, I’m active, and I’m not socially isolated. Once you live here, you have so much more freedom.”
Sydney & Caroline Williams
At 77 and 75, respectively, Caroline and Sydney Williams became one of Essex Meadows’ younger couples when they moved here in 2016. Right away, they noticed a big difference between themselves and other residents.
Namely, there was no difference.
“The people are young here and completely down to earth,” Sydney says. “Everyone we’ve met is bright, interesting, engaged, active. No one notices age. You actually forget about age. It wasn’t about who you were – it’s about who you are now.”
The Williamses had long known about Essex Meadows. They became intimately familiar with the community in 2015 after Caroline fell and fractured her pelvis.
“We thought we’d wait another 6 years before making any lifestyle changes,” Caroline said. “But after my fall, I spent a month in the health center, and I started checking everything out.
“We thought, why downsize in 6 years and then move here? Why not just move now and enjoy it?”
They selected a 1,500-square-foot apartment, then renovated it to their tastes, painting, adding moldings and making other upgrades.
“Our granddaughter walked in and said, ‘This looks like your home at Old Lyme,’ which felt like a big compliment, because that’s what we wanted,” Sydney says.
Overall, the couple has learned one valuable lesson: Don’t wait.
“When you move here when you are younger, you’ll enjoy it more,” Sydney says.
Ten years ago, as Charlotte Barringer was moving into Essex Meadows, she noticed a light bulb was out in her apartment. She told the maintenance man she would be right back – she had to go to the hardware store to get light bulbs.
“He looked at me, smiled and said, ‘That’s not how we do it here, ma’am,’” Charlotte recalled, laughing. “He brought in a new light bulb and replaced the old one, so I said, ‘Can you just put that on my bill?’ And he said again, ‘That’s not how we do it here.’”
Charlotte quickly learned how Essex Meadows ‘does it around here.’ The community’s responsive, hospitality-minded staff takes care of the needs and wants of the residents – from housekeeping and flat laundry service to scheduled transportation and maintenance, and so much more.
“There’s nothing they won’t do for you here,” Charlotte said. “It’s all so nice to have.”
But while she appreciates all the services and amenities, she said it’s the people and the opportunities at Essex Meadows she values most.
Charlotte participates in exercise classes, and makes it a point to attend lectures, brain fitness programs, special speaking engagements and art documentaries.
“This is a very friendly, active place that will keep you as engaged as you want to be – everyone who comes to visit is amazed at how much life is going on here. You move in and you can be part of the group right away.”
John and Ellen Wells
John and Ellen Wells have many interests – traveling, playing golf, bridge, books, gardening, enjoying the company of good friends.
One thing they weren’t interested in, however, was the yardwork and upkeep of their home in Old Lyme. As they considered area retirement communities, Essex Meadows was already at the top.
Several of their friends live at Essex Meadows, and they wanted to stay close to their neighborhood in Old Lyme. When their name came to the top of the waiting list, the couple decided the time was right. They became residents in 2013, and haven’t looked back.
The couple – he’s English, she’s German – spent their professional lives around the world. He worked as a corporate executive in Africa, the U.S. and Hong Kong; her career was with TWA as a flight attendant on international routes.
So it’s no surprise they’re continuing their globetrotting adventures well into retirement. Since moving here, the pair have been to Panama, Alaska, Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean, and are planning trips to Puerto Rico, a cruise down the Rhine River in Germany, and a few weeks in England.
“We can just lock up and go away whenever we feel like it. We travel more now than when we had our house,” Ellen said, “because we don’t worry about anything we leave behind.”
Bob & Nan Hawes
In early 2011, Bob and Nan Hawes decided it was time to downsize their living space and upsize their lifestyle.
“We lived in a 2,100-square-foot house full of stuff, but we spent 98% of our time in the kitchen, family room and bedroom,” Bob said. “There would be weeks I wouldn’t be in the front room.”
“And the dining room was my ironing room,” Nan added.
So when they moved to Essex Meadows in June that year, they anticipated all the freedom and opportunity that comes with choosing a maintenance-free community.
What they couldn’t possibly anticipate, however, was their son Mike’s cancer diagnosis. They learned of it after three years of residency. The news shocked Bob and Nan, but they soon knew they wouldn’t walk alone in their journey.
Nearly overnight, Essex Meadows residents rallied around the Hawes as though they were family. Because really, that’s what happens at Essex Meadows: Neighbors support one another just as family would.
Residents and staff alike frequently stopped Nan and Bob to ask about Mike, offering kind words and hugs. They always felt as if someone at Essex Meadows was thinking about their son.
“It kept our spirits up the entire time,” Nan said, “because there was always someone asking us about him.”
Bob and Nan have a clear appreciation for and gratitude toward the people here who supported the Hawes family when they needed it most.
“People in this place genuinely care,” Bob said. “They’re a cut above.”
Essex Meadows resident Judy Kells enjoys a picture-perfect retirement: A photographer, she’s a member of the Coastal Camera Club, the Connecticut Professional Photographers Association and Chester Fair Board of Directors. She’s also a singer in the church choir, ballroom dancer … the list goes on.
“If anything, Essex Meadows has really picked up the pace of my life,” Judy said, who became a resident at 68. Judy and her husband, Ken, had chosen Essex Meadows after researching several communities. Ken passed away before they could move in, and Judy decided she didn’t want to handle the responsibilities of her Ivoryton house alone.
“I love living here. Now I can travel much easier when I want to visit my grandchildren around the country. I just shut the door and go.”
Making new friends has been easy, starting with the staff. “Everyone is outstanding; they trip over themselves to make your feel at home. And having my field spaniel Nellie Rose with me was essential. We’re both very comfortable.”
Choice also matters to Judy. She wanted to make a few changes to her apartment like hardwood floors and digging a water garden so she could have koi and plants. “The staff was so willing to work with me, which made such a difference. It’s really home now.”
Judy loves her neighbors as well. “I enjoy how well-traveled and educated our residents are,” she said. “But Ken and I were just regular people, so I love that I fit right in.”