Lunch with Friends: Independent Living
Guide to Retirement Living met with Phyllis and Eugene Cowen and Normand and Joan Marie Poulin over lunch at the Classic Residence by Hyatt, a rental senior living community in Chevy Chase, Md. It is a fitting meeting spot as the very place that these friends met.
Eugene and Phyllis Cowen met at the ages of 16 and 15. They married after the war and moved to Syracuse where he started a career in journalism and she became an English professor. The couple had two children and moved to Washington, D.C. as Eugene transitioned to a career in politics and started working in the White House during the Nixon administration.
“I always make sure to share that I wasn’t there during Watergate,” he said with a smile. Eventually, Eugene moved on to a 21-year career with ABC News as the Vice President of the Washington Bureau.
Normand and Joan Marie Poulin met in Europe while he was in graduate school in Florence, Italy and she was fulfilling her dream of traveling to Europe, despite her friend backing out at the last minute.
“For me it was love at first sight!” said Normand. The married couple’s first home was in Saigon, but they lived all over the globe following his Foreign Service career and raising five children. Wanting their children to grow up in America, Joan Marie and Normand eventually settled in the same Potomac neighborhood that Phyllis and Eugene Cowen had.
Although the Cowens enjoyed their townhome in the city, Eugene began having difficulty with navigating the stairs, which prompted them to move to a one-level apartment. The steps leading to their building, however, still posed a problem “We had to get out of there before we had an accident,” said Eugene.
Phyllis learned of Classic Residence by Hyatt through her Bridge partner. “The location was perfect for us – close to the city, the culture and downtown Bethesda,” she said.
With a style comparable to a traditional Georgetown mansion, Classic Residence has picturesque views and features a beautifully sunlit winter garden lounge. While residents live independently, the community offers onsite assisted living as needed. When Phyllis and Eugene made their visit, they found a vibrant environment with unique individuals.
Joan Marie and Normand Poulin had also been experiencing difficulties themselves in maintaining their six-bedroom home of nearly 40 years, especially since Normand has Parkinson’s disease. “We started looking at communities in Texas where one of our daughters lived, but we reflected on how much we enjoyed living in the DC area,” said Joan Marie.
When the Poulins made a deposit at a local community that required an ownership investment, they soon realized it was not the right option for them. Then as they were driving down Connecticut Avenue with their daughter one day, they saw the sign for Classic Residence and decided to stop by and take a look.
“We loved the atmosphere and the ambiance,” said Normand. “When we found out it was a rental and didn’t require purchase or a large entry fee, we were very excited.”
He and Joan Marie then scheduled an appointment for the next day and ended up staying for a meal which is where they met Phyllis and Eugene. The decision was easy to make after that.
Both couples made a conscious decision to move to a community that did not have an upfront entrance fee, ownership or investment. “We had no way to predict the changes in the economy,” said Eugene. “In light of the changes, it was certainly a good financial decision to choose a rental community.”
Making the Move
One of the things that the couples discussed over their lunch was how to downsize from a larger home to a two-bedroom apartment. Phyllis and Eugene raved about the senior move management firm that visited their home and helped them figure out what items to keep.
This sounded ideal to Joan Marie and Normand, who were already imagining the challenge of downsizing from their home that held, among other things, a collection of over 2,800 books. Also ideal was the fact that Classic Residence helps cover eight hours of the move management firm’s services for its residents, including a complimentary consultation. With the help of the move managers, Joan Marie and Normand, who were on vacation with their family in Mexico at the time of the move, returned to their brand new home with everything already in place.
Getting help with the move wasn’t the only path that Phyllis and Eugene Cowen blazed for the Poulins. They liked the way the Cowens arranged their apartment so much that Joan Marie and Normand replicated the layout, most notably the beautiful cabinets that can be seen in the dens of both apartments. However, each couple has their own elegant decorating style and rave about their spacious apartments.
Settling into an Enjoyable Lifestyle
At Classic Residence, the residents play a vital role in all aspects of life and activity taking advantage of the many committees, clubs and other opportunities. In fact, Phyllis has been a vital part of the welcoming committee, a program that helps new residents make the transition.
Eugene is also a fixture in many activities, such as running the Classic Forum which brings notable speakers to the community. “One of the best things is that you have the option not to participate and enjoy your own pursuits and hobbies,” he said. This flexibility is perfect for Eugene, who has “phased his time” to work on his second book since moving to the community, a thriller titled “Taking Over the Government of the United States.”
Joan Marie and Normand participate in exercise classes and are excited to start the aquatic programs in the community’s indoor pool. Normand, who is currently fluent in four languages, said that through active conversations groups the residents have formed, he is able to continue practicing these languages. While boasting about the cultural programs, the couple emphasized how the staff really listens to residents and builds the programming to suit their needs.
In addition to the abundant offerings in the community, Classic Residence’s location makes it easy for the residents to access cultural offerings off site. A favorite destination for Phyllis and Eugene Cowen is the Roundhouse Theatre.
Most importantly, the community has provided both couples peace of mind and freedom from home maintenance. Along with a predictable monthly fee and onsite assisted living, Classic Residence offers housekeeping services and meals prepared by a classically trained chef.
“Our children can sleep well at night knowing we are here and how happy we are,” said Joan Marie. These two couples, on the other hand, never get to bed before midnight with all of their pursuits, and they would not have it any other way.