|Changing Lives, Changing Homes||Real Estate Directory|
|Retirement Directory||More Retirement Information|
|Blown Away: Mistral Review||Tastes of the Town Dining Guide|
|Calendar: The Harvard Scene||Sports Schedules|
Home is a complicated concept, made up of a lot more than the building where we eat and sleep. For many of us, home is defined by family or faith; for others, it implies proximity to friends, employment, or even recreation. And for most of us, the definition will change over time as our priorities switch. A couple who have seen their children successfully launched in their own lives, for example, may prefer to give up the big yard and live closer to their work, their friends, and their amusements. Another couple may choose to focus on a comfortable seaside place rather than the suburbs, somewhere their older children and--someday--their children's children will make an annual tradition of gathering. And a third couple, growing older, may decide to move from their private home to a community that can meet the needs of age, where they will find services, as well as friends, close at hand at all times.
"When we started out, we wanted a nice neighborhood and some land where the children could play outside, but that's not important any more," says Jim Morgan, the new controller of MIT. Jim and his wife, Joyce, exemplify a trend on the part of older homeowners to move back to the city. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, couples like the Morgans--"empty nesters" who have raised their children in the suburbs--are becoming one of the biggest groups of real-estate buyers in New York, Chicago, and Boston. In Boston alone, one real-estate company reported that nearly one third of its sales were to such "empty nesters"--a 50 percent increase over the early 1990s.
The Morgans recently sold their Connecticut farmhouse and moved to a Cambridge townhouse. One factor was Jim's new job, but another is the couple's stage in life. Their son and daughter are in their twenties and out on their own, leaving Jim and Joyce time to focus on themselves.
At first, they didn't think about changing their style of home. "We looked at Wellesley, Newton, and Weston," says Jim. "And then we decided we wanted to get rid of suburbia. We wanted to do other things than just be a slave to the house." Now the two are rediscovering the city. "Everything's much closer," he says. "We can take public transportation to the symphony and to the museums."
Of course, not everything compares with their former house, a 1720s saltbox on five acres of land. "You don't have as much privacy," the new condo-owner admits. "Here it's more likely that you'll be hearing fire trucks in the evening." But the closeness has some unexpected benefits as well. Before, the family was isolated. In Cambridge, "We have neighbors," he says. And taking care of a smaller property leaves much more time for other amusements. "Last night I mowed the lawn with a push-mower. I got it done in 10 minutes," says Jim. "This is going to be fun."
for other couples, changes in lifestyle can mean an increased focus on leisure. Donna and Frank Doyle, for example, have spent the last two years refurbishing their dream vacation home in West Harwich, on Cape Cod. "I had summered here as a child, so when I saw this place come up for sale two years ago, I said, 'Let's take a chance!'" says Donna. For the Doyles, the timing was key. Like the Morgans, their children were grown and they were no longer constrained by the need for proximity to schools and activities. They sold the big family home where they had raised their two daughters, and moved from the suburb of Duxbury into Boston, closer to Coopers & Lybrand, where Frank works, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where Donna volunteers. But while making this move the Doyles also sought a second home, hoping that a spacious and comfortable summer place could act as a "magnet home," drawing their children back for summer relaxation, and ideally acting as a family vacation spot for future generations. "We decided to flip-flop our lives," says Donna, "and have the big house be our vacation house."
Keith and Helena Butters, continuing-care pioneers, in Lexington, Massachusetts. Photograph by David Tucker
The West Harwich home, sited right where the Herring River runs into Nantucket Sound, is actually the Doyles' second summer sanctuary. For 17 years, they enjoyed a small two-bedroom in the same community. But for the Doyles it was time to move up. "We wanted a place the children could bring their friends, and, hopefully, their families," says Donna. She began the search, visiting houses all along Nantucket Sound, but found herself drawn back to the community where she had spent her own childhood. "I had such a warm feeling about this place, and I wanted my girls to have that, too."
The new home seemed a daunting prospect at first. Although the Doyles loved the location--right on the water, with views of both river and sound and a private dock for their boat--the house itself needed a lot of work. "At first, I was apprehensive," Donna admits. "It was a huge undertaking." The first year, most of the first floor had to be gutted. The 1970s orange shag carpeting was taken up, and a wall knocked down to make a living room with a view of the water. This past summer, the couple worked on landscaping; they plan to refurbish the second story next year. "We're thrilled with it," says Donna, who lived there full-time while Frank escaped from the city on weekends. "This summer has been fabulous."
often, especially as we age, our changing needs include health care. That's one reason why continuing-care (or life-care) communities, with independent living and a variety of recreational and health services, are among the fastest growing types of planned community in the country, with facilities increasing by 15 to 20 percent each year. Another reason, as Keith and Helena Butters found out, is to continue the sense of community and activity that keep the quality of life high. For these 43-year residents of Lexington, the combination of continuing care and independent living that they found right in their own town at a community called Brookhaven was too appealing to pass up, even though both of them, now in their early eighties, are healthy and active.
They were among the vanguard of planned-community residents. They became interested when Brookhaven was being developed near their original single-family home, and decided to move in when it opened, in 1989. "We were going into it as a more desirable community, rather than because of need," says Keith Butters, Ph.D. '41, Casserly professor of business administration emeritus at Harvard. "We thought a change of this sort was a good thing to do. And we surrendered nothing in terms of community activity, friends, or church."
Before Brookhaven opened, the couple had visited other continuing-care communities, and had put themselves on waiting lists for two of them. But the proximity to their long-time friends and services, as well as such facilities as a well-equipped health club and a country store on the grounds, sold them on Brookhaven. They now live in a three-bedroom townhouse, and enjoy such amenities as shuttle buses to the symphony or shopping. "The only significant sacrifice is that we have a few less square feet," says Keith.
Even before needing the health and service benefits of their new community, the couple say they are reaping an unexpected bonus in living among a group of their peers. "We feel that we have an entirely new community here," Keith says. "We all have a great deal more social contact and interaction than we would have had if we had stayed in our own homes."
Of course, Brookhaven, as he is quick to point out, is home now. Home, after all, is to be found wherever we fit in--the place, or places, where we find ourselves to be comfortable at any point in our lives.
Main Menu ·
Search · Current Issue · Contact · Archives · Centennial · Letters to the Editor · FAQs