“RidgeGate Up Close” is our series of interviews with people who make RidgeGate a more vibrant place. Read the unexpected stories of residents, workers and local leaders who live and work here. Know someone who has a unique perspective or life in RidgeGate? Contact us at email@example.com.
A big thank you to Sarah Neumann Photography for conducting and photographing our RidgeGate Up Close interviews! This month: Gary and Geri Cravens, residents of MorningStar Senior Living in RidgeGate’s West Village. In this interview, the Cravens tell us about how they decided to move to a senior living community, how they’ve adjusted to their new surroundings, and the ways in which exploring new places and meeting new people are keeping their lives exciting.
#1. Can you tell us a little about how you came to the decision to move to MorningStar Senior Living at RidgeGate?
Gary: “It was back in February of 2017. We were outside working in the flower garden that was around our house. Our old neighborhood had an HOA that took care of most everything, the water and mowing and so on, but we had to tend to the flowers around the yard. Geri called over to me and said, “come help me up!” After that we went into the dining room and she said, ‘You know, that’s the first time I’ve ever asked anybody to help me stand up.’ So we started thinking about our future. We can make our own decisions, our children don’t have to make them for us. Have you heard the saying, ‘Be kind to your children, because they will choose your nursing home’? We didn’t want that. But MorningStar is not a nursing home, this is a community of independent people.”
Geri: “It’s a very friendly place. Immediately we felt at home!”
#2. What does a typical day look like for a resident of Morning Star?
Geri: “It really varies from person to person. You can eat all three meals in the dining room, if you want. Most of the single people do. It’s interesting here, it’s probably one-third single ladies, one-third single men and one-third couples. I would guess the single people eat down here more; the married people seem to eat breakfast and lunch in their apartments.”
Gary: “Once a month, I go to the veteran’s luncheon. There’s 35 veterans living here. There’s a luncheon for ladies, too. We choose to have breakfast in our own room. Geri makes a lovely granola cereal, I just love that granola cereal that she makes, so we have about an hour of quiet time before we eat, then we have breakfast together. After breakfast we have prayer time together. Our choice of lunch is usually a smoothie. The menu here is very healthy and at a proportion that’s not too filling for us. Then we come down for the evening meal. There’s a choice for the 7 o’clock movie. There’s at least one movie a day, on Sunday there are two. We just watched that movie about the aliens in the retirement community…what was it called?”
Geri: “…Cocoon. Another thing they have here is a men’s poker group that Gary belongs to. It’s every Monday at 1:30. And then on Thursdays there’s a happy hour down here at 4 o’clock. Then on Fridays there’s music. Yesterday, it was a harp player. So, every Friday there’s something going on there in the lobby. They also have a special room upstairs called the fireside room. We happen to be Catholic and they have communion every Wednesday in that fireside room.”
#3. Gary, you mentioned you participate in the weekly Veteran’s luncheon. Will you tell us a little more about your career before retiring?
Gary: “I retired from flying airplanes for 40 years. I joined the United States Air Force in 1954 and went to pilot training and graduated as a second lieutenant as a jet pilot instructor. Then I got off active duty after 11 years and stayed on Air Force Reserve then flew for Frontier and then Continental airlines. I retired from flying in 1995 when I turned 60. Geri will tell you about some of the community service that she’s done…”
Geri: “Well, I was a private secretary in my single life and then when I got married and had four children, I started doing volunteer work. I drove for Meals On Wheels, I drove for American Cancer Society. I’ve always been very involved in church activities. I ran the preschool program in the church and I was a Girl Scout leader.”
#4. Tell me about your living accommodations at MorningStar in RidgeGate, what is your space like?
Gary: “Our unit faces north. We use one bedroom for the den, or maybe the ‘man cave,’ as some would say? That’s where the computer is and so forth. The whole thing is about 1,200 square feet. Very comfortable. And looking to the north from our apartment, we can see downtown Denver. We can see Lone Tree Library. It’s different from our previous home in Castle Rock which was quiet with lots of trees and deer coming back and forth, but we find RidgeGate to be an incredibly vibrant community.”
#5. How much of the community are you able to get out and see?
Geri: “We still have a car, but we also walk every day. We measure our walks, and we try and put in a mile every day. To Sprouts it’s a quarter of a mile, one way. And to Target, it’s half a mile. The best part about living here is the convenience. Even people in wheelchairs go out every day. There are also all these great restaurants. We just went to the new one, Sierra, which was wonderful!”
Gary: “Our son’s birthday is right after Christmas, on the 27th of December, so we had ‘Christmas enchiladas’ at Sierra…with green chile on one side, red chile on the other side. Geri mentioned things being close. The Lone Tree Arts Center is right across the street from us here. We have gone to several events there. It’s nice to just walk across the street and be there. We’ll be going to another show there later this month.”
#6. Tell us about the types of people you have met here at MorningStar in RidgeGate.
Gary: “One gentleman that just walked by, his name’s Herb, and on his 91st birthday, he said, ‘My son’s going to pick me up and we’re going to go play tennis. Gary, would you like to play racquetball with me some day?’ And there’s Harvey, 98 years old and always sits over there like he is now with his iPad and checks out the news of the day and things like that. 98 years old! There’s one 92 year-old minister that’s only been here maybe a month. He’s been giving to other people for such a long time and his daughters suggested he move here. I told him, ‘John, I think it’s now time for you to start thinking about yourself, you’ve been giving to other people for so many years and now it’s time to do something for yourself.’ Well, he is all moved in now and is getting comfortable.”
#7. Are most people that live here from Colorado?
Gary: “No, they come from all over. I’m a native though. I was born and raised in Denver. My grandfather used to always say, ‘We have four seasons in Colorado, May, June, July and Winter.’ I mentioned that to a lady once and she said, ‘No, two seasons: construction and winter.'”
#8. Geri, are you a native as well?
Geri: “No, I’m from Minneapolis. I was married for forty years and then my husband died and I thought, ‘I better go live near one of my children,’ which I think is the right thing to do when you get older. So, I had my choice of four different states. I don’t particularly like air conditioning, so I thought Colorado would be the best place to avoid air conditioning.”
Gary: “It is important to be near your children, but that can be tricky, too. For a very short time, after my wife had passed away, I moved into a lower apartment in my home and my daughter and son-in-law moved into the upper level, but they would go to work and the rest of the day I would be by myself. Then they would come home and they would be tired and want to talk to each other, but because I am hard of hearing I would only hear, ‘mmmphhh mmph ahh mphhh.’ And then, the television would go on and I would say good night and go down to my apartment. Now, Geri and I have been married for four years, and I’m so grateful she is my companion.”
#9. What do the two of you enjoy doing together?
Geri: “We like to go for walks in the neighborhood. We spend very little time watching television!”
Gary: “Although, …Geri does love Jeopardy!”
Geri: “…That’s true, I do!”
We also love to sit outside in the courtyard with the other people in the summer. You’ll find groups of people around the tables and if you want to join them, you just pull up a chair and sit down and join them. The courtyard is a lovely area with flowers and a fire pit. We enjoy it very much.
I heard someone saying the other day that after the age of eighty, you should start thinking about a permanent place to live for the rest of your life. And so I have talked to many of the people here and they all say this is their last home…and that’s how we feel, too.”