May 2008 Issue
A New Nest
After the kids move out, some homeowners decide to try a new kind of living quarters.
Baby boomers, never content with the status quo, are reinventing life — as they have so many times in the past. The generation that rocked the world during the 1960s and ’70s is now fast-forwarding toward retirement. And it’s no surprise that these same individuals are embracingthe empty-nest years with gusto. For some, this means selling the four-bedroom house in the suburbs and moving to the country. For others, it’s an opportunity to experience an urban lifestyle.
So Long, Suburbia
Mark and Kelley LaPlace moved to Upper Arlington, a Columbus suburb, just before their two boys started kindergarten. Good schools, a relatively short commute to downtown, a sense of community —these were the attractions in 1986.
That all changed in 2006, the year they decided to relocate to Eclextion Lofts in downtown Columbus. “It was the perfect time in our lives,” says Kelley. Both of the couple’s sons had already embraced the urban lifestyle — one in Manhattan and the other in downtown Columbus — and Mark and Kelley liked what they saw. Slightly worried that their sons would be disappointed if they sold their house and made the break from suburbia, they soon learned otherwise. Instead the response was, “Why don’t you live downtown?”
A year later, the couple sold their
Upper Arlington home, and they have no regrets. Mark has a five-minute
commute to his office, one that he could walk to if necessary. And Kelley is having a blast. “I love the downtown thing. I can walk to the Short North and the Arena District,” she says. “I get to explore the city and see what’s around.”
During the warm-weather months, it’s not unusual for Mark and Kelley to be gone all weekend — without ever taking the car out of the garage. They bike and walk to restaurants, shops, festivals and concerts with little or no effort. “We spend less time cleaning and more time in the Short North,” says Kelley. “We can close the door and hop on bicycles and we’re off riding.”
They aren’t the only ones taking on the urban lifestyle. “When we moved in March 2006, particularly on the weekends, you could shoot a cannon down here and not hit a soul,” says Mark. “Now you walk out on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and there are people everywhere — riding bikes, walking dogs, jogging.” Mark and Kelley are acquainted with about half the people living at Eclextion. “There is a core of about 20 to 25 unit owners who are close neighbors, and they range from empty nesters and young professionals to older and younger singles,” says Mark. “There is a social network, and we might have an impromptu Super Bowl party or a very organized holiday party.”
As for the space, they downsized slightly from their 2,700-square-foot home to about 2,500 square feet, but lost their attic, basement and garage storage. Yes, they got rid of a lot, but the process wasn’t nearly as hard as they anticipated. And they love the open floor plan. “We like the fact that it all runs together. Kelley can be cooking in the kitchen, and I can be watching TV, and we are in the same space,” says Mark. “Whatever we are doing, we tend to be within arm’s length of each other — and that’s kind of fun.”
But perhaps best of all, they have fewer worries. For instance, when they travel, it’s as easy as locking the door and walking away. Our actual home is more secure than it was in the suburbs,” says Mark.
City Living, With A View
When Steve Truesdale discovered that Charter Steel was transferring him from Oostburg, Wisconsin, to Cleveland, he and his wife, Sandra, decided to give urban living a shot. They’d raised their two daughters in a small town with a population of about 2,500, but they’d always wanted to live in a big city. With their daughters grown, they viewed this as their chance to live that dream. So, they leased — and later purchased — a 1,000-square-foot condo at Water Street Condominiums, a mid-rise building located on West Ninth Street in the Warehouse District. “We love it. We have a view of Lake Erie and Browns Stadium,” says Sandra. “Steve has a 15-minute commute — away from traffic. And being in the Warehouse District is like a little neighborhood of its own.”
The couple downsized to one car, so Sandra walks around town and rides public transportation when necessary. “I have no issues getting out and walking,” she says. “I get on the trolley about a half block away. I walk to work, and I go to Tower City to get my nails and hair done.” Longtime sports fans, they attend Browns, Indians and Cavs games on a regular basis. Plus, Constantino’s Market is nearby, and the restaurant choices are enviable.
As for safety, Sandra says she feels totally secure. “This is a neighborhood, and the downtown people know me,” she says.
Off the Beaten Path
Not everyone wants to live in the city. After their three grown sons left home, David and Jenny Beard sold their residence in Marion, where they had lived for 30 years, and built a house on four acres of land in the Hocking Hills.
Located about five minutes from Old Man’s Cave, the property backs up to the state forest. They can’t see any other houses from their window, and only about four cars a day pass by their house. “In our minds, we are kind of adventurous people,” says Jenny. “We are not laid-back. We take on challenges.”
The Beards and their three sons started vacationing in the Hocking Hills about 20 years ago. They purchased their land in 2000 and now they are officially retired.
They had a hand in building the house, which features an entire wall of windows overlooking a ravine. “We had it framed and then we finished it ourselves,” says Jenny. “David built the cabinets from trees that we cut down.” The house is larger than their previous home by a mere 400 square feet, but, according to Jenny, they took on a simpler style of living — all on one floor.
In spite of their off-the-beaten-path location, David and Jenny are quite
social, and they have developed a core group of friends in the area. In fact, it took them longer than anticipated to complete their house because they were so busy spending time with people. “Everybody loves to eat, so we get together for dinner or potlucks,” she says.
Downsizing... and Living It Up
Some couples, like Mark and Cheryl Ludwig, decide they need less space. Although they are both still in the workforce, the Ludwigs sold their 2,800-square-foot colonial in Strongsville and moved into a 1,800-square-foot townhouse with a swimming pool and fitness center in fall 2007. It was a move centered on lifestyle change — no grass to cut and no outside maintenance.
They also crossed the line from Cuyahoga to Medina County, which meant lower taxes and lower insurance rates. “My husband was traveling a lot, and we had a big house and yard — which was a lot of work,” says Cheryl. “Our son graduated from college, and our daughter is in college. Since they are gone, we had a big house we did not need.”
The move made sense for other reasons. Both Mark and Cheryl are avid exercisers, so the on-site fitness center was a welcome addition to their lives. Plus, their new home is all on one floor, with a more open floor plan. A clubhouse makes it easy to meet their neighbors and attend social events, but close proximity to their former neighborhood ensures that they can stay connected with their old pals as well. “I really thought it would be a bigger adjustment as empty nesters,” says Cheryl. “But it has worked out much better than I expected.”
Like many others, these empty-nester couples weren’t afraid to try something new — and they’re pleased and excited about the decisions they’ve made. From the hubbub of the city to a laid-back country lifestyle, Ohio has it all. That’s good news for the growing number of baby boomer couples who are living a full life, in an empty nest.