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More than friends

Family bond strengthens in retirement

Created date

October 14th, 2016
Cousins-in-law Jane (left) and Helen Degnan cohost Seabrook Today, a daily live show, every other week for the community’s in-house television station.

Cousins-in-law Jane (left) and Helen Degnan cohost Seabrook Today, a daily live show, every other week for the community’s in-house television station.

Cousins-in-law Jane and Helen Degnan are closer now than they have been since they were teenagers. While their husbands—first cousins—grew up down the street from one another in West Orange, N.J., Jane and Helen have formed a bond in later life that just keeps getting stronger thanks in no small part to their life at Seabrook, the Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls.

“We were friends but not very close when our kids were young because we were so busy. Now we’ve grown much closer by far,” says Helen, who moved three years ago to Seabrook with her husband Bernard, just after Jane and Mike. “We see more of each other since we’ve moved here, and I’m very glad for that.”

While they each have their own activities and groups of friends, Jane and Helen see each other at least every other week when they cohost Seabrook Today, a daily live show produced in Seabrook’s on-site, state-of-the-art TV studio. They also play mah-jongg on Thursdays with friends in Village Square Clubhouse. 

Having activities and amenities available just steps from their homes was one common reason both families decided to move to Seabrook. 

They also appreciated the variety of floor plans. Helen, a minimalist, and Bernard chose a one-bedroom, one-bath Brighton floor plan, while Jane and Mike chose a large two-bedroom Manchester model.

The minimalist

Helen says their apartment fits their lifestyle perfectly. “I clear things away. I have one of everything. I didn’t want any extra rooms,” she says. “We’re comfortable in our apartment.”

Having downsized significantly when they moved to the Villas at Jumping Brook in Neptune, Helen and Bernard had already paired down. But, she says, “A house is a house is a house. It still required a lot of maintenance. Everything was becoming more of a chore.”

Now that they live at Seabrook, they are able to take advantage of the 120 groups and activities, services, and amenities without spending time keeping house. 

Even paying bills is easier. Seabrook’s convenient monthly service package combines all regular home bills into one payment and includes a flexible meal plan.

“It’s a lot easier financially because I have a lot fewer bills to pay,” says Helen, who manages the family finances. “It’s the simplicity of living here that’s so great. It’s not confusing; you can pretty much anticipate what your bills are going to be.” 

Helen keeps her lifestyle fairly simple as well while engaging in activities that interest her. Mostly, she says, she enjoys the company of neighbors “who are like minded and interested in participating.”

She and Bernard don’t entertain much at home, not because they have a smaller apartment but because they can enjoy dining with friends at Seabrook’s on-site restaurants—without having to shop, cook, or clean up. “You really can’t complain about that,” Helen says.

The family host

Jane, on the other hand, says their larger apartment model suits them well. 

They use the second bedroom of their Manchester-style home to host one of their three daughters and her family, who live in Towson, Md., when they visit. 

The other two daughters live nearby in New Jersey, so they are all able to get together frequently. “We see a lot of our two daughters in New Jersey. I think they’re happy we’re here,” says Jane, who adds that she and Mike made the decision to move on their own after researching retirement communities for her mother and deciding Seabrook was the best choice. 

Like Helen and Bernard, Jane and Mike downsized significantly once before when they moved from West Orange to Four Seasons, an adult community in Wall. While Four Seasons had an active lifestyle and one-level living, it didn’t have Seabrook’s round-the-clock security and on-site continuing care.

“Medical care and rehab are available should we ever need it,” Jane says. In fact, “Everything is here. We can walk to the bank, the barbershop, the restaurants, lectures, the gym. It gives us more independence. You can live a life here.”

For Jane, living includes playing bridge and mah-jongg; working at the Treasure Shop, Seabrook’s on-site resale store; and serving on the resident life committee, interfaith council, and previously, the Catholic council. “You can be as busy or not as you choose,” she says.

Before they moved, Jane analyzed their monthly expenses and determined, “It’s pretty much a wash when you think about all that’s covered,” she says. 

And while they have the peace of mind that additional care is conveniently available should they ever need it, Seabrook is a fee-for-service community, meaning they don’t pay for additional care unless they use it.

No regrets

Without the worries of caring for a house or ever having to find additional care for themselves or their spouses, both Jane and Helen say they’re glad they moved—and not just because they have each other.

“We did the right thing by moving when we did,” says Helen. 

She and Bernard had a target date for moving to Seabrook, but for no particular reason they decided to speed things up. 

“I’ve never regretted it,” Helen says. “It’s a very hard thing to do—to move at this age and come to a totally new environment. But I feel very happy and glad that we moved when we did because we have been able to participate and enjoy all the amenities here.” 

Regardless of their social calendars, the cousins-in-law make time to be together. “Jane and I support each other,” Helen says. “We’re more than friends; we’re family.”