As John and Karen Wagner will tell you, they are members of the Oreo generation. Their adult lives were squeezed by two important sets of responsibilities: after spending a few decades raising their young kids, they began caring for their aging parents.
But today their kids are grown and their parents have passed on. It’s the John and Karen show now and they are calling the shots. In deciding how they wanted to spend this stage of their life, they considered the choices they watched each of their parents make.
For 17 years, Karen’s parents lived in a cottage at a Davenport senior residence similar to Meth-Wick.
“They loved it. I mean, they really loved it,” Karen shared. “They got to do the things they liked to do but didn’t have to worry about taking care of their home. All of that stuff was handled for them.”
John’s parents had a very different experience but it’s one that will sound familiar to many baby boomers today. His mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his dad, ten years her elder, cared for her. But when his dad was 89, he had a stroke and ended up in the hospital.
“In a moment, life changes drastically,” said John. “All of a sudden, my siblings and I had to rush to find care centers that would take each of my parents. Both of them wanted to come home but neither could, so we had to sell their home and figure out what to do with their possessions. My siblings and I had to make a lot of difficult decisions very quickly.”
It was a wake up call for John and Karen.
“We wanted to be the ones in power,” said John. “We wanted to be able to say to our kids, ‘This is the plan.’ We wanted to be in a place where there were options if anything were to happen to either of us and that’s just what we found.”
The Wagners got in touch with Julie Farmer, sales manager for independent living at Meth-Wick, and put their name on the waiting list. They figured it would take three or four years to get into the Brendelwood Village home they had their eyes on. But Oakwood was being built around the same time so when Julie told them they could get into a condominium there immediately, they put down their deposit.
“Even though we’d been frugal and saved well most of our lives, I went in thinking, ‘You know we can’t afford this, dear,’” said John. “But we were pleasantly shocked to find out we could.”
For the Wagners, the continuum of care they had access to as Meth-Wick residents was more important than the specific home they were living in, so they put their house on the market and went through their things to decide what stays and what goes. They didn’t want their kids to be forced into the same difficult position they were in with John’s parents all those years ago.
“Most of our family was surprised that we were moving here ‘so young’ but we told them, ‘Hey, they take people 62 and older,” said John. “Then we had friends ask us, ‘Why are you going to a nursing home?’ But I told them, ‘I’m not going to a nursing home, I consider it a resort. You go to Mexico three months a year but I get to live here twelve months a year. This is my resort. I’m independent, I can do whatever I want. Heck, I could go to Mexico and see you if I want!’”
Just a few months after moving into their Oakwood condo, Julie called again. She explained to them that when they moved to Meth-Wick they were put on a different waiting list for residents who still might want to consider a different living area within campus. A Brendelwood Village home had opened up and since current Meth-Wick residents get first pick, it was theirs if they wanted it.
“We never thought this would happen,” said John. “It almost makes me tear up thinking about it. I believe our kids understand and appreciate the load we’ve taken off their shoulders.”
The Wagners went to work picking out their paint colors and carpet samples then moved into their Brendelwood home this spring. It’s a happy home, with big windows and family pictures on the walls. There’s a street post inside with arrows on it marking the miles to family members and favorite vacation spots; 117 miles to Gabe & Landry (the Wagner’s grandkids), 1807 miles to Newport Beach, 309 miles to Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s been transported from the yard at their old house into the family room of their new home, a symbol of joyful memories and important moments.
“Every day, we turn to each other and say, ‘Boy, I’m so glad we’re here,’” Karen said, smiling. “It’s a happy place. It’s our happy place.”