SIDNEY — Don’t look now, but the resident population at Ohio Living Dorothy Love is getting younger.
Three couples in their 50s and 60s recently have moved into independent living houses on the campus of the retirement community.
Lori and Leroy Puterbaugh, Sandy and Peter Huelsebusch and Kim and Dan Cecil have quickly become cheerleaders for their new neighborhood.
“We have everything,” said Lori, 58, “utilities, heat, water, sewage, trash, bulk rate for cable. We don’t have to mow. We don’t have to shovel.”
Lori is employed by Dorothy Love as its activities director. Her husband is a truck driver for Army Air Force Exchange Service who regularly takes loads to bases in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin as well as throughout Ohio.
They moved to Dorothy Love in March from a lake cottage on three lots in Grandview Heights on the south side of Kiser Lake.
“There was lots of repair and upkeep. We were far away from family. We were 30 minutes from everywhere. If we wanted to do any shopping, it was Urbana, Sidney, Piqua or Springfield. We wanted to be closer,” Lori said.
They had tried to leave the St. Paris area before. The lake cottage had been put on the market twice. When the “for sale” sign went up in early 2018, it was the third time. The Puterbaughs didn’t know where they would move. They just knew it was time once again to test the waters for a sale.
“As the activities director, I hear (Dorothy Love residents) talk to each other about living here. One lady said, ‘This is the best house I’ve ever had.’ A light bulb went off. Instead of trying to find a nice neighborhood and just thinking about a mortgage again … Every house we had was a fixer-upper. We don’t want to do it anymore,” Lori said.
She talked with then marketing assistant Rachel Hale about possibilities at Dorothy Love and thought, “Maybe in five years, if we sell the house, we can come out here.” That was in 2018. And then a house became available on campus.
The Puterbaughs began to seriously think about making the change.
“My job was to start comparing notes. This is what we pay now. This is what we pay if we lived here,” Lori said.
Right off the bat, she figured out she’d save $75 a week in gasoline because she’d be able to walk to work. In addition, she’d be much closer to Minster, where she announces for the high school marching band.
“I would drive all the way home to let the dog out and then drive all the way to Minster or wherever they were playing,” she said.
She and her husband appreciate that the house they got was customized for them and is maintained by Dorothy Love staff.
“Coming home, we don’t have to worry about making repairs or keeping up with the neighbors, mowing,” Leroy said.
The couple are practicing to get onto the community’s shuffleboard team and have felt quite welcomed by people on campus.
“Some of the residents are pretty active,” Leroy said. “It might be hard to keep up.”
Ready-made friends slows disease
The opportunity to make friends has meant everything to the Huelsebusches. They had been living in Sidney, but their parents were Dorothy Love residents.
Then, in 2015, Peter, now 58, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“And very quickly, he was no longer allowed to drive and couldn’t work,” Sandy, 59, said. He was an engineer at LeRoi at the time.
A registered nurse, Sandy suddenly found herself having to care for her husband, her sister who faced her own challenges and had been living with Sandy and Peter, her dad and Peter’s dad.
Because he couldn’t drive, Peter was stuck at home alone all day.
“I worked on my hobbies. I worked on the house,” he said. But Sandy was afraid that if something happened to her, there would be no one to look after Peter and her sister.
“I went to talk to Deb Sanders,” she said.
Sanders is the marketing director of Dorothy Love. The Huelsebusches moved to the campus in October 2016 and it in no time at all, Peter found himself making good friends.
“The social aspect, being around people,” is the best part of living at Dorothy Love, he said.
“The doctor said it’s the main thing that has slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s,” Sandy noted.
Peter works in the woodshop on campus, plays shuffleboard on the campus team, attends Bible study group sessions and ushers for chapel services. He has continued his model railroading hobby and he eats with his father, a native of Germany, in the dining room.
“It’s such a diverse culture there, people from all over the country and the world. There’s a wide range of people who are interesting to talk to,” Peter said.
Sandy has created flower beds around their house.
“I love to do flower gardening,” she said.
Dorothy Love crews delivered soil and lumber to the house. Peter constructed park swings and outdoor cabinets for the garden.
“We really felt God’s hand of protection,” Sandy said. “We moved from a very beautiful home. We thought it would be hard to leave, but it wasn’t.”
Like the Puterbaughs, the couple appreciate the services available to them.
“We’re getting spoiled. The driveway gets plowed. They seem like little things, but they’re not. Every day, I’m grateful. There’s a lot of perks to being there when you’re younger. We’re set for the rest of our lives,” Sandy said.
Too young to move in
When the Cecils first became interested in living at Dorothy Love, they weren’t old enough to do so. Residents have to be at least 55.
“I was helping a senior group at the Graham Center (in Conover). Deb Sanders brought us for a tour. I was sold,” a then-too-young Kim, now 58, said. She did, however, move her mother to Dorothy Love not long after that.
Now deceased, Kim’s mother lived in a health care unit for seven months.
“I was very impressed. In the meantime, Dan’s mother had been living with us,” Kim said.
“She fell and she wound up in the rehab center (here). We were greatly impressed with that,” Dan, 60, added.
The couple had moved every three or four years for the 30 years Dan served in the Air Force. When he retired, they had settled in Lena, but after 13 years there, “we both got the itch to make a change,” Kim said.
“We’d gone through a lot with her parents. We didn’t want our kids to have to go through that (with us),” Dan said.
They put their house up for auction and had a house on the Dorothy Love campus renovated to their liking. They and Dan’s mother, Jean, 80, moved in in January. They jumped feet first into activities.
They help during weekly card bingo games, assist in transporting residents to chapel services and participate in a Christian book club. When the Altrusa Club had its adult spelling bee at Dorothy Love, Dan served as a judge and Kim participated on what turned out to be the winning team. They both were models in a recent campus fashion show.
A baker, Kim has been treating staff in the maintenance shed and nursing stations to homemade goodies. She will join the Dorothy Love Marketing Committee in May, and Dan has been nominated to sit on the residents’ executive committee.
“I’m gearing up to help with crafting,” Kim said.
“And I may help with mowing a couple acres,” Dan said.
While he’s ready to help, the two also like it that staff are there to get things done.
“It’s nice that everything’s taken care of. We had two acres to mow. Things needed fixing. Now we just pick up the phone,” Kim said.
The new thing for them is having an opportunity to interact with seniors.
“We lived out in the country, so being in a community is different,” Dan said. “It’s surprising how easy it is to develop relationships with people here. I’m impressed that I’m meeting people in their 80s and 90s and they’re so active.”
“I love hearing about the experiences they’ve had,” Kim said. “I hope we get a chance to say we’ve been here 20 years.”
Dan nodded. “Or 30,” he said.