When you meet Karen Halstead, you start to understand very quickly why she was such a favorite teacher in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. She’s bright, empathetic, and constantly looking to help improve things for the community as a whole.
Karen moved into a one bedroom cottage in Kendal at Longwood about six years ago. Her two sons now live in Boston and Georgia despite growing up in East Marlborough Township, but Karen knew she wanted to stay locally when she retired, near where she and her husband had built a home in Unionville.
So Close To Home
“I actually grew up right next door to Kendal,” she said, in a home in what is now Hamorton Village, but at that time was part of the Longwood Gardens Estate. She can see her childhood home from the walking paths at Kendal at Longwood. “My Dad worked for the du Ponts- my dad was Mrs. duPont’s chauffeur.”
“The carpenters who worked at Longwood Gardens worked all year to make presents for the children, and my sister and I got a lovely cupboard we played with for years, with all sorts of drawers and places to put things- and I’ve actually donated to Longwood Gardens as an example of the gifts the du Ponts gave out each year to the children of the workers. My mother had a set of dishes that Mrs. duPont gave her that we’ve had in the family for years- they were treasured.”
Getting The Care You Need- When You Need it
Karen decided to move into a one bedroom cottage in Kendal as a 70th birthday present to herself. Her husband passed away a number of years ago, and she knew things were starting to get more difficult for her. She’s had rotator cuff surgery, and after she moved to Kendal at Longwood, she has had two hip replacements and spinal surgery as well.
“It was wonderful to get the care I needed right here. I could come over to my home for a few hours a day, but get the care I needed in Westmoreland [Skilled Nursing Health Center] while I was recovering- I had to learn how to walk again and it was a long road. When people move into a place, they don’t always know if the care they get later on will be good, but I found out quickly, and I know I will get the care I want right here when I do need it.”
Karen got physical therapy treatment as well as skilled nursing care as part of her Life Care contract, and even though her recovery took time, she’s back in her cottage, living independently, and as active as ever in the life of the Community.
Why a One Bedroom is a Great Choice
When we spoke about why she chose a one bedroom cottage, Karen spoke about her home, and how after her children left home, she was really only spending time in about three rooms. “Plus there was that 500 foot driveway and acres of grass to mow- it was really getting to be a worry and I couldn’t do it all myself.”
“I really thought through what I needed, and what I would use. With a one bedroom cottage, I have all the space I need, and it’s affordable as well. Many people here choose a one bedroom cottage because it’s affordable, but also allows them the freedom to travel, to explore, and make other choices. I can afford to get season’s tickets to the ballet, go to the theater, and enjoy everything- even after having been a teacher for all those years.”
When Karen made the move to Kendal at Longwood, she made careful choices in the furniture she brought with her. “I made sure I brought pieces that also had storage- for example, my chest works well as a coffee table, but I also have a little extra storage at the same time.” Even with some of her favorite antiques she and her husband collected over the years with her, there were some things she passed onto friends and neighbors. “My children didn’t want a lot of the pieces, so it was wonderful to be able to give the dining room table to a friend that really needed one”, and she gave a set of dishes to another person. These gifts went to people who really would appreciate and use them, and Karen stated “It’s so lovely to see them go to a place where they will get a new life, and be the center of memories for another family that we know- it’s spreading the love and good feelings.”
Downsizing and Making The Move
We also talked about downsizing, and how while it’s difficult, it’s also freeing in many ways. “I realized that the memories are still burnt on my heart, and that’s what’s truly important, not necessarily the thing itself.”
We spoke about what it was like giving up the family home, and the worry some people have about having enough space to have the kids come to visit.
“When my kids come, they stay at the Hilton- my one son has discovered Philter [a local Coffee shop] in Kennett Square, and getting coffee there before he comes here is now part of his tradition when he comes to visit!” And there’s still plenty of room in her one bedroom for an air mattress if the grandkids want to stay overnight as well. “So many people worry about having the family right there in the morning, but it’s really not a big deal. We’ve entered a new chapter, and this works, too. And for the few times a year they are here, the money I save on the monthly fee lets me do so much more.”
The Community Matters
One of the aspects Karen loves about the community is the interaction with the staff, especially the young people who help serve in the dining room. “We’ve really become part of a family. We talk about their worries looking for colleges, help with essays, and also let them know that now, it really doesn’t matter which college you went to- we are all equal here, sharing the same community and experience!” The staff has very little turnover, so the residents and staff become close, and it becomes like a large extended family, much like the family you create from friends at college. “There’s such a joy in being part of each other’s life and being able to help and add perspective,” she added.
Karen has made her Kendal cottage reflect her life and her values. “You really get to choose your own adventure here and explore,” she said, talking about how people have a chance to discover new interests and often get a chance to ‘color outside the lines’ a bit- something that’s often difficult for many people to do. “There’s a freedom to explore and try new things- sometimes for the first time ever”, and you hear the gifted teacher in her shine, and she talks about everything there is to do.
Karen is part of the Kendal-Crosslands transportation committee, she is a buyer of children’s books for the Gateway Shop at Kendal, and sings with the kendal Singers, which has two concerts for residents a year. This involvement in community is an integral part of resident life at Kendal-Crosslands, and Karen mentioned that sometimes, people seem busier than they were before they moved in. “Sometimes it’s hard to find time to do everything you want, but the ability to discover new interests and learn from others in the community is wonderful.”
We know you’ll want to get to know Karen and our other amazing residents. Be sure to download our digital brochure by clicking on the link below, or call our Sales office at (844) 907-1800 to schedule a tour!