I started my career in senior living nearly 30 years ago when I was recruited to market and sell the first life plan community in my hometown of Rochester, NY.
I came from the hospitality industry and had been very successful there but believed that the growing field of senior living might be a good career path for me. Little did I know the journey it would take me on and the rewards that awaited me.
I am someone who likes to “win,” and getting people to say “yes” is a thrill, especially when there might be commissions and bonuses to be earned. All my boss had to say was, “I bet you can’t make five sales this month,” and I would do everything in my power to crush that number. Of course, that’s exactly why he was saying it.
With excellent training and mentoring, I went on to have a very successful career, not only selling senior living myself, but eventually helping many other senior living counselors to exceed their sales goals and reach their full potential. Along the way, I’ve made many great friends and important connections, shared in successes and challenges, and gathered many, many great stories — some funny, some sad, some heartwarming, and all forever in my memory.
I recall meeting Charlotte and Bill, a couple who had reserved a cute little apartment in my community and anxiously were awaiting the day they would move in. Just a few months before the community opened, Charlotte called to tell me that Bill had passed away unexpectedly and that she was going to remain in her house rather than move to the community. Because Bill had been in poor health, his demise wasn’t completely unexpected. Because he had previously told me, “I’m leaving this house feet first,” I presumed that he was planning the move for Charlotte’s benefit, so that she could be in a community of new friends for the inevitable time when she would be left alone. I told Charlotte to put on a pot of coffee (there was no such thing as K-cups back then) and I would be right over.
I listened while Charlotte tearfully reminisced about her life with Bill. We talked about how she had stayed home and raised the kids while Bill worked hard to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. How Bill had taken care of everything they needed their entire married life and how she would be lost without him. How they wanted to make a move together to enjoy the next phase of life.
I knew Charlotte well enough to ask, “Don’t you think moving to our community is what Bill wanted for you, so you wouldn’t be alone, and he could continue to provide a great life for you even after he was gone?”
We laughed through tears that Bill’s wish had come true — he left their house feet first — and it was time for his wish for her to come true, too. After quite a few cups of coffee and even more tears, Charlotte agreed that moving to the apartment they had selected together was the best thing for her and what Bill would have wanted for her.
Charlotte flourished at the community. She was very social, made many new friends in addition to those she already had, participated in programs and was very happy with her decision to move. Several years later, after I no longer worked at this community, I found out that Charlotte had married another resident, Roger, whom I also had helped move in there. Roger had cared for his wife (who had Alzheimer’s disease) for many years. After her death, Charlotte and Roger began a relationship and were later married.
Sometime that same year, I was having lunch at a local restaurant and happened to see Charlotte at another table chatting with a friend. I went over to say hello, and when Charlotte introduced me to her friend, she took my hand and said, “If it wasn’t for you, I never would have met the second man of my dreams.” I wonder if she saw me sobbing in my car as she left the restaurant.
When I made the career change to senior living all those years ago, I had no clue that I would be rewarded far beyond commissions and bonuses. My life has been touched deeply by the people I have met, and my soul has been enriched by their stories.
If you have a story to share — funny, happy, sad or merely entertaining, please share it with me. I would love to read about the Charlottes you have had in your lives!