Life-Long Friends’ Joint East Cottage Purchase ‘Ideal’ Arrangement

Margee Kooistra and Jane WilshusenCo-housing communities is not a new concept, but it is a relatively new trend among older people. When Margee Kooistra and Jane Wilshusen moved to Bethany Village, they put their own unique twist on the idea. The lifelong friends had purchased adjoining row houses in Harrisburg, Pa., after they were widowed. Last fall they took the idea farther by jointly purchasing an East Cottage.

Here, they share their views on why moving to one of Bethany Village’s East Cottages was the right move at the right time.

Q: The East Cottages are not the newest construction at Bethany Village, having been built in the 1970s. What attracted you?

A: We loved the trees and the neighborhood feeling at Bethany Village East. Having so many mature trees was a real plus for us. Another thing we’ve enjoyed is walking – the opportunity to get out and walk around this lovely East-side neighborhood. We’ve met many residents that way.

Even though the size of the cottage is about the size of one of our houses in Harrisburg, people walk in and are astounded at the light and the space. By pooling our money to purchase the house, we were able to do some significant renovations on the cottage. We added a large deck and renovated a sunroom into an all-seasons room.

Our cottage has a basement. It’s very large and dry, and it gives us tremendous storage space. But there’s a full room where Jane has put her study, so she has a place where she can go and work. That has made a huge difference. We each have our own private spaces.

Q: What was your impetus to move to Bethany?

A: We lived right along the Susquehanna River and when it floods our area does, too. During the big flood of 2011, we were evacuated for three months. They had to completely gut the first floors of our homes. The thought of that happening again was enough to send you looking for another place.

When we found out that The Asbury Foundation would accept our homes* to fund our entrance fee, it was a real relief to have the hassle of selling our homes taken off our shoulders.

The Asbury Foundation partners with prospective residents to help them use their property to help fund their entrance fee, create monthly income for life or leave a tax advantageous gift to heirs.

Q: How did you all came to live together?

A: Our families have been friends since the 1970s and we both became widows within a few years of each other. We both were kind of ready to sell our family homes at the same time and then two houses next to each other came on the market. For 12 years, we shared a courtyard and were in and out of each other’s homes all the time. Our kitchen doors were six feet away from each other. We ate many meals together, and we share friends and interests. Sharing a house is a very economical way to live. We’ve had remarkably few adjustments. It was sort of a natural to do this.

Q: How was downsizing?

A: We loved our houses but they were old. They did have problems like heating that really didn’t do the job so well, so coming out to a newer house has really been wonderful for those kind of comforts. We were also excited to be able to start a garden from scratch again. We have these big trees on three sides, but bright sun in the back for a perennial garden. We started moving plants over before we even moved into the Cottage.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of Bethany Village living?

A: Our favorite expression is “Call maintenance!” The ability to get your every need accomplished through the maintenance and other department is just remarkable. It takes such a load off. We can go out and shovel snow and mow the grass if we have to, but it sure is nice not to have to and to have it done so well. What is so remarkable is the warmth and can-do attitude of the staff here. To a person, it’s amazing how excellent they are.

The car garage has also been wonderful. We just drive them around the corner to have them taken care of. We can get flu shots right here, and I’ve (Margee) really enjoyed taking advantage of some of the activities. I’ve met a nice group of women from a trip I took with the community who I just invited over for dinner, and I’m also taking a fitness course in the pool called I Chi. It’s a combination of Tai Chi and yoga in the water.

We feel very lucky and happy to be here.

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