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Shirley Downsizes To Comfort, Security And A Busy Social Life

Posted 12 October 2021 by Keith Osborne

Shirley left her home for 60 years to find a new and active lifestyle at McCarthy Stone's Miami House in Chelmsford...

When Shirley Gowen (85) from Chelmsford, sat down to read the Sunday newspapers one weekend last year, she would never have guessed it would lead to her selling the house where she had lived for 60 years and picking up the keys to a new McCarthy Stone apartment.

“I always said I’d never move”, explained Shirley. “In fact, I watched the McCarthy Stone development – Miami House – being built on Princes Road and I was one of the first to say, ‘who would want to live there?’. Then I read about McCarthy Stone’s Retirement Living Plus apartments in the Sunday paper and it started me thinking.”

Shirley was familiar with the location of Miami House. The McCarthy Stone’s development is located on the site of the former Miami Hotel and Conference Centre where Shirley and her late husband Terry celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary back in 2006.

Shirley and her husband moved into their home in Chelmsford in 1959 and through the decades they raised their three daughters there, while Terry worked as a fitter and welder at Larmar Engineering in Margaretting and Shirley worked as a secretary at Marconi in Chelmsford. The couple – who met on the train – had been married for 62 years, when Terry sadly passed away.

“My husband was a placid man – a family man,” Shirley commented. “He loved his children, he worked hard, and he played football for the company team. When he became ill, I nursed him for several years.

“I had been driving while I was caring for my husband, but I found myself getting impatient and decided that I didn’t really want to drive anymore. Then I had a car accident and gave up completely. All of a sudden, I found I was completely stuck. Yes, I could walk to the bus stop – but it wasn’t very convenient, the services didn’t go where I wanted to go!

“I could see that the Miami House development was in a fantastic location.There’s a Tesco supermarket just around the back and a bus stop with services that take you into town and to the local hospital. I also liked the thought of being able to get my meals from the development’s bistro. I can’t always be bothered to cook, it’s not always worth it when you’re cooking for one – dealing with all those pots and pans!

“I told my daughter Christine what I was thinking. We were on our way into London to celebrate my great granddaughter’s birthday. Christine was sat in the front of the car and I was sat in the back. I said, ‘I’ve got something to say, I think I’d like to move’. I know this came as a surprise to her – straightaway I could see she was texting her two sisters to let them know!”

“I ended up going to an open day event at Miami House just three days later with my daughter, Christine, Tracy and son-in-law, Glen. He thought it was going to be like a nursing home, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Miami HouseMiami House has been designed for the over-70s and offers retirees the opportunity to live independently and to enjoy the lifestyle they want to lead. Homeowners have the peace-of-mind of being part of a community of like-minded individuals, with access to stylish communal spaces such as lounges, bistro-style restaurants, landscaped gardens and guest suites. Tailored domestic assistance packages can be arranged as required.

Shirley explained how her first visit to the Retirement Living Plus development went: “The sales consultant, Katherine, showed us around the two one-bedroom apartments which were available. One was a show apartment and as soon as we walked through the front door of the property, we were all very impressed. The lounge is 19 feet long and there is a stunning corner window which faces onto Princes Road.

“As we walked around the development, everyone we met was so friendly. They were all very warm and welcoming. We found the lounge – I thought it was beautifully done – and there were homeowners in there who all said hello. We also found the laundry room and I struck up a conversation with a homeowner. I even bumped into someone who used to work at Marconi and recognised me as the boss’s secretary!

“I ended up putting down a refundable deposit there and then. I loved the apartment and I loved the development. I felt at home and I felt like a different person as soon as I walked around. What I didn’t realise was that I could rent the apartment initially, so that I didn’t miss out on it while I was selling the house and I could move in quickly. I then went on to buy within six months and the rental payments that I’d made were taken off the price of the apartment.

“I don’t know what we would have done without Katherine from McCarthy Stone, she was very good. And my family were fantastic – they took care of everything. When it came to moving out of the house and into the new apartment, they all descended, including my daughter Carole who travelled down from Scotland.

“It was hard having to throw away personal items – I didn’t like that, but you have to be ruthless. That’s the worst part, clearing out the clutter. At the end of the day though, it’s just a house. The memories are still there in your head. I don’t miss it at all! I bought a lot of the furniture from my lounge with me and my apartment is a real home from home.”

Miami HouseHaving settled into her new apartment, Shirley has made the most of life at Miami House. She continued: “When we haven’t been in lockdown, we’ve enjoyed regular coffee mornings with our estates manager, Ellen, who is very good. There have been fitness classes, games afternoons, crafting, movie nights, gin nights and social evenings.

“I’ve always loved gardening, but I was finding it hard to keep it on top of the garden at the house. I had a gardener, but it wasn’t the same. Here, I still get to enjoy gardening – in fact, the garden is our pride and joy here at Miami House. Quite a few of us have got involved and we’ve planted more than 400 bulbs including geraniums and polyanthas. We all try and do a little bit and we all contribute towards it. It’s really important to us and it was a lifesaver in the first lockdown. We had socially-distanced tables and chairs outside where we could sit and relax. I would often put my coat on and have a walk around the garden after lunch.”

Shirley still keeps her family close. She explained: “I’ve got seven grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and one on the way. They all mean the world to me. During the first lockdown we did Zoom quizzes, like so many others. My daughter Christine was in my bubble and we had a family Whatsapp group so we could all keep in touch.

“We all looked out for each other here too. One of the other ladies asked everyone for their phone numbers right at the beginning of the pandemic and she gave a list to all of us, so we could call or text each other.

“My advice to anyone thinking of moving to a Retirement Living Plus development is that it’s important you really do want to move in. As soon as I viewed my apartment, I could see myself living there and I couldn’t wait to get the keys. There was no stopping me!”

Prices at Miami House currently start from £456,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. There are now more options available for those looking to downsize in Essex, with rental options now available at both developments to make moving even easier.

Find out more about Miami House from McCarthy Stone.


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