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5 Questions with Margaret Gardner of Charlestown

February 12, 2020

Resident reflects on her experience observing recent Iowa caucuses

Catonsville, Md.—February 12, 2020—Margaret Gardner has lived at Charlestown, a senior living community managed by Erickson Living, since September 2014. She recently returned to Charlestown from a trip to Iowa City, where Margaret's daughter and her partner live. In addition to an enjoyable family visit, Margaret had the unique opportunity to observe the political tradition of Iowa Caucus Night. Here, she shares a bit about the experience, what she learned, and what she appreciates most about coming home to Charlestown.

  1. Why did you decide to attend the Iowa Caucuses this year?

These days, it feels like nearly everyone is more politically engaged than they may have been in years past. No matter their personal leaning, people seem to be taking an active interest in the issues and getting involved, which to me, is a good thing.

My daughter lives in Iowa City, where she and her partner are very active politically. Her partner even happens to work for one of the political campaigns. When I mentioned that attending the caucuses was something of a bucket-list item for me, they invited me for a special visit. So, while my trip was mostly about spending time with them, I am also glad I had the opportunity to observe Caucus Night because it was truly a fascinating process.

  1. How did the caucus differ from the political processes we follow here in Maryland?

It's very different than the way things work here in Maryland or in many other parts of the country. Because there are no political machines, candidates campaign by meeting voters in bars, beauty shops, and living rooms to discuss the issues and make their case. It's all very grassroots.

On Caucus Night, instead of just showing up to the polling place and casting your vote, it feels a bit more like a community gathering. Neighbors who haven't seen each other in a while spend time catching up. There are a lot of families and young people; some even brought their babies along. Of course, in addition to these friendly conversations, people are also having more serious discussions about politics.

  1. What was the experience like?

At the precinct where I was observing on Caucus Night, each candidate had a section where the group of voters who support that candidate gather together in a "preference group". There was an opportunity for one person from each preference group to spend two or three minutes making the case for their candidate. Then, Iowans cast their ballot by writing the name of their chosen candidate on the card they were given upon entering the auditorium, and passing it down the aisle where volunteers collect the cards and take them to the stage to be counted. The votes at this precinct were tallied and checked multiple times before it was announced that there were two viable candidates, meaning those candidates had garnered at least 15 percent of the 880 caucus-goers' votes.

From there, supporters of nonviable candidates actually had the opportunity to vote a second time, by joining up with one of the viable candidates, or getting a group large enough to support a third viable candidate, which is what happened in this particular precinct that evening. Once voting closed, each preference group with a viable candidate elected its delegates to serve in later caucuses at the county and state levels. Fortunately, the captain of the precinct I observed was able to report the votes and delegates despite the technical difficulties many others had with the app on Caucus Night.

  1. How does living at Charlestown help you stay engaged, politically or otherwise?

At Charlestown, it's easy to stay engaged if you want to. I am so grateful to be living here. In general, I feel that most residents are very respectful of one another, so we are able to participate in effective conversations with one another about politics or other sensitive topics.

Since moving to Charlestown, I've been fortunate to build some very good friendships. Just last fall, I broke my arm and not only was I grateful to have occupational therapy just steps away from my apartment home (the X-ray machine even came to my apartment!), but I couldn't believe how many friends and neighbors pitched in to help me with everyday tasks such as picking up groceries, stopping by to open or close the blinds, or help take care of my cat.

  1. What other activities do you enjoy most at Charlestown?

One activity that's very important to me is chess. I never played before moving to Charlestown but it was always one of my life's ambitions to learn. So when I moved in, I joined the Chess Club and all of the members were so generous in helping me learn to play. Now, I play online with family members as far away as Texas and Germany. It helps me keep my mind fit, improving my patience and concentration.

I also prioritize keeping myself physically fit and able, so I visit the pool three times a week. When selecting my apartment, my main requests were to live near the pool and have a patio. I was very happy that Charlestown's friendly sales team was able to accommodate my request, meeting all my requirements for a living space. It's the perfect amount of space for me, and I love having a quiet place of my own to come home to after traveling, like this trip to Iowa, or simply being out and about all day. My goal right now is to live a serene, calm life and I'm able to do that here at Charlestown.

About Charlestown: Charlestown, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 110-acre campus in Catonsville, Maryland. The community is located in Baltimore County and is home to more than 2,000 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,200 employees. Additional information about Charlestown can be found at

Photo Caption: Margaret Gardner, a resident at Charlestown, observes the unique political tradition that is Caucus Night in an Iowa City precinct. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Margaret Gardner