Marita Sedlak has Hurricane Matthew to blame for her move from a large and luxurious condominium apartment that stretched from the ocean to the Intercoastal on Jupiter Island.
But she also has Matthew to thank: It led her to Devonshire at PGA National, Erickson Living's resort-style senior living community in Palm Beach Gardens where she now lives.
In fall of 2016, Matthew threatened during Marita's first time wintering in Florida after she'd been widowed. She had to evacuate to a hotel.
"I was by myself, and I decided I wouldn't do that again," Marita says.
Marita has no immediate family, her nieces and nephews live at a distance, and she doesn't want to burden her ten stepchildren. So she began searching for a senior living community.
"No matter how much money you have, you have to make plans that are appropriate for you," she says. "I have to think about potential needs in terms of care. At Devonshire I'll have independent living, and I'll also have continuing care."
Devonshire is a life care community. Chatsworth, its continuing care neighborhood, was recognized as a five-star community by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid.
Marita toured several senior living communities. One showcased palatial public rooms but offered very small apartments. Another required her to go outside to get to dinner. A third resembled a nursing home.
Then she toured Devonshire. "I'd never visited before and knew no one," says Marita. "But there was no question in my mind that [it was the right choice]."
Devonshire features the largest independent living apartment styles in southeast Florida and boasts generous size, efficiently organized closets.
Marita chose a two-bedroom, two-bath Flagler-style on the first floor. Its storage room is located inside the apartment and the sunroom offers convenient outside access to walk her dog.
She moved last August and decided to do her own unpacking as a way to arrange her new life.
Her second bedroom serves as her den and office. Her dining room, with its big table, provides an ideal spot to organize her family history.
A lively new life
Travel has played an important role in Marita's life. She's lived in five different countries and has traveled extensively in Ireland and Spain.
"The hardest thing about moving [to a senior living community] is admitting that I'm getting older," she says.
But it's not stopping her from being active because she's noticed that at Devonshire, age is only a number.
"I was shocked at how much younger than their age Devonshire community members act," she says.
That discovery reassured her. "Living here, I can look into my future and I'm not afraid," says Marita. "The reality of life at Devonshire underscores that I've done the right thing by choosing it."
She pursues favorite pastimes, such as reading. She's also taken up new ones, like mah-jongg, which she calls a "brain buster," and croquet.
Marita's new life is also hurricane-safe.
As Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida's east coast before changing course to the west last year, "I didn't worry at all," she says. "Even if Irma had come, I wasn't alone and I wasn't responsible."
Devonshire is located in neither a flood zone nor an evacuation zone; its windows are hurricane-rated; it boasts steel beam and concrete slab construction; and it has power backup to serve its clubhouse.