For Bette and Tom Gates, life at Touchmark is like a buffet meal: an endless spread of fascinating choices.
"Yes," Bette agrees. "It would be very easy to ‘overeat’ in the activities department around here. It really comes down to making choices."
For Bette and Tom Gates, life at Touchmark is as full as you want it to be. "It offers a full variety of events and activities we can take advantage of," says Bette. "I think if we wanted to, we could do nothing but run—run to all the things that are planned."
Tom quickly concurs. "We are quite impressed with the variety of activities here. It just never ends," he says. "The Life Enrichment director does a marvelous job offering all kinds of opportunities to do just about anything you might have an interest in."
A long and interesting journey to Touchmark
Tom was born in Great Falls, Mont. His dad worked for the power company and had to move the family often. By the time Tom was in high school, they lived in N.D.
Bette was born in Bismarck, N.D., and met Tom in high school. They married upon graduation in 1956. Soon after, Tom took a commission with the ROTC program and went on active duty, spending the next 26 years in the Air Force.
As Tom puts it, "Together, we moved here, there, and everywhere." That includes Texas, Calif., Idaho, overseas several times, then back to Texas, ultimately ending up in Alaska, where Tom retired from the Air Force and began working for the state of Alaska. After about 10 years there, they moved back to Moscow, Idaho, where Tom had completed graduate school. After another 10 years, they got tired of the snow and moved to Lewiston on the Snake River. Plus, they lived in Tacoma for five years.
Tom finally convinces Bette it's time to move ... again
"Last year, we started toying with the idea of a retirement community. I wasn't so sure I was ready for it," admits Bette. "It took Tom quite a lot to convince me to even consider the idea." After a lifetime of moving, you might wonder why Bette would resist moving again. "To me, when I first thought of a retirement situation, I thought of those places my mother was in. You know, a nursing home. And I had to get past that in the beginning," Bette remembers. "Besides, we were still able to do everything we wanted to, so I just didn't think we were ready. And our daughter definitely didn't think we were ready! Obviously, Tom had a lot of convincing to do!"
The Gates began casually researching communities. An ad caught their eye for one in New Mexico, but they didn't want to go too far away from their Northwest roots, so they turned to Spokane. They got on the Internet and soon focused on three communities, including Touchmark. After visiting Touchmark many times, they put a deposit down on a three-bedroom, two-bath Touchmark cottage they liked. They moved in July 2011 after selling their Lewiston home.
A good decision on several fronts
A primary motivation for the Gates moving into Touchmark was for the continuum of health care services that are available. If anything happened to one of them in the future, they wanted the security of knowing they were already where they needed to be and had already made all of the right choices. "Another motivation for us moving into a community like this," Tom says, "was that we thought this type of living provided us more opportunity for social engagement. I think, other than church, we found we weren't as engaged as perhaps we needed to be, anymore. So it seemed this was a great opportunity to get involved in other programs and to meet more people." Soon after arriving, Tom became interested in the Cottage Resident Committee, which eventually led to his chairing the group. This position also puts him on the Resident Council and means several meetings a month and other committee-type involvements. Tom also enjoys gardening and recently gained approval to put in a small garden down by the greenbelt natural area near their cottage.
Anything we want to do is right here
Tom and Bette often join their neighbors in activities, such as having coffee at the cottage clubhouse, Happy Hour at The Clock, attending a play in Coeur d'Alene, or eating out at a nice restaurant. They also keep fit with regular workout routines. "We exercise every morning," says Bette. "We're pretty religious about that. Tom goes every morning over to the exercise room and works out. I do my bicycle riding in our two-car garage; that's also my reading time. Plus, every morning of the week, I walk over to one of the exercise classes in the main building." They are both big walkers and are currently participating in the "Walk to Italy" program, a competition between team members and residents who keep track of mileage. "Of course, Bette and I walk a lot on our own anyway," says Tom. "I do a lot of walking in the morning. Then we get out a couple times a week on our own to walk along the river or whatever. They have wonderful walking trails here."
So many fascinating friends and neighbors
Their days are filled with more than just activities. Both Tom and Bette enjoy the richness of life that comes from being closely connected to others who live in the community. "One thing has really opened my eyes," says Tom. "I'm forever amazed at the people who live here. Every time we all get together, the composition of the group is always somewhat different. Our neighbors come from all walks of life. It's just fascinating the kinds of lives people have lived!" Here, life is like a buffet meal. "Anything I want to do is right here," Bette says. I don't have to go very far. To me that's a big plus." "We're as busy as we want to be," agrees Tom. "It's right there if you want it."