SNOWBIRDS GO NORTH

Retirees shake off sun, sand for home

Some Toledoans drawn back to city

7/30/2013
BY ARIELLE STAMBLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
 Joyce and Harvey Takacs returned to Ohio instead of  wintering in Arizona. After all that heat and sun, Mr. Takacs said, he wanted to grow old in the area in which he grew up.
Joyce and Harvey Takacs returned to Ohio instead of wintering in Arizona. After all that heat and sun, Mr. Takacs said, he wanted to grow old in the area in which he grew up.

When lifelong Toledo resident Harvey Takacs turned 65, he did what Ohio retirees have done for decades: He became a snowbird.

Chasing endless sunshine, immaculate golf courses, and panoramic desert views, he and his wife, Joyce, began spending their winters in Sun City West, Ariz. They became year-round residents in 2002.

“It was our second love,” Mr. Takacs, now 81, said.

But six months ago, the Takacses returned, prodigal-son-style, to their first love, Toledo.

Mr. Takacs made a name for himself here as an Ironworkers Local 55 union leader in the 1970s and 80s. He decided that, despite the cold, he wanted to live out the rest of his life where he had grown up.

He is not alone. A small community of retired or semiretired Toledoans are rethinking their decisions to spend the rest of their lives — or even just their winters — in the sun.

That includes Bill and Sharon Coder. Bill Coder, 78, worked for Prudential Insurance for 31 years and had a family rental business in the Old West End. He was deeply committed to neighborhood revitalization projects.

Best large metro areas/cities for aging

1. Provo-Orem, Utah
2. Madison, Wis.
3. Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb., Iowa
4. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass. and N.H.
5. New York, N.Y., Northern N.J., Long Island
6. Des Moines-West, Des Moines, Iowa
7. Salt Lake City
8. Toledo
9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, Va.
10. Pittsburgh

Source: Milken Institute

In retirement, he and his wife spent the winter months in Winter Haven, an aptly named, over-55 community in central Florida. For 16 years, they enjoyed sunshine, new friends, and volunteer work at a nearby historic landmark site.

All the while, their granddaughters in South Toledo and Sylvania grew older, and the Coders regretted missing their activities. They also recognized that they weren’t getting any younger.

“It’s a time where you have to make choices,” Mr. Coder said. “You don’t want to burden your children with your health care.”

So two years ago, they decided to start spending their winters in Monclova Township and their summers in Marblehead on Lake Erie to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Eva Kahana, director of the Elderly Care Research Center at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, has a name for what the Coders did: an “informal assistance move.” Ms. Kahana studied the moves that 619 residents of a retirement community in Clearwater, Fla. made between 1990 and 2001.

More than half of the subjects moved out of the retirement community in that 11-year period and 24.3 percent of the movers made informal assistance moves.

“They weren’t really frail yet,” Ms. Kahana said.

“They didn’t have to go into a nursing home or an assisted living facility, but they were just not feeling that secure living away from family.”

However, with 49,223 people 60 years old and over living in Toledo, there are other reasons that the city appeals to older adults besides anticipation of later-care needs.

In July, 2012, the Milken Institute released a comprehensive study of the best cities for successful aging and ranked Toledo the eighth best out of the country’s 100 largest metro areas. Toledo fared well because of its abundance of hospitals, affordable housing, and proximity to nearby golf courses, parks, and other recreational facilities.

Pittsburgh ranked 10th for its affordable cost of living, low crime rate, access to recreational facilities, museums, and libraries, and its relatively large community of people over 65.

The cultural opportunities of Toledo are also a big draw for Frederic ‘Fritz’ and Mary Wolfe.

The Wolfes are technically still snowbirds, spending winters in Florida, summers in Harbor Springs, Mich., and the remaining half of the year in Perrysburg.

In their working lives, Mr. Wolfe, 83, founded two health-care real estate investment businesses, and Mrs. Wolfe, 81, taught art history at Bowling Green State University and served on the Ohio Arts Council.

Harvey Takacs, here with his wife, Joyce Takacs, made a name for himself in the 1970s and  1980s as a union leader for Ironworkers  Local Union 55.
Harvey Takacs, here with his wife, Joyce Takacs, made a name for himself in the 1970s and 1980s as a union leader for Ironworkers Local Union 55.

Mrs. Wolfe said she and her husband never have considered retiring permanently to Florida because of Toledo’s arts scene. “We’re particularly interested in the art museum and the symphony,” Mrs. Wolfe said. “The arts scene is good in Florida but it’s not as broad, not as fully developed.”

Tom Palmer, 65, a partner at the Marshall & Melhorn law firm, enjoys Toledo for similar reasons.

“I’ve never been bored in Toledo, and I’ve never had enough time to do all the things I want to do either here or close to me.”

Mr. Palmer plans to remain based in Toledo as he grows older so he can stay engaged in the community.

In their more than 40 years in Toledo, he and his wife, Susan, have been involved in a wide range of activities: historic theater, neighborhood revitalization, the arts, mental health, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors, to name a few.

“The community is large enough to have challenging issues facing it and small enough for you to get involved in it,” Mr. Palmer said.

To him, that makes Toledo an ideal location to have spent the majority of his adult life — and the rest of his life.

Toledo “has a core of people that care and are doing their best to work together to take on those challenges,” he said.

“If it’s all been given to you, and you haven’t made a difference, I think it gets boring after a while.”

Contact Arielle Stambler at: astambler@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.