When Karen Mauro talks about her partner Jim Espinosa, there’s laughter in her voice. And happiness. And most definitely love. “Jim’s a joy to be with. I just love him,” she says, with her signature North Carolina chuckle.
That’s the beauty of life at The Covington, an ECS senior living community in South Orange County’s Aliso Viejo – that two people can find love in their 80s and live a rich, vibrant life together within an outgoing and active community. This is a story of Karen and Jim. But it’s also about the indelible connections residents at The Covington make with one another, and how that makes for a very lovely life.
But, first, let’s back up.
Karen, a former nurse, marriage and family therapist, and religious educator, and her late husband Tom moved into The Covington in 2017. Tom was a family physician who loved to play beach volleyball and travel the world. But his health and memory were in decline and Karen knew it was time to make a move.
“I had heard about The Covington through friends who had convalesced here after surgeries,” says Karen. “Everyone said it was the most fabulous place they had ever been – the care, the food; they couldn’t praise it enough.”
“One day, I received bad news regarding a blood test. The report turned out to be erroneous, but nevertheless, it got me thinking: what if I go first? What’s going to happen to Tom? What’s going to happen to our kids?” So Karen made the decision to leave the ocean views of Laguna Beach for the mountain views of The Covington. It ended up being one of the best decisions of her life, she says.
“When I moved to The Covington, it was such a relief to be there. I was personally falling apart as a caregiver and Tom needed more care than I could give him on my own,” says Karen. “The nurses, doctors, and Chaplin here did a tremendous amount to help me get back on my feet.”
At first, Karen and Tom lived together in The Covington’s independent living. After six months, however, Tom moved to The Covington’s full-time memory care facility. Sadly, Tom passed away in April 2018.
But there was a silver lining, Karen says. She met other couple friends at The Covington who were going through a similar experience – one spouse in declining health, the other serving as a caregiver. The friends became informal support group for one another and the powerful connection has endured. “We all support one another, we all understand. And we’re all so thankful that we’re here.”
After Tom’s passing, Karen kept busy. She participated in exercise classes, became president of the resident’s association, and was active in The Covington’s social life.
Two years later, Jim, a former businessman and avid golfer, moved into The Covington. Because of her involvement in the Resident’s Association, Karen knew just about everyone in the community. So, when she noticed the new face at The Covington, she introduced herself. Turns out, Jim’s best friend was one of Tom’s best friends, and they had a lot of the same friends in common.
Soon, Karen and Jim were attending the same exercise classes and Monday Night Football gatherings in The Covington’s lounge. Karen invited Jim to a few events at The Laguna Playhouse, of which Karen is a supporter. After one such event, Jim and Karen went out to dinner and got to know each other better. When they returned to The Covington, Jim gave Karen a little kiss. The rest, they say, is history.
“The two of us thrive on each other,” says Karen. “Jim’s attitude toward life is very positive. He’s one of those people who builds others up.” When asked how he’s doing, Jim’s trademark reply is, “Never been better.” His optimism and warmth make him a friend to many.
Together, Karen and Jim have traveled all over the States, meeting one another’s families and college friends. They’re a fixture at The Covington gatherings, frequently attend off-site events around Orange County – and they still go to exercise classes together.
There’s even more to love at The Covington
One of the things that initially drew Karen to The Covington was the vibrant lifestyle. Because, although her husband’s health was failing, Karen was active and wanted a lifestyle to match. She found it here.
The programming and amenities at The Covington are designed to keep residents creatively, physically, and socially active. They include resident-run clubs, an art studio, game room, indoor pool, a concert venue, an endless itinerary of exercise classes, a community garden, walking trails throughout the 12-acre campus, and much more.
“You can live life to the fullest and live up to your potential here,” says Karen.
What’s more, complementary transportation means residents can get out on the town whenever they’d like. “A group of us like to go to the theater on Saturday afternoons. The limo bus drops us off right in front and picks us up as soon as the event is over.”
Dining is a world-class experience at The Covington, featuring meticulously-planned menus and impeccable service. Residents gather at one of The Covington’s three award-winning dining areas: The Grandview gourmet restaurant, The Cove bistro, or Grandview Lounge.
“Living here is like being in a luxury hotel or the highest-end cruise ship you can imagine,” says Karen.
Connections of a lifetime
The Covington, Karen says, is a place of friendships.
“People come from all over the world to live here, from all sorts of fascinating backgrounds.”
Whether they’re bonds made through a shared hobby, through a support group, or even a romantic relationship like Karen and Jim’s, meaningful connections abound at The Covington.
“People love one another here, like we’re a big family,” says Karen. “It’s a good place to come for the rest of your life.”
And that sounds just lovely.