“One lady told us about having four children of her own and three adopted. We had dinner with a couple, and he pulled out the chair for her. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen.
“I want someone to pull out a chair for me someday.”
Marilyn Leist, Ingleside’s executive director, said the primary reason for accepting the players was the promise of bond between young and old.
“I see relationships develop, and it’s a beautiful thing when young people can embrace it as a positive,” she said.
Resident Shirley Baker, 84, attended the team’s VIP fan event hosted by Ingleside last week. “We’re looking forward to learning from the girls,” she said, “and maybe they will understand more about us.”
Ingleside is an active community, belying the perception of a sedentary elderly home. (An additional 60 residents do rely on assisted-living services or comprehensive care.)
“When you hear ‘retirement community,’ your mind swings to ‘nursing home,’ ” said Steve Gurney, an elder-care advocate and publisher of “Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook,” a Washington Post subsidiary. “A lot of people are scared to walk into such a place. But it’s a great opportunity to look at senior living and break the age segregation.”
Gurney proposed the idea to Ingleside after learning from local fitness director Kevin Boyle that the Spirit was searching for temporary housing on short notice.
At first, Leist was skeptical. “I didn’t know what it was going to do,” she recalled.
Gurney then showed her an ESPN report about Josh Faiola, who, while pitching for the minor league Lake Erie Crushers in 2009, lived with his wife at an assisted-living facility. The couple forged deep ties with the residents.
After viewing the video, “I was sold,” Leist said. “If we have a spare room, I would do it again and again and again.”
‘We got lucky’
Gayle and Matheson wanted an apartment-style arrangement instead of living in a spare bedroom or basement. They got more than they expected: 1,800 square feet with weekly cleaning service and access to planned activities.
“I can’t wait to learn how to play bridge,” said Matheson, 29, an economics major at Princeton.
Upon visiting Ingleside for the first time, Spirit captain Lori Lindsey, a Capitol Hill resident who did not request housing from the team, said: “This is so posh. How do I get in here?”
The players’ china cabinet is stocked with permanent vases and stemwear, but Matheson added a personal touch: her bronze medal from London.
“We got lucky. It’s a great place,” Spirit General Manager Chris Hummer said. And with the players living with elders, “it’s like the ultimate soccer moms.”
When they moved in, the players were greeted by residents and staff and presented with signed posters. One wrote, “Think of us as your extra grandparents.”
In exchange for housing, the Spirit will provide residents and staff with 20 tickets to each of the team’s 11 regular season home games. The club will distribute an additional 300 tickets for a designated game late in the season.
The residents can’t wait.
“When they told us the young ladies were moving in, I said: ‘What? Soccer players? Well, that’s great. When do they arrive?’ ” said Baker, who has lived at Ingleside for 21
2 years. “I grew up in Kansas. I didn’t know anything about soccer. My grandson was a goalie. I am excited to see [the Spirit] play.”
Some of the residents have a competitive streak.
When Gayle and Matheson returned from a scrimmage against Duke, a female resident asked how they had fared.
“We tied,” Gayle told her.
The response: “Tied? Come on!”
Reflecting on the broader experience, Matheson said: “We got the better end of this deal. There are some amazing people here.”