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Touring a Senior Independent Living Facility
My sister-in-law, a widow and some years older than me, recently arranged a tour of a local independent-living facility. A couple of other relatives and I tagged along for moral support and to see what it was all about. By the end of the tour I didn’t want to leave!
This was a higher-end facility, so not cheap. But it had an interesting approach that I did not know about. Yes, you pay a substantial entrance fee, and a hefty monthly service fee. And to get in you have to show that you can handle your own hygiene, medications, and be mobile enough to get from your apartment to the common area where the dining and activity rooms are. But in addition to the independent living section, there is also an assisted-living wing, and a rehab center. If you have been admitted, and need more care, you don’t pay any extra – your monthly service fee remains the same! You can move to the assisted living wing, or get rehab for as long as you need it, and your costs don’t change.
So the monthly service fee is less like rent and more like insurance. You start our paying more to be there than it really costs, and so subsidize those who use way more services. (If you’ve ever priced nursing home care you know that it can be very expensive.) But paying more up front can be worth it because if your needs change – and let’s face it, they will – you are covered.
The facility itself was great, worlds better than an old-school nursing home. The apartments range from little studios to spacious two-bedroom units. They have kitchens, their own laundry, and balconies. You can make your own meals or go to the dining room and pay very reasonable prices. There are all kinds of activities you can participate in if you want. There’s a library, a greenhouse, a game room. You can have your own car, but there are also shuttles to the supermarket, movies, etc.
And this is Western New York – we get blizzards. They have food stocked up. They have generators. You can ride out a storm and never have to go outside or be bothered by it.
Loneliness is an issue for the elderly, especially those who have lost a spouse. I can see the attraction of having people around to have meals and socialize with. You live longer when you’re not alone. They have residents in their 60s up to over 100.
I’m not ready for this kind of thing yet, but I could see doing it some years down the line. Imagine the peace of mind: no worries about home maintenance, you don’t have to cook if you don’t want to, you’re set if there’s a storm. You have company. When your health declines, arrangements have already been made and it’s affordable. You’ll still have the same people around you.
During the tour we chatted with some residents, and they were all very happy to be there. (Our guide assured us they were not paid shills!) In the end my sister-in-law was not sold on the idea, but I was. Getting in involves 10% down and about a two-year wait, so it’s worth considering before you actually need it.Published in General
I am ready for it. Which is why we checking out a Colorado Springs elder coop in a few months. Which includes me and my wife. And they will let the dog come.
My wife and I have been living in a facility such as this for the last four years.
Best move we’ve ever made.
Where? Might skip Colorado if cheaper.
Right in the heart of lovely Appalachia. Between Columbus and the Ohio River.
Western New York, you say? I was in Buffalo this afternoon visiting my still very independent 94 yr old mom. She is blessed. I brought her tomato and pepper plants for her garden. She still drives, lives independently, and for the most part maintains her 1 acre lot and private home.
Some day… We might need this place. maybe for me and my siblings, before Mom does…. PM me the name and location, please.
My sister used to have a company that provided mandatory dental care at retirement/nursing homes. She may have additional “inside” info about the facility you toured.
Nice country. And our daughter in Nashville. Will check it out if Colorado Springs does not work out.
We’ll be right here. You can reach us at BR 549.
My aunt and uncle lived in a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Florida. It was part of a chain of CCRCs that were mostly located in the Midwest.
You “bought” your apartment and then paid monthly fees. The apartments (like the ones described above) ranged from studios to fairly large 2 BRs. Included was one meal a day at the dining room. You had a choice of prices for your apartment. The higher price allowed you to leave 75% of the apartment to your estate. When the CCRC resells the apartment, your estate gets the funds. The lower price simply returned the apartment to the community.
If you had surgery, afterwards you would stay in the Healthcare Center as long as needed. Or if you needed to, you could stay there until you passed away. They also built a Memory Center for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
These CCRCs had certain criteria that allowed them to have a particular certification. Because of that, if you ran out of money for your monthly fees, they would begin to charge those fees against the apartment value. However, even if you
“spent” the total value of the apartment, they cannot evict you.
It was a good situation for them. However, it turns out that the CCRC is in no hurry to sell the apartments with the 75% return, as long as they have other inventory without the 75% return. It’s been 2 years since their death and their apartment still has not sold.
My dad moved into a retirement place. Meals were included and were great. We went through it all, retirement, rehab, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. Once you become a fall risk, you must go to skilled nursing care. At this point, couples are separated because usually the other doesn’t need that expensive level of care. At least combining retirement and assisted living is a better solution. With the aging population, these are springing up all over. You don’t have yard and maintenance worries.
I’ve lived in an independent living retirement center since 2013, and, as the OP says they are a great option for older persons, especially for those of us who are widowed. It becomes a community of peers, avoiding the loneliness that often accompanies the loss of life partner.
These communities vary a great deal in what they offer, and the costs, so it is necessary to shop around before settling.
We agree – look carefully. My mother-in-law lived for 12 years in a (rental based) community developed in the 1970’s specifically for the area’s orthodox Jewish demographic. It was well designed and had the same tiered services set up, through assistance and a memory care section. She loved living there after my father-in-law died (she was very social and was soon a queen bee) and we were satisfied that she was safe and not anxious. She loved the poker games.
Before moving in – especially if it’s a buy in – have a solid understanding of the ownership structure, their capitalization and any contracted management arrangements. Both can change over time and affect care. The staffing is a high turnover model with many non-native speakers. MaryPat’s community (with desirable real estate)had been sold twice before she moved in 2003. It was sold while she lived there and management also changed. It’s important to have a very clear understanding of all the financial arrangements, as @eb describes, and to remember that the property owner intends to be profitable.
Subject to the cautions by @eodmom about making sure you understand the facility’s financial structure, my aunt and uncle had a very positive experience with such a facility in Lynchburg, Virginia.
When my uncle’s health declined and he had to move first into the assisted living section, and then to the skilled nursing section, my aunt (who stayed in their apartment) could still spend much time with my uncle because he was still in the same building. And a surprising benefit was that the friends my uncle had made while in independent living could also visit frequently when he moved into assisted living and then skilled nursing care.
My cousins loved it because it eliminated for them most of the angst over when and where to move their parents when their health declined.
Wow! My grandmother lived independently until she was 85. I don’t think I even aspire to that!
Sounds like Kendal in Ithaca. I have several friends up there.
It’s close to Cornell, so lots of retired professors and such. Someone told me that at one point twenty years or so ago there were five Manhattan Project scientists retired there at the same time. If true, an interesting fluke.
My grandmother lived well alone until 85, not so well independently until 90, and the last ten years in my parents’ addition and then in a few years in a private rest home. The rest home was small, a house with maybe 5 or 6 rooms, and she was very well taken care of. So in all, very good for a century of living.
I didn’t get into those details, but the place I visited had similar policies. I figured that this must be a fairly standard way of doing things. I just never knew about it.
A few years ago I was looking at a list of the largest construction projects in the Buffalo area and the majority were senior living facilities! It’s a growth business for sure.
That’s one thing I really like about this. The arrangements are all in place, and moving from one room to another in the same facility minimizes the adjustment. The same people are around you, and if your mobility permits, you can still participate in the same activities.
I don’t have kids to help, so if that time comes for me, I’d rather have things set up before they became urgent.
Sounds like the Riderwood facility in Silver Spring, Md where my parents moved. It is one of several ‘Erickson Communities’ with the same ownership plus monthly charges. What impressed me was the ease with which several types of support were provided. My father had heart surgery and moved into a recovery unit while my mother stayed in their apartment in the same location. When my mother (surprisingly) died first, my father stayed in the same apartment until he needed more intensive assisted care where he stayed until he passed away. All of this was available in the same facility. My parents enjoyed it very much.
I think Mrs. Spring and I are closer to her father’s view – he didn’t want to go to any sort of ‘home’, since they were full of ‘old people’. ( He was in his 90’s at the time. )
I’d love to figure out a way to stay in our place with the deer, foxes, birds, trees and other interesting things until I can’t any more. The problem is that there seems to be about a 2 year waiting period.
BTW, one interesting aspect of this is the decluttering necessary. My wife and I would have to get rid of probably 90% of the stuff we’ve acquired over all these years to move from our house to a one-bedroom unit at this place.
But that’s a good thing!
The facility even gives you referrals to decluttering services to help you make the move. They can give you a realistic estimate of how much stuff you can put in your new digs.
Before urgent is very important. You are as healthy as you will ever be right now and as calm and capable as needed to choose for yourself and make a very big change. You’re healthy until you’re not and only you know what is most important to you and what trade offs you’re willing to make. I visited perhaps 6 residences with my mother-in-law and it was surprising how quickly you could sense the ambiance or culture of the set up. Consider the proportion of independent to assisted units: that way you’ll know how many people similarly situated there will be if you move there. Consider how close it is to places and things you currently do – or are likely to do if you change geography too. If it’s a buy-in ask for data about the resale of turnover units or how many similar facilities there are nearby.
I think good attitude and choosing for yourself goes a very long way for making a big change like this a success. Congratulations on seeing ahead and seeing good choices.
I’m ready for it. I’m only 52 and still do endurance sports, but I hate having 20-somethings, fresh out of college, as neighbors.
Do any of them include a rifle/pistol range? Asking for @Zafar.
Much does depend on the individuals. Mrs. Tabby’s parents insisted on staying in their long-time house on 1 acre because they hated the idea of living in any type of group setting. Fortunately they found very good (and surprisingly inexpensive) live-in help. It also put a heavy burden on Mrs. Tabby’s sister who was local to their parents. Her parents even refused medical treatment at the end (they were 96 and 97) because medical treatment would mean they would likely die in separate hospital rooms apart from each other. So they stayed in their house to the end, and had a more peaceful for them last few years because of that.
That’s us. Sometime. I will insist on medical treatment now if EODDad wounds himself with the chainsaw.
I have friends who have friends in such assisted living situations and they have found out there were loopholes in the contract that was signed.
If some individual or couple desire to move in, they should have a lawyer read the contract as to what it means that “fees cannot go up.”
Because there can be loopholes – significant ones.
One woman now in her 80’s thought the contract guaranteed that her meals, 3 a day if she wished, would be free. But it turns out that was not in the contract. So as of May 1st 2023, each meal is $14.95 a piece. With future raises possible!
With advancing age it is harder to read the fine print.
My aunt and uncle were at a big one. They were required to have a meal plan with at least one meal per day in the dining room. They chose lunch to start. That helps the staff keep an eye on resident condition
The financial model seems sound. They make a ton of money off you while you are healthy and many people just quickly die without needing to be in the higher care levels.
Uncle died of an aortic rupture when otherwise healthy in the independent living section. Aunt had a fall (just as she was being moved to the assisted living wing from the independent living wing), had complications from a hip replacement, spent 3-4 months in the high level of care section and then was the first or second person there to die of C19.
In this case, not sure there was fine print.
The meals were supposed to be included “for free” inside the per monthly fee.
But somewhere in the contract was a way for the management to reneg on that deal. So now she faces either once again making her own meals or else paying 45 bucks a day to eat the facility-provided meals.