The Bright Side of C.C.R.C.’sBy PAULA SPAN
I wrote last week about an inherent drawback to continuing care retirement communities, or C.C.R.C.’s: Within one facility or campus, residents can graduate from independent living to assisted living to a nursing home — but nobody really wants to.
Readers said they had noticed this phenomenon in their own families’ experiences. Still, several found the concept attractive, if sometimes imperfectly executed. “Imagine what it’s like to have to rent a truck and move all your belongings from one facility to a completely different facility,” Charles Hartshorne said. “I’ve been going through this with my parents, and I will definitely choose continuing care when my time comes.”
I thought it might prove illuminating to hear from someone who actually lives in one of these hybrid communities. So meet Greg and Evelyn Hadley. In 2005, still in their early 70s, they sold their four-bedroom suburban home and moved into independent living at Mary’s Woods, a nonprofit C.C.R.C. in Lake Oswego, Ore.
When their neighbors need to transfer to assisted living, reports Mr. Hadley, a retired businessman and consultant, “I have seen the natural human reluctance to move.” He isn’t sure how he will feel himself, years hence, if an administrator tells him it is time to move.
So far, he said, “I know of no one who’s put up a serious stink when the staff says, ‘You just can’t stay here anymore.’”
The Hadleys are unabashed C.C.R.C. fans. “We have never, ever regretted the move, even though some of our friends thought we were nuts,” Mr. Hadley said.
To quiet the skeptics, he wrote an essay explaining their decision, including this list of theoretical questions and the Hadleys’ responses — a sort of FAQ. I’m passing it along, edited for length.
(It is so rational it may prompt some readers to wish the Hadleys would adopt them, but they already have six children.)
But you are so young and healthy!
Yes, and we are very grateful. But we might not stay healthy forever. We find it very comforting that our community allows us to migrate from our current independent living status into assisted living, skilled nursing and even a memory unit if and when we should require that.
Why would you want to live with a bunch of old people on canes, walkers and scooters?
We learned early on that our neighbors all had very interesting stories to tell and had led accomplished lives. People are not defined by their canes, walkers or scooters. Many are very talented, intellectually stimulating and a lot of fun to be with.
What did you do with all the lovely things you had in your home?
We sold them or gave them away. Our children really didn’t want much of what we had, except for small mementos. We thought a lot of our stuff was important but learned that it wasn’t. Our lives are not defined by what we have accumulated. We want our lives to be defined by who we are.
It costs so much money. How can you afford to live there?
When we sold our home, the equity was more than sufficient to cover the buy-in fee, most of which will be returned to our estate. Planning our move, we carefully considered what would be covered by the monthly charges and what would be eliminated. For example, we no longer have to pay property tax, a gardener, home repairs or utility bills (except telephone). On the other hand, lots of things are included in our monthly charges, like 20 meals per month per person, maid service every two weeks, all repairs and maintenance, a wellness center with up-to-date fitness equipment, a long list of activities. We determined that we spent about $10,000 less on daily living during our first year here than we had the last year we were in our house.
Aren’t you giving up a lot of privacy?
If you seek privacy, it is very easy to find here. All of us have a cocoon called our apartment or villa. If you disdain the social interaction in the hallways, restaurants and other gathering places, that is your choice and no one will nag you about it. For us, the social interaction is one of the very best things about living in our retirement community. We have never felt so much a part of a vibrant community.
You’re going to cut yourself off from all your old friends and neighbors.
Come on, that’s just nonsense. When you moved to a new home or town earlier in life, did you stop staying in touch? Our C.C.R.C. is about 10 miles from where we previously lived. We still see old neighbors and friends and delight in entertaining them here. You will only be cut off if you want to be.
I can count on my children to help me out.
Of course you can; they love you and want what is best for you. But is that what you want? Do you wish to burden them with caring for you while at the same time they are probably raising their own families and are at the most productive time in their careers?
When my wife and I decided to move into a C.C.R.C., just before Christmas, we told each of our six children that our decision represented the most significant gift we had ever given them. Never will they experience the gut-wrenching anxiety of trying to figure out what to do with us. We are in a safe place now. No matter what the future brings, we can receive the level of end-of-life care that we needed. Don’t burden your children with your elderly care. They will be anxious and troubled enough as they walk with you to the end.