The Second Half: Live the good life…in the ‘hood!

November 17, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

Having looked at other choices for living in my Second Half—staying in my home or taking to the road—I decided to explore the world of Senior Housing. In today’s youth vernacular, all I could utter was, “OMG!”

“Senior housing?” Hubby looked stunned. “What…like a nursing home?”

“No, no,” I tried. “There is a whole array of housing options for seniors pre-nursing home: from healthy and fit seniors, to folks needing some assistance.”

He rose from the chair and limped off to the garage muttering, “A little knee problem, and she wants to put me in a home, already!”

See, when the tree fell on Hubby this spring, he sustained some damage to the cartilage in his knee. Surgery is coming up soon, and we’re hoping it relieves the situation, allowing him to walk without pain. Of course, the fallout is me doing all the shopping, cleaning and cooking for the holidays while hauling him to doctor appointments and rehab, and doing all the farm chores…that is, besides my job, my column and the household crap. I’m really excited for him.

You can see why I’m exploring my options! I went to HelpGuide.org for some preliminary information and definitions:

1. Independent living = compact, easy-to-maintain, private apartment or house within a community of seniors

2. Assisted living facility = residents require and receive some help with bathing, dressing, grooming and eating; medical care is limited.

3. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) = independent living in separate houses or apartments, with the addition of both custodial (assisted living) care and medical (nursing home) care as necessary; CCRC residents can move back and forth between facilities as their needs for care change over time.

I had the opportunity to attend a meeting at one of the area’s finest CCRC’s—Wesley Willows. The place was lovely, the grounds were spotless, and the food was delicious. I stole an opportunity to ask a gal who lives in one of the Willow Ridge homes how she liked it. She gushed: “Oh, I love it here! Everyone is wonderful!”

I can see why—it’s like living at the Ritz! Continuing care facilities are the perfect solution if you are concerned about changing needs or if you never want to worry about where you will live someday. SeniorLivingSource.org describes the up- and down-sides:

To join a CCRC, prospective residents sign lifelong contracts guaranteeing they will receive housing, services and nursing care. Many seniors join CCRCs while they’re still capable of living alone. They gain peace of mind knowing that they’ll always have a home and that their needs will always be cared for. … The downside to continuing care retirement communities is they are expensive. The monthly fee for living at a CCRC can range from $400 to $2,500. … Some CCRCs require new residents to pay an initial fee that can be as high as $400,000.

OK, I have no idea how much it costs at Wesley Willows, or any of the CCRCs in the area, but I’m guessing my check-writing pen isn’t big enough. Years of social service, then a mid-life career change to free-lance writing, does not offer me that sort of luxury living arrangement—not now, not never.

My Second-Half pal was lusting over the brochures for a lovely CCRC: “I know I can’t afford one, since the divorce ate up most of my retirement savings, but I can wish for someone rich to leave me enough cash to swing it, can’t I?”

“I’m hoping that, like the iPad and high-definition TV, the price of such places will come down,” I sigh. “Or at least some developer will create a mid-range CCRC, for the average American.”

I can imagine that such a facility will pale in comparison, like the difference between the Hilton and Motel 6. I wonder what living in a “discount CCRC” would be like:

→ Art projects made with toilet paper tubes and discarded water bottles from the landfill;

→ Exercise programs would include picking up trash on the grounds, shadow boxing, and a rousing game of Simon Says;

→ Meals at the on-site café might offer a cook-your-own option with a hotplate and bags of frozen stir-fry;

→ Field trips would include traffic court and shopping excursions to thrift shops and Wal-Mart.

I think I’ll wait to see what the Boomer generation comes up with to take care of me. Meanwhile, I’m checking out independent living options, which include retirement communities, retirement homes, senior apartments, senior housing and independent living communities.

The most helpful of all the sites was at http://www.55communityguide.com/, offering a variety of options including a 55-plus search guide, letting me browse through retirement options from resorts, to RV and manufactured home parks, to affordable communities in a variety of locations. They also have a vast list of retirement articles.

“Here we go!” I called to Hubby. “Country Club Estates in Deming, N.M., is reasonable. … Oh, and Pueblo El Mirage in Arizona will let us come there and try it out first!”

“OK,” he called back, a bit distracted by the Bears game, “Have fun!”

I haven’t bought any tickets, but I’m exploring my options. Besides, if I’m living to be 120, I’ve got a long time before I need to find the perfect place. Meanwhile, I hollered to 20-Something Son, “Work hard and save your money—you’re going to need it to support me in the style to which I want to become accustomed!”

“OK, Mom,” he called out, just before he and Hubby yelled in unison: “Touchdown!!!”

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue

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