Why Every Retiree Should Consider a Retirement Community

There are certain adages you may recall your parents saying when you were a child: “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” “Things are not always what they seem,” plus, of course, “You won’t know until you try.”

Clichés are repeated again and again because most often, they are true. And it just so happens that these three sayings don’t just apply to the important lessons of childhood — many adults would do well to adhere to these proverbs as they go through life.

In fact, it recently struck me that seniors who are considering their various senior living options may want to keep these very adages in mind as they ponder the possibility of moving to a retirement community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community).

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

When you hear the phrase “retirement community,” what comes to mind? Perhaps you envision the nursing home your elderly parents or grandparents were in, with people staring at a TV or eating off of cafeteria-style trays. Or, maybe you think of “a bunch of old people” sitting around all day or playing bingo. (For the record, I think bingo is pretty great!) If this is what you imagine a CCRC or other active living-type retirement community to be like, I would recommend you take time to learn about today’s retirement communities and how, for many, they can even offer a healthier and more holistic lifestyle than the alternatives.

Many people have a negative preconception of senior living that may not match what is currently available in today’s CCRC marketplace. Yes, some of the community’s residents may require a wheelchair or walker, and the on-site availability of a continuum of care services for those who need it is one of the many appealing aspects of a CCRC. But the reality is that a majority of CCRC residents are living active, highly fulfilling lives — a dynamic lifestyle that is encouraged and even supported by the CCRC itself.

Today’s CCRCs offer resident-led activities from lecture series and continuing education classes to volunteer tutoring and various affinity groups…and much more — programs that keep residents mentally and physically active and involved in their larger community.

And that institutional food on a cafeteria tray you were picturing? Retirement communities of today have begun to address this stereotype with gusto. Indeed, improvements to both the dining atmosphere and food quality are hot topics across the industry. In most CCRCs, you will find an array of healthy, freshly prepared menu options, served in on-site settings that range from a dining room, to a bistro café, to a casual pub. In some CCRCs, you may even enjoy gourmet meals prepared by five-star chefs using fresh, locally grown produce.

As you can see, our parents may have advised, don’t judge a book by its cover — and don’t assume the realities of a CCRC will match the outdated idea you have in your mind.

Things are not always what they seem.

Which leads me to my next point: Making an informed decision about ANY topic involves putting all options on the table, gathering the facts about each, weighing pros and cons, and making an educated decision. This methodical process of conducting in-depth research is especially important for your senior living decision.

For example, choosing to remain in your home may seem like a wise choice on the surface. You are comfortable there, both mentally and physically. You may own your home outright, and it seems like the most practical, economical option. Furthermore, you are still independent and active, so you don’t “need” to move to a retirement community.

Yet, many people who have chosen to move to a retirement community report that their net monthly expenses are not much more than they were spending previously; sometimes even less. And they describe how their lives are healthier and more carefree, with the bonus of developing friendships with residents who have common interests and shared life experiences and accomplishments.

And then there are the “what ifs.” What if you are no longer able to manage the upkeep of your home — the housework, the yardwork, the day-to-day maintenance needs? Who will do those chores? Is that a burden you want to put on your adult children, or is that a cost you can afford to incur?

What if you suffer a health issue that prevents you from navigating the stairs to your bedroom, makes it difficult to dress and bathe yourself, or even requires skilled nursing care? Who will assist you with those activities of daily living that you can no longer manage on your own?

Are these caregiving responsibilities you want to put on your adult children or other loved ones, and if not, how much will it cost if you need to pay for either part-time or round-the-clock care in your home? Bear in mind that the national average cost of in-home care is around $3,800 per month, based on just 44 hours of care per week, or around 6 hours per day. Adding in evening hours and overnight care could increase this cost substantially.

On the surface, it may appear that a CCRC will be costlier than just remaining in the home you currently live in, but when you tally up the costs of upkeep and the care services you may one day require, things indeed are not always what they seem.

You won’t know until you try.

Although a retirement community like a CCRC may not ultimately be the right choice for everyone, I think everyone should at least consider it as a senior living option. And while doing diligent research is important to understand contract terms, services, and amenities, the best way to determine if a particular community is right for you is to experience it first-hand.

Once you have narrowed down the possible CCRC options to a select few, spend as much time as you can on their campuses. Take a tour…possibly more than one, and at different times of day. Eat in every one of the dining options, multiple times. Many CCRCs will even allow you to participate in community activities and use some of their facilities if you put down a fairly modest deposit. Use the fitness center. Walk the sidewalks and trails around the community. Talk to current residents to get their impressions of what it’s like to live there.

Many communities offer a guest suite where you can even spend the night on-site to get a true feeling for what it is like to live in the community. Is it clean, up-to-date, and quiet? Do residents seem to be embraced and well-respected by staff. Some providers are clearly better than others, and thus, you can learn a lot about a CCRC by experiencing their guest suite.

There is a New York Times article that addresses the topic of people who were at-best skeptical about moving to a retirement community. In the article, one community resident acknowledged that he had once said to his wife of 45 years, “By God, I’ll sit in the burned-out, firebombed ruins of this home before anybody pulls me out!”

After years of back and forth, he begrudgingly made the move to a retirement community to appease his wife, but since they have settled in, “I’ve done a 180 on this.” A few days after moving in, the man explained, “It just hit me: I really wished my mother or my sister or my aunt could have had this experience, to feel that safe and secure. At that point, it was like a light bulb going on. It was an instant turnaround for me.”

There’s no single senior living choice that’s right for everyone, and ultimately, a retirement community may not be the right choice for you, but when you really weigh things out and hear stories from so many people who are living vibrant and active lives at retirement communities, it’s hard to think that more people shouldn’t at least give it a look with an open mind.

 

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I’m Not Ready Yet

Although the vast majority of people who live in Continuing Care Retirement Communities report that they are happy with their decision, there are many who delay a move indefinitely because they feel they are not ready yet.

Of course, moving to a CCRC is an important decision. It requires appropriate planning and should not be rushed. Yet, delaying the decision too long could mean missing the opportunity because a common entry requirement among CCRCs is the ability to live independently. Furthermore, even if your health remains good, delaying means missing out on many of the benefits that such a community could provide for you in the first place. Click the link above to read more about what CCRCs have to offer and why you may be more ready than you think.


Tip #22 of 50 – A Look Back at 2019 and a Look Forward to 2020

As The Wesley Communities celebrate 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!

Tip #22 of 50 – A look back at 2019 and a look forward to 2020

As we plan for 2020 at The Wesley Communities, I found myself looking back over all that 2019 has brought to us. First and foremost, 2019 was the year where we celebrated our first 50 years of providing excellent housing, care and services for seniors. And we will continue that celebration into this year – 50 plus years of excellent service! We are proud of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Click the link above to read more about our memories from 2019 and our plans for 2020.


The Effects of Not Having a Will

When a person dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, and they have property titled in their name alone, whether it is a boat, house, bank account or a motorcycle, there is a good likelihood that they have made life more difficult and more expensive for their surviving spouse or children. Click the link above to learn more about the effects of not having a Will and why it is important to prepare one ahead of time.


New Year, New You – 2020 Resolutions for Seniors

The New Year has officially kicked off and for many, this is a time to set new goals and to plan for the year ahead. Health is typically one of the main areas people focus on once January rolls around, and while it may be a more obvious goal in the younger generations, it is just as important for our seniors as well.
If you are planning to focus on your health in 2020, set goals that will benefit both your physical and mental health. Typically, there are small changes and adjustments that can be made to your regular routine that will have a lasting, positive impact overall. Click the link above for some New Year’s Resolutions that will help you start 2020 in the right direction.
 


A Neglected Part of Retirement Planning

The term “retirement planning” is frequently used in the financial industry and in the media. But what does it really mean? For some, retirement planning includes strategies for saving and investing to prepare for a future retirement. For others, it may focus more on various methods for tax efficiency and generating income during the retirement years. Of course, to others it may have less to do about money and more about the psychology of transitioning into retirement. Clearly, “retirement planning” is a broad topic.
We would like to encourage you to think about retirement planning from one other perspective. It’s no secret that people are living longer today than before. A seventy-year old in the U.S. today can expect to live another seventeen more years on average, with many living well into their nineties and beyond. With increasing life expectancy comes a greater need for a proactive approach to planning for the later phases of retirement. Yet, this is an area of planning that is often neglected by financial advisors and the general public alike. After all, long-term care insurance, which is owned by only a small fraction of retirees, is only part of a plan. It is not, in and of itself, a plan.
As a society we are still quite reactive in our approach to addressing the lifestyle and healthcare needs that we may face in our later years. We often wait until a significant health event occurs before we begin “figuring it all out” and, almost always, this responsibility then falls on the adult children or other family members who may not have the resources, flexibility in schedule, or emotional capacity to take on such a task.
At The Wesley Communities, we are passionate about seeing our society become better-educated on the various retirement living and long-term care alternatives, and having the necessary discussions with family members and valued advisors about what you might want for your future. We encourage a proactive approach by planning ahead- to the extent possible- for the later phases of retirement. You can begin by taking time to learn the differences between aging at home versus moving to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) or some other type of retirement living choice.
 
 
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Tip #21 of 50 – Holiday Memories and Traditions

As The Wesley Communities celebrate 50 years of excellent service, our CEO Peg Carmany offers “Peg’s Perspective” on a variety of topics affecting seniors and their adult children as they plan and choose to age well – 50 tips to celebrate 50 years!
Tip #21 of 50 – Holiday Memories and Traditions
I have some very powerful memories of the holidays as a child, and I bet you do, too. Click the link above to learn more about Peg’s holiday traditions and why, at The Wesley Communities, you don’t have to give up yours.


How CCRCs Can Ease Retirement-Related Fears

One subject that is frequently voiced among prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs or “life plan communities”) revolves around the stress associated with envisioning and planning for the future, and indeed, it can feel like a daunting task since none of us have the luxury of a crystal ball. The results of a recent survey speak directly to some of these concerns.
Retirement worries
The study was conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), a division of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute, which strives to educate people on retirement security trends in the U.S. This annual survey asked over 5,000 Americans in the workforce about their top retirement/aging-related concerns. Here were the top five responses:

  1. Outliving savings/investments (51 percent)
  2. Social Security will be reduced or cease to exist in the future (47 percent)
  3. Declining health that requires long-term care (45 percent).
  4. Cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (35 percent)
  5. Lack of adequate and affordable healthcare (32 percent)

You can view the complete TCRS study here.
These results run in parallel to a separate survey conducted by Merrill Lynch in 2013 in partnership with Age Wave, and it highlights respondents’ biggest concerns about living a long lifetime. The results were as follows:

  1. Serious health problems (72 percent)
  2. Not being a burden on family (60 percent)
  3. Running out of money to live comfortably (47 percent)
  4. Being lonely (26 percent)
  5. Not having a purpose (21 percent)

You can view the full Merrill Lynch/Age Wave survey here.
Isn’t it more than a tad ironic that while most people hope to live a long life, simultaneously, they are worried about what will happen if that wish comes to fruition?
Useful perspective for financial planners
We hear a lot of talk about the importance of having enough money for retirement–401(k)s, IRAs, etc.–and of course saving should be a crucial part of anyone’s long-term retirement plan. But for me, the most striking aspect of the two studies described above is that several of the concerns voiced by the surveys’ respondents are not related to money or retirement savings, at least not directly.
From the standpoint of financial advisors, that’s a really significant finding. Understanding clients’ pain points around retirement planning can help financial professionals offer better guidance on the issues that matter most to soon-to-be retirees. After all, one of the motivations for planning for the future is to alleviate some of the anxiety about the unknown–and these studies show that people aren’t just worried about their bank account balance. So, financial planners would benefit from understanding the various options, such as continuing care retirement communities and other senior living options that are available for their clients to plan for potential age-related health issues like cognitive and physical decline that could necessitate long-term care.
Alleviating worries for retirees-to-be
But these study results also are noteworthy for people who are themselves approaching retirement age. Perhaps you’re diligently saving to prepare for the future, but it’s those health and wellness “unknowns” that are keeping you up at night. That’s where a CCRC may become a viable option worth considering.
Planning for an eventual move to a CCRC can allay many of the worries that people express again and again about their retirement years (as evidenced by the aforementioned surveys). CCRCs offer their residents access to a continuum of progressive care services ranging from independent living to full-time skilled nursing care…and everything in between…all within the same community campus. Many CCRCs also provide memory care services for people experiencing a cognitive decline related to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This range of care affords tremendous peace of mind for CCRC residents, knowing that they will have ready-access to the level of care they need, if and when they need it, and knowing they will not become a burden to their adult children.
Feeling more confident about future unknowns
It’s understandable and normal to have some worries associated with the aging process and the prospect of retirement­–after all, you’ve never done this before! But many points of anxiety can be alleviated through proper financial planning and understanding the advantages of senior living options like CCRCs, which include the necessary facilities and skilled caregivers to attend to your potential physical or mental health needs down the road.
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Caregiving Tips for the Holidays

Help a Caregiver You Know

  • Offer to help clean and cook, wrap presents, go shopping, or pick up the kids.
  • If your family is caregiving, suggest a potluck holiday meal or secret Santa gift exchange to save time and money.
  • The best gift you could give a caregiver is help. Give them the day off!
  • Remember to say “thank you” to a caregiver and let them know they are appreciated.
  • If a member of your family is caregiving for a relative this holiday season, send a thank you gift.

Click the link above for additional tips for those caring for a loved one during the holidays.


3 Reasons Seniors Delay a CCRC Move & Why They Should Reconsider

According to AARP’s most recent survey of adults age 50 and over, 76 percent of seniors want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. I’ve seen other surveys that put that figure at upwards of 90 percent. Whichever source you consider, the consensus seems to be that a large majority of retirees would prefer to stay in their current home rather than move to a retirement community such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community).

But why?

AARP research identified the most common reasons that people give for not wanting to move to a CCRC or other senior living community. They included: the physical stress in moving, fear of losing independence, anxiety over leaving a community, emotional attachment to a family home, and fear of the unknown.

These findings are not too different from our own research findings. In our 2019 myLifeSite Consumer Survey, we received responses from 430 people who are actively engaged in the process of researching CCRCs for themselves. We found that even when prospective residents of a CCRC feel that making the move is the best choice for them over the long-term, there are a variety of reason that might indefinitely delay the decision to move.

Top 3 reasons for delaying a CCRC move

In our survey, we asked respondents to provide their primary reasons for delaying a move to a CCRC. The top three responses were:

  1. I don’t feel I’m old enough for a retirement community (46.6 percent)
  2. I have concerns about long-term affordability (41.92 percent)
  3. I’m putting off dealing with all my stuff / hassle of moving (34.19 percent)

Many survey participants—approximately 35 percent—also chose to share other reasons for delay in the comments box. Some of the key themes around these write-in responses included: spousal opposition, hard to leave my home/neighborhood, difficulty of moving to a smaller space, waiting for the right residence to come available, and a lack of confidence in the management team.

Interestingly, the survey respondent’s age impacted their reasons for delaying their CCRC move too. For those age 80 and under, not feeling old enough was the top response (47.17 percent), and putting off dealing with all their stuff was third (34.34 percent). For those over 81 and over, dealing with all of their stuff was the top reason (53.62 percent), but even at 81+ years old, 18.84 percent said they didn’t feel old enough for a CCRC.

Reasons to reconsider delaying your CCRC move

Let’s take a look at each of the three most common reasons that people say they are putting off their CCRC move and examine reasons they may want to reconsider their delay.

I don’t feel I’m old enough for a retirement community.

A certain percentage of people will probably never feel like they are “old enough” for a CCRC. I’ve heard people well into their eighties say this. But the reality is that there may be numerous benefits to making a CCRC move sooner rather than later, some of which people often do not fully realize until after the move.

I wrote about this very topic earlier this year, but in short, moving to a CCRC at a younger age allows you to get involved in the community’s many activities and make friendships sooner, can increase your overall wellness, reduces concerns about being healthy enough to qualify for entry, and in general, can make the CCRC transition easier.

I have concerns about long-term affordability.

The cost of a CCRC is an important consideration. With the hefty entrance fee required by most CCRCs on top of the monthly residence fee, many people assume that it will be cheaper to remain in their own home as they grow older. However, this may not always be the case, especially if the entry fee is refundable and if the cost of care is discounted at the CCRC. (Be sure you understand the contract stipulations.)

All of the living expenses that come with remaining in your home (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, food, etc.) plus paying for any in-home assisted living services you may eventually require can really add up. Just 20 hours of in-home care per week (part-time care) can range from around $1,600 to $2,400 each month on top of your other expenses.

Comparing the lifetime cost of staying in your home and the cost of moving to a CCRC is nearly impossible because there are so many unknowns related to the costs of staying at home. For example, will home renovations be needed (to update or to accommodate any mobility issues)? What is the ongoing maintenance expense of the home? And what if you need in-home care? How much will you need and for how long? What will be the financial impact on family members if they must help with caregiving? What if you ultimately must move more than once based on various levels of long-term care needs?

Without a crystal ball, these questions are difficult to answer. However, in terms of getting a quick comparison of your monthly expenses today versus if you opt to move to a CCRC, our “Monthly Cost Impact of Moving to a Retirement Community” downloadable worksheet (PDF) can help.

I am putting off dealing with all my stuff / hassle of moving.

This one is a biggie. And to be honest, I totally get it. Moving is rarely if ever a fun chore, and moving to a CCRC is a big life change. Plus, downsizing to a smaller residence is not only a lot of work, it can be highly emotional for many people. But the reality is that at some point, someone is going to have to sort through all of your possessions and decide what to keep and what to get rid of—either you, your partner/spouse/adult children, or the executor of your estate.

The good news is that most CCRCs provide tremendous resources and support so that the whole moving process is much, much easier on the senior. Just last week, I had someone tell me that they really appreciate some advice I had shared in my book about the value of a move-in coordinator or senior relocation specialist. Many CCRCs have move-in coordinators on staff who act as your personal move liaison, offering recommendations on estate sale companies and movers, answering any questions that may arise, and even providing design services to help you determine what furniture will fit in your new home. A senior relocation specialist may work independently of any particular retirement community. These valuable services typically spring into action once a soon-to-be-resident signs their CCRC contract and submits their deposit.

What’s holding you back?

CCRC residents cite countless advantages of living in a CCRC. Among the top reasons cited by our survey respondents: the health and wellness programs and facilities available on the CCRC campus, the social opportunities presented by the community, and the safety benefits that come with CCRC residency.

However, access to a full-continuum of care services was by far the top reason that people gave for wanting to move to a CCRC. Sixty-three percent of respondents rated this as the number one reason among the given survey choices; in fact, it scored 45 percent higher than the next most popular response (health and wellness programs). The peace of mind that comes with knowing that you will have access to the care services you need—from just a little help with activities of daily living (ADLs) to full-time skilled nursing care—is invaluable to many people.

So ultimately, if you are considering a CCRC but one (or more) of the reasons above is holding you back from making the move, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis of your choice—and by cost, I mean not only monetary but also the emotional and physical cost.

Is the thing that is holding you back from making a CCRC move really an issue? Is it an issue that will get easier or more difficult as more time goes by and you grow older? Or is it a surmountable challenge, or even a relatively minor challenge, if you look at it a little more objectively?

 

 

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