After retiring, my wife and I moved from our home in Seattle to Tucson, where we lived in an active senior retirement community and stayed for 15 years. About six years ago, at age 73, we began to discuss and consider our options for where and how we would like to live when we reached our 80s and 90s.
We watched many neighbors stay in their homes too long and struggle with housekeeping and yard care, and we saw how some who could no longer drive were stranded without the help of someone driving them. We realized that we had no relatives who would be up to caring for us if necessary, and we have no long-term care insurance.
We thought about where and how we wanted to live in our later years. Although we loved our two-story Tucson home, we felt that at some point we might need increasing levels of in-home care that would become very expensive. The other concerns with in-home care were that we would become more isolated with little social contact and that housecleaning, cooking and maintenance would become burdensome and require outside help at more cost.
We decided that a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) might be the right answer for us. Over the next five years, we visited over 20 CCRCs, both in Tucson and the Seattle area, as most of our children and grandchildren live within easy driving distance of Seattle. We learned a lot in those visits and researched many other places online.
Our research online also gave us good suggestions on what questions to ask on our visits. CCRCs have residential living in apartments and/or cottages, and also have assisted living and memory care if such support becomes necessary. There is a large variety in terms of cost and quality, and there are both for-profit and nonprofit organizations behind them.
We learned some things that became important. CCRCs will only accept an application from people who are healthy enough to live in independent living, so we knew we would need to make a decision while we were still relatively healthy. We also learned that some CCRCs have a policy that they will still take care of you if you outlive your money.
On one of our several trips to Seattle, we visited Judson Park, a CCRC in Des Moines, Wash., a suburb a few miles south of Seattle. It turned out to be very nice and attractive, with great views of Puget Sound. We did a quick drop-in tour, and the next day came back for a formal visit and tour.
Judson Park is part of the nonprofit Human Good organization that has been in the business for over 60 years with a total of 17 CCRCs in the Western states. One key for us was that Judson Park will continue to care for you if you outlive your money, even if you have moved into assisted living, memory care, or 24-hour care. Without long-term care insurance, this was a big factor in our decision.
So after several weeks of considering and discussing, we made the commitment to apply and eventually move to Judson Park. After living here for a year and a half, it is a great relief not to worry about home maintenance and yard care, and we do not miss cooking and cleaning.
Life in a retirement home is anything but boring. We are as busy as we want to be with fitness classes, continuing education lectures and trips, social interaction with our neighbors, and volunteer activities.
With the earliest baby boomers turning 71 in 2017, it is expected that the demand for CCRCs will grow, with less availability and increases in price. In fact, Judson Park now has a waiting list for the first time in many years.
Whether anyone eventually decides on a CCRC, we both believe it is well worth checking them out. As mentioned, we starting looking into them five years before making a decision, and we are glad we did, as we now feel the time was right when we made the move at age 78.
And our advice to anyone is, “Don’t wait too long.”
"Choosing Senior Living" is a special series of Senior Correspondent and myLifeSite (www.mylifesite.net). Share your firsthand account of the senior living decision-making process. Send articles of 400 to 600 words to firstname.lastname@example.org.