Selecting a Retirement Center

Question: Dear Luise: My husband and I are in our seventies and in pretty good shape. We are trying to wade through the hype from the local retirement communities to decide which is the best. We don’t know if it’s even time to be thinking about this. Everyone tells us we don’t need to make this move yet because we don’t need any help and are doing fine on our own. We feel like maybe that’s the time to do it, but we’re not sure. We see on your site that you live in a retirement community. Any feedback? Lou Anne

Answer: Dear Lou Anne: How much time have you got? (Just kidding.) My husband and I were in the same boat ten years ago. He was 84 at that time and I was 68. We were happy, healthy and independent. Actually, we still are. We were full-time RVers for six years but a very serious medical emergency, far away from kith and kin, brought us up short regarding that life style. We thought it through and bought into two camping clubs, each allowing six months residency. That worked fine, but soon we saw other seniors having to move to assisted care and realized that our accommodations were too limited. From there, we tried two retirement centers that didn’t have a nursing home as part of the facility. Again we saw people having to relocate because assisted care wasn’t enough, so we finally got it and moved into a Continuous Care Community. We have everything from private residences to an eighty-one, bed nursing home, plus HUD housing should our income ever take a disastrous dive.

Beyond that, we found out that a non-profit facility offers a lot more opportunity for volunteering, and that’s what keeps us young. Last year, the residents here put in 40,000 hours of volunteer work, taking care of each other and helping run the campus. That’s equal to about 20 full time employees. We work on the grounds, wait table in the dining room, plan and execute programs, answer phones, sing in choirs and play in bands, clerk in the campus grocery store, visit people in nursing who have no families…the list is endless. It is our experience that you can’t come too soon, but that many come too late. There’s fun to be had here and peers to play with. We have a lovely place with a teacup view of Puget Sound and many of us have pets. Our kids resisted the idea but we wanted to decide where and when, and stay in the driver’s seat for as long as possible. Now, they think it was their idea and look forward to getting on the waiting list when they are eligible, not when it’s all over but the shouting. Hope this helps. Blessings, Luise

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