Probably the very latest book on retirement communities to roll down the presses is retired realtor Ruth Alvarez's 2012/2013 book with the mysterious title and clarifying subtitle, FIND THE RIGHT CCRC FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CONTINUING CARE RETIREMENT COMMUNITIES.
Here is a sampling of a mere eight from among the 33 short unnumbered "chapters" or sections of FIND THE RIGHT CCRC...
My eight selected topics for you are not necessarily "better" than the other 25, but often contain ideas either somewhat new to me or notably well expressed. After grasping the gist of these fragments you will, I trust, know enough to decide whether you want to learn any more, including the entirety of this first-rate little book.
First, what is a CCRC - Continuing Care Retirement Community? We find out in the chapter called
-- Three Types of Care...beginning on page 10:
On one campus if not literally under one roof any approved CCRC offers
(A) INDEPENDENT LIVING. You choose a house or apartment, pay your bills and come and go whenever you like. You might have a chapel on the grounds.
(B) ASSISTED LIVING (AL). You can still come and go when you like, drive your car, eat out. But you need a bit of extra help, and you pay for it. Maybe you need help getting dressed, taking a shower, getting in and out of a wheelchair.
(C) SKILLED NURSING FACILITY (SNF - a MEDICARE term). Here in some sense MEDICARE and MEDICAID call the shots. Residents require much more: maybe intravenous medications, health monitoring, rehabilitation. "...the average cost for a private room in 2010 was $229 a day or $6,965 per month" (12).
NOTE: "The CCRC concept was developed more than a century ago by religious and fraternal organizations that told their elderly members - 'if you'll give us all your assets, I'll take care of you for life'" (17).
-- Four Things to Know about Yourself...6
Where and how do you prefer to live? In what sort of climate? What is your preferred housing? House, Apartment? How large? One bath, two? One bedroom, two, three? Covered parking? Washer-dryer in your lodging? Full kitchen?
Are you a rebel? Can you follow rules set by others? (4). Can you live surrounded by older people? Your new residence's friends will all be old and growing older. Some will die. "Bottom line: If you don't know yourself, buying into a CCRC is an expensive way to find out" (9).
Who Lives in a CCRC?...34
On average, people move into CCRCs at age 80, but that is declining. (FYI: I myself was 69 and my wife 65 in 2004 when we moved here into Highland Farms Retirement Community outside Asheville, North Carolina.)
Across the USA most new residents have college degrees. "Two-thirds of the new residents (in 2012) were women" (34). Every CCRC has more women residents than men. Half of residents have net worth of at least $300,000. Most chose to move to CCRCs out of concern for growing current or future health needs.
Who owns CCRCs? Beyond 80% are not for profit. More than 50% are faith-related. Among the latter, "21 percent are Lutheran; 18 percent are Methodist, 14 percent are Presbyterian and 12 percent are Catholic" (35). Beyond 98% of residents profess to be satisfied with their living arrangements.
Seven Things You Should Look For in any CCRC...36
The author professes to be almost alone in making one important recommendation: "See how they treat their staff!" (36). You want to live in a CCRC with low staff turnover, where employees are valued, rewarded and well trained. You do not want to be served by surly, discontented employees.
Gay and Lesbian Retirees...51
FYI: I have read no other writer on CCRCs with such explicit tips for gay and lesbian residents. Most States offer certain legal protection. But Bottom Line: "Laws are one things. Attitudes are another. Take your time and find a community that will accept you. They're out there" (53)
Affinity CCRCs - Alumni, Military and Religion...54.
Affinity CCRCs exist. Washington, DC has an Armed Forces Retirement Home. "... if you're a Catholic, the Alexian Brothers have a life care community in Signal Mountain, TN," near Chattanooga (56). Landow House in Rockville, MD appeals to Jewish residents, though all faiths are welcome (56).
Four Storm Clouds on the Horizon...65
What are megatrends in America to keep our eyes on?
"People are living longer" (65). Where will qualified staff come from? People are filing more lawsuits. Liability insurance claims against CCRCs have risen 8%/year since 2004. General accounting standards are changing. Implications are not entirely clear.
Taking the Tour...79
By this stage you know roughly where you want to live. You have used the internet to take visual tours of candidate CCRCs. You have their literature. You are now ready, checklist in hand, to put your boots on the ground and find your dream retirement community.
Is the candidate for profit? Not for profit? Well financed? Have no more than ten items on a list that really mean a lot to you. Take written notes to use to compare the candidates for your money.
On arrival, note what the neighborhood is like. Is it noisy? How far to the nearest good hospital? Are the grounds well kept? Do you like the meals?
Talk to residents. What is their take on the facility: its cooks, activities director, dining room waiters, people who clean the living quarters? How good is security, especially after dark? How hard will it be for you to keep up a favorite pastime --tai chi, golf, tennis, dancing, swimming, etc. -- either on CCRC campus or not too far away?
Be sure to tour and ask questions about the assisted living (AL) and Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF).
By contrast with certain other books about continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), Ruth Alvarez's work is detached, unemotional, objective and factual. It does not abound with gushing examples of the author's trials and mistakes or the woes that a niece suffered through when trying to persuade her parents to move into a retirement community.
The book is not encyclopedic, but it is an excellent first crack at a subject more and more Americans are finding salient, what they "need to know about continuing care retirement communities."
What did you think of this review?