Channelling Kermit the Frog a bit, "It's not that easy being green growing old."
My wife and I are in our late sixties. We've been trying to figure out where we should live for quite a while, certainly since I wrote "I'm 65. Where's my 'Aging Hippie' retirement community?" back in 2013. (For all my posts on this subject, including this one, scroll through this blog's Retirement Community category,)
We've toured five retirement or continuing care communities in the Northwest, four in Oregon, one in Washington: Hillside in McMinnville; Panorama in Lacey, Washington; Touchmark in Bend; Mary's Woods in Lake Oswego; and most recently, Capital Manor here in Salem.
There's a signed "Wait List Agreement" from Capital Manor sitting by my laptop at the moment. I was all set to take it over to the salesperson yesterday, but then emailed her, saying we needed a few more days to think about forking over $5,000 to get on a waiting list for a three-bedroom house.
It isn't the money that created qualms, since all but $500 of the $5,000 is refundable if we changed our minds about Capital Manor.
Rather, it's the quandary of what retirement-living path we want to head toward -- knowing that whatever decision we make, life may have a different future in mind for us. (Not that life actually has a mind, we're irreligious.)
When we met with the Capital Manor salesperson last Wednesday, I arrived at her office first, since my wife and I drove separately.
As we were waiting for Laurel to show up, I shared my usual commentary when we visit a retirement community. Proving that my memory is still pretty damn good, what I said was almost exactly what I wrote last year in "Why it makes sense for seniors to postpone living in a retirement community."
The bold-faced parts are quotes that I disagreed with from a story that amounted to a sales pitch for retirement communities.
(1) "There are advantages to making the transition at a younger age." This assumes that seniors know the future. Which, of course, nobody does. I don't know how long I'm going to live, or what the cause of my death will be. What if I moved into a retirement community that I wasn't really wild about because I envisioned myself growing old and infirm there -- then died in a head-on crash with an out-of-control semi on the freeway a year or so later?
My last thought would be, "Shit, I shouldn't have moved, because I could have spent my last year happier in our rural home, rather than in the retirement community, and now I'm about to di..."
Us baby boomers came of age in the live for the moment 1960's. Now we're in our 60's. Planning ahead is fine. However, so is enjoying life right here, right now. Finding the balance between planning for a possible future, and living in the reality of the present moment, this is a central dilemma for seniors.
Our leaning is toward now, a more vibrant reality than could be.
...(3) Moving when you're younger and more able-bodied also allows for the opportunity... To be with older and less able-bodied people in a retirement community. This is a fact.
My stock line when we talk with a salesperson who has just shown us around a retirement community is, "Thanks for the tour. You've got a nice place here, but I'm freaked out by how many old folks we saw."
That's meant to be humorous. But I'm also serious.
It's depressing for me to see old people getting around with walkers, and sitting at card tables playing something-or-other on a nice warm sunny day. I realize that this often is what happens with increasing age. But since my wife and I are pretty darn healthy at the moment, and don't feel as old as our driver's licenses say we are, we look upon retirement communities with a decidedly wary eye.
Capital Manor is a continuing care community. Meaning, they offer nursing home, memory care, hospice and other services, in addition to being a retirement community. '
The catch is that continuing care communities have something in their contract that is akin to a pre-existing condition exclusion in an insurance policy. You have to be able to live independently when you buy in to Capital Manor. This makes sense, because otherwise people would wait until they needed nursing home care, or whatever, before they signed up to join a continuing care community, thereby vastly increasing the cost of caring for the pool of residents.
But the real problem for us is what I said in (1) above.
We aren't wild about the independent living homes at Capital Manor, or any other retirement community we've visited. Where we live now is much more attractive and comfortable. Plus, we have nature trails and a lake right outside the doors of our rural home on ten acres.
So moving into a retirement or continuing care community entails a gamble on our part that we'd live long enough, and head downhill physically or mentally enough, to need the health care services that such a community provides. And these services would have to be better than what we could obtain by "aging in place" in our own home.
It's a tough decision. We're leaning to sort of splitting the difference by more avidly looking into the possibility of buying a house inside the Salem city limits and selling our rural house.
Our goal, and it may be kind of difficult to achieve, is to find a house in town that has the same vibe as our much-beloved rural house. That is, the house and its surroundings should have flavors of naturalness, trees, relaxed, walkable, dog-friendly, large windows, and as quiet as possible, given the realities of city life.
A realtor is coming to our house next Monday to look it over, give us a sense of what we could get for it, and advise us on how to move forward with our plans.
Of course, we're going to have to tell him that our plans are flexible.
We have no interest in moving just for the sake of moving. A new house has to scream Yes, Yes, Yes to us, not I'd be OK, probably. So far no retirement or continuing care community has spoken to us in that fashion, which is why we're leaning toward finding an easier-to-maintain house in Salem.