MOST OF US REACH a point in retirement where we think about downsizing. This happened most recently for us when my husband was replacing batteries in our smoke alarms. This required him to stand on a ladder and look up, triggering a bout of vertigo.
This and other elder episodes, happening as we try to perform simple, everyday tasks, caused us to rethink our ability to remain in our current home. We’re not decrepit yet, but we are slowly succumbing to the vagaries of aging.
Many retirees choose to move to 55-plus communities. For those a little further down the road, there are assisted-living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. Today, we also have the choice of 55-plus “resort living” communities, described by the owners as “upscale.” Translation: expensive. These are independent living apartments where you pay rent on a month-to-month lease. There’s no buy-in or one-time fee.
These communities are portrayed as “cruise-ship-style living.” The amenities include executive chefs providing three meals a day, an array of snacks, salads and sandwiches for in-between noshers, room service, free wi-fi and utilities, weekly housekeeping and concierge service. Pets are allowed, and there’s a host of additional services.
My interest in this style of living was piqued when construction began on a resort living community close to my home. A friend asked me to accompany her to an information seminar given by the management. I also wanted to learn more about this Utopian-sounding existence. There’s no home upkeep, no cooking or shopping for food, no worrying about home repairs, lawn care, snow removal and so on.
The salesman giving the presentation was top-notch, with a resonant, booming voice that even those with diminished hearing couldn’t fault. It all sounded like Nirvana, but being a “kick the tires” kind of person, I’ve decided to reserve judgment until I can have a look-see after construction is completed. The company has approximately 50 communities throughout the country, but none is close enough for me to visit for an inspection.
The fee for a two-bedroom apartment is $6,500 a month for one person and an additional $1,000 for a second occupant, putting the price tag at $7,500 for a couple. Studio and one-bedroom apartments are less. This monthly fee is subject to an increase of 3% to 5% annually, depending on location and other factors. Not surprisingly, such communities are all located in affluent areas.
Construction for our local community is expected to be completed by year’s end. My friend decided to make a $500 deposit. The deposit can be applied to the first month’s rent and is returnable at any time, no questions asked, or so they say. This is called becoming a “charter member” and comes with various privileges.
I’ve decided to delay any decision until I can check everything out, including the food. The brochure pictured a tasty-looking prime rib dinner. But if they run out, I don’t want to be eating fried baloney sandwiches. Stay tuned.
Excellent article if you are looking for information on retirement plans.This one is very informative on the many choices available. Never considered cruise-ship-style living.
Bob Stinebaugh, M.D. March 19th, 2023
I am surprised that to date no one living in one of these facilities has commented. We moved into an upscale senior facility, The Tradition at Buffalo Speedway in Houston, Texas in July of 2019. We moved from a million dollar two story home in Bellaire, which is a small town in the middle of Houston, where we had a number of friendly neighbors. We had a very large lot which my wife personally landscaped, a good yardman to care for it after it became difficult for us due to our age, 84 for yer and 87 for me. We had no major maintenance problems as we had developed a service specialist for all of our maintenance problems, including a delightful young Latin housekeeper, who came once weekly. We were very comfortable and had planned to remain in our home as long as possible.
However, I became ill with three episodes pneumonias, a couple of episodes of purulent bronchitis and several episodes of purulent laryngitis, all due to a Pseudomonas bacillus which colonizes my respiratory system, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which has required no treatment,but causes a decreased platelet count and depresses my immunity. As my wife could no longer garden, had her hands full caring for me and was tired of cooking, we began looking for a senior living facility. Most of the available facilities at that time were old, or charged a substantial deposit and had waiting lists, The cheaper facilities with no waiting lists were older smaller that we desired and had less desirable features such as a common laundry room.
Fortunately, our duplicate bridge companions told us about a new development which was planned about 5 miles away near the Houston Medical Center. Our daughter-in-law had been suggesting such a move for a couple of years, so we decided to look at it. At the time the developers from Dallas, were making pretensions in a nearby location, but had just started developing the facility so we attended several presentations and a bus trip to Dallas to examine their two facilities. Needless to say the food prepared by their Dallas chef was superb and we were impressed. The building was to be a 5-story building on a large lot with 6 elevators and 6 sets of stairs in case of fires. We were not anxious to move into a high-rise, so liked the layout. We picked out a 2-bedroom with an office and 1500 square feet in area on the fourth floor with a beautiful view. It was very efficient arranged with all required utilities.
We watched it as it was under construction and moved in as soon as it became available. We were quite lucky to have moved in just before the Covid-19 pandemic. The administration was very strict with COVID precautions. All activities were discontinued and we were urged to remain in our apartments, but were not confined as we could leave the facility if we agreed to to take risks. Food was delivered to our apartments, and with these precautions we had only a couple of cases during the first year, when a couple of residents failed to observe recommended procedures. The restrictions were gradually lifted and at the current time each resident is encouraged to follow the regimen with which they are comfortable. I wear a mask and social distance and avoid crowded meeting because of my depressed immunity.
Since then we have lived here happily. It is very similar to cruise living as we have taken over 50 cruises and are very familiar with this experience. The Tradition also has an attached assisted living facility and memory care. There are daily activities of all sorts and frequent trips along with transportation to any medical appointment. I will not expand on the many activities because this essay is already much too long, but will be happy to answer any questions that anyone may have.
Dr. Stinebaugh…how good of you to share your thoughts and experiences with us concerning your living facility.
it certainly sounds larger and grander than the community looked into.
I guess what all HD readers are dying to know is what the cost is of this desirable living style and without appealing too crass, can you enlighten us?
So glad you and your wife have found an easier, more carefree way to live. I hope your health issues won’t hinder your enjoyment and perhaps this new lifestyle will prove to be to your betterment. I wish you both many happy years.
The cost of our 1500 sq foot unit with 2 bedrooms and an office is $6,000 for a single individual with $1,000 for an additional person. This includes a $400 per person restaurant allowance. Breakfast is free and lunch and dinner are charged by the item. We only eat dinner and usually exceed the meal allowance by about $200.
Seems like a lot of money to get food service. What about choosing a nice place with reasonable prices and hire a person to cook meals, or a mail order food service that delivers? Rent increases of 3-5% a year will add up over time. If you have a ton of money, go for it. Otherwise, I bet there are better alternatives out there. Move to a condo and you have no home repairs or upkeep as well. The only benefit here is the unlimited food, so if you do not eat constantly a lot, you’re out of luck. Also, Wi-Fi and utilities are not free. They come out of the $90,000 you pay a year for a 2 bedroom unit.
You made a lot of valid points. And your practical approach makes a lot of sense. Many older people, however, live alone and like the idea of a more secure environment, and the possibility of meeting new people and participating in the planned recreational activities may also be of interest.
I was somewhat curious about this RSL and thought the information might be of interest to HD readers. It’s not an endorsement of this style of living.
Your viewpoint is well taken. Thank you for your input.
Thanks for this article – it opens up yet another choice for those of us who have the opportunity to enjoy a pampered First World lifestyle. First I’ve heard of “resort style” retirement in a physical development but seems only natural that the purveyors of upscale lifestyles would pursue such a course.
You’re welcome, Chazoo. Good to know what’s out there and pampering is a good thing.
I’m not retired yet, but have started looking at retirement communities. The better ones that are within my budget all have 3-5 year waitlists. I’m seriously considering paying an associate membership fee, which puts me on the waitlist and gives me access to some of the activities. The fee would be applied to buy in cost if and when I move in.
correction…blog referred to below is on mylifesite.com—not my lifestyle.com.
Ginger…there is an excellent blog on my lifestyle.net about how retirement community waiting lists work and will give you a more secure footing. Name of blog is When to Get On the Wait List at a Retirement Community.
Marjorie, thanks for the resource (and the article). I just looked and it’s actually at mylifesite.net (not lifestyle).
Michael..thanks for the correction. You have a sharp eye. I thought the article on mylifesite was spot on.
Thank you for giving me a new search term – “resort living communities.” These places sound good but I fear I’m too introverted to be comfortable there.
AmeliaRose, we have one resident at our facility that list “occupied” on the nameplate of their apartment, order all meals to their apartment, and are rarely seen. Introverts apparently do very well in our place. Bob Stinebaugh
AmeliaRose…There are so many choices for retirement lifestyles. I know you’ll find one best suited to your level of comfort.
Thanks for your comments and have fun searching.
[Full disclosure – I wrote the CCRC article linked at the beginning of this one.]
That monthly fee for one person is about 50% more than the monthly fee at the CCRC I expect to enter in the fall, but with no entry fee, in a HCOL area, it probably needs to be. The annual increase is also a bit higher than the historical rise at my CCRC, but it went up 7% this year because of inflation and the need to pay higher wages to keep staff.
What kind of medical care, if any, is available on site? If you need some assistance, short of Assisted Living, do you have to find and pay for the help yourself? What happens when you can no longer live independently?
I assume that if you run out of money you have to leave? My non-profit CCRC promises to keep me, and has a benevolent fund to back up the promise.
I am very wary of for-profit enterprises in this space. Their interests are not aligned with yours. Also, even if this company has squeaky-clean financials, and a good bond rating, there is no guarantee it won’t be taken over by some less well-run company.
BTW, there are people living year round on cruise ships. I recently saw a report on one that will cost $30,000/year for a three year cruise: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/3-year-cruise-mv-gemini/index.html
timetotravel..I really admire your thoroughness and savvy approach to everything.
They do have on onsite pharmacy and some medical assistance you have access to through an agency they partner with and it is on site too. The annual increases concerned me as well.
So many things to consider.
Have not delved into all their policies as yet but my sense tells me your assumptions are correct, as far as running out of money is concerned.
You are right to be circumspect. Your CCRC may be your best choice.
Thanks for your thoughtful and cogent comments.
Thanks, Marjorie! I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on this going forward. It’s such a consequential decision.
Marjorie, thanks for this. We hope to remain in our home of 35 years but it’s good to know what options are out there “just in case”. I look forward to your updates on this one.
Andrew — I feel the same way and I don’t like the thought of moving. But 3 things I ponder for myself: first, if I wait too long I might not be able to either physically qualify for a place I want or they might not have any openings. Second, since it’s (statistically) likely my wife will outlive me, then I’m leaving it up to her to deal with all this when I’m either dead or disabled, and finally third I think it’d be easier to emotionally handle this kind of transition as a couple rather than if she’s alone after I’m gone. The second and third items particularly weigh on my mind as I hate the idea of leaving all this up to my wife to have to handle alone.
I can relate very strongly, Andrew. We’ve been in our home more than 36 years. Outsource a lot of chores we used to handle ourselves and grateful we can but it’s problematic at times. Thanks for your comments.
If “cruise-ship-style living” is the objective and your health is good, it seems like it would be considerably less expensive to just live on cruise ships! All the same services and the scenery changes every day.
Mike – could be something to look into, I have heard of that lifestyle as well.
Some people, however, like staying in the area. My friend who signed up liked the idea of being near her family – and some of us have weak sea legs. Thanks for your comment.
Where are such places?
Dick…if you google Resort Living Communities you’ll find all the locations throughout the country. This new one is in Moorestown, NJ. Still under construction. Nothing else in our area. As far as I can see the nearest one to Moorestown is in the Syracuse, NY area.
Several in Florida and surrounding states.
Waterstone of Westchester (White Plains, NY), which opened last year, is a bit closer to Moorestown. Rent for a two-bedroom is $11,000 with an additional $2,500 for a second person.
Thanks for the information. Although Whitestone ad includes on site restaurant I dont think the cost of meals is included.
Included in rent, that is.
The rent includes a continental breakfast and dinner.
We are moving to Broadview Senior Living in Purchase, NY when it opens in the fall and will be renting an interim apartment in the Waterstone from May-Oct.
Sounds very exciting. Wish you much happiness and thanks for the additional information.
Thanks. Unfortunately, we are moving to a CCRC sooner than we had planned due to my wife’s health issues. However, we feel very fortunate that we can afford to move to an upscale facility that is located on the campus of a college that offers many cultural opportunities.
I’m so sorry about your wife’s health issue but glad you will be moving to a nice facility where life will be easier for both of you. Hope you both will enjoy many happy years in your new home.
That’s a hefty price tag, but when you add in all the goodies, maybe not. A two bedroom – small – apartment a half mile from me goes for $5,000 with no benefits other than a community pool.
Actually, if the promise is fulfilled it may be a bargain. I assume the apartment has a full kitchen – just in case.
Dick – full kitchen, yes. Also valet services and on site Manager. They even give you an alert necklace type device to wear for emergencies. Didn’t want to sound like an advertisement so I didn’t include all the amenities. Think we’ll be neighbors one day?
I checked out all i could find on their website. I don’t think it’s for us. Seems too organized for me. Apartments are pretty small, but i certainly can see the attraction for many people.
i can appreciate your point about size of living quarters. We’d really miss our roomy comfortable home but not the stairs and all the upkeep. Should have started this process 10 years ago. I have faith it will all work out.
Thanks, Dick. Always look forward to your comments.
Stairs were a problem for my wife so we chose a 55+ condo community. Our unit is 2,000 sf and we have pool, clubhouse, activities if we want them, tennis courts, putting green – but alas nobody to cook for us – that’s me😎
I heard you cooked a nice corned beef dinner. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.☘️
Marjorie, I’m 61 and still changing batteries for our mothers. But, I’ve recently been thinking about the time when I should keep my feet on the ground at all times. I’m tuned in.
Yes, Ed. So many places have waiting lists. Wise to keep your eyes open. Good luck when the time comes for your decision.