On the Move

Richard Hayman

MY WIFE AND I HAD intended to live in our single-family home for the rest of our lives. We remodeled several times so we could age in place, and we were confident we were all set for the future.

We knew life could change in an instant. We just didn’t think it would happen to us. My wife fell at home four years ago and suffered a traumatic brain injury. After six months in hospitals and rehab, followed by more than two years of occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech language pathology, she’s recovered pretty well.

Still, my wife lost her vision on her left side, so she can no longer see well enough to drive safely. Life isn’t the same, but it’s close enough.

Meanwhile, my health issues started 50 years ago with the first of four back surgeries. The last one, in 2019, was extensive. It left me pain-free but with weakness on one side and a foot drop. I’m lucky if I can walk a mile in 30 minutes.

My future includes a light travel scooter, which arrived a few days ago. It’ll allow me to venture out more and keep up with the crowd. It doesn’t do stairs, however.

Several years ago, Marriott Corp. sold its headquarters building and 33-acre campus in Bethesda, Maryland, to Erickson Senior Living. Erickson planned to build a continuing care retirement community with high-rise buildings on a small urban campus just 10 minutes from our house. We were uninterested.

That was a mistake. In my research into helping my wife, I kept seeing articles suggesting how important it is to remain active and socialize frequently. At the same time, I often heard my wife complain that we had nothing planned for the weekend. In the past, I’d left it to her to organize our social life. 

In addition, we often discussed what would happen when one or both of us needed more medical services for our physical or mental health. We’re in our late 70s and want to control our living situation without the help of our children, who have their own ideas about our future.

When my wife and I had our own eldercare responsibilities, we’d managed to keep our parents in their homes, with help from a premier local home-care company. For my wife and me, the goal is to always be together. In 2020, we were separated for six months during COVID-19, and didn’t want to experience that again.

One day, after a doctor’s visit, we saw they’d started demolishing the Marriott headquarters. We decided to check out the new senior living community, called The Grandview, a continuing care retirement community formed under Maryland state laws.

To our surprise, we were very, very late to the party. At our introductory meeting, we learned that there were over 400 names on the waiting list. We immediately added ourselves by making a $1,000 fully refundable deposit.

As we learned more about the project, we felt we’d made a terrible mistake by not acting sooner. We should have been more flexible with our aging-in-place plans. It caused us to ignore other options.

Erickson’s plan is for 1,100 apartments. The first two buildings are 14-story high rises with around 250 apartments each. All the amenities essential to me were located in the first building, which would be ready in the fall of 2025. I started to panic. I needed to be in the first building, but the math was against us.

In the first week of June, two months after they began accepting reservations, it was our turn to select an apartment. Five floorplans met our needs, and we wanted to be on one of the higher floors. One unit was almost perfect but the kitchen cabinets were not the right color. Yet the alternative was an extra $500,000 for one of the largest apartments available. Long story short, we reserved an apartment we’d ranked as our third choice and which was on the seventh floor. We expect to move in next year, when the building is finished.

My wife and I have learned we must be better planners. Staying in our single-family home was becoming isolating, even though it met our current needs for shelter and mobility. But we hadn’t thought enough about our future care needs.

Now, I advise friends to research what sort of community might work for them—and to place their names on a waiting list. It could be years before a spot opens up. If one does, take it. If not, keep your name on the list for the next opportunity.

Richard Hayman is a second-generation family business owner and inventor with three patents. He studied engineering at Cornell University and received a master’s degree from George Washington University. After his family’s business was purchased by a public company in 1999, Richard went on to enjoy several additional careers. He’s also been a STEM instructor for middle and high school students in after-school technology programs. Check out Richard’s previous articles.

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