June 6, 2011


My husband, still the “be prepared” boy scout, knew the time would come to move to a smaller place. He did some research, and we checked out many. We knew we wanted to move to a place that would take care of each of us as we needed more care. He preferred a cottage, where he could get outdoors easily. Once widowed, that wasn’t important—I don’t garden successfully—but I didn’t want the upkeep of a two-story house and knew I might need family help again. I’ve been accused of living in a fantasy world of books, but that doesn’t rule out facing facts.

Realistically, I dreaded moving because it would mean cleaning out my closets and downsizing. If I moved I wanted to go to a place where I could stay forever. Too many friends had coped with finding place after place to take their aging parent, as they needed increasing care. I didn’t want to be moved over and over again. It’s a problem for the kids, and would be an absolute pain for me. I only wanted to face that once, so I had to choose my future home carefully. There were almost too many options.

I was independent, with mostly good health, and involved in many community activities. I really didn’t enjoy household chores. That ruled out another house, even if smaller. Apartments take care of the outside surroundings, but there are no guarantees it won’t be sold, torn down, or converted to something else. I didn’t want to be dependent on someone else. Condo individual owners become part of an association that has to agree on those decisions. They are also responsible for coming up with the money for special needs like replacing windows or repairing elevators. Your apartment is your own, and so is the upkeep.

Cohousing places are small self-contained facilities that try to have a variety of ages included. That’s fun. You share in the upkeep and own your own house, but not the land. Since everyone is integral to the community, you will be missed if you don’t show up. Other residents will probably give you a hand when you need it, and you can return the favor. It’s an instant community and the variety of residents keeps you young.

Independent living places offer a normal life style, with all chores taken care of. They have activities and dining rooms which give residents a chance to meet each other, and often have many entertainment opportunities. You pick and choose what you want to do and are totally independent within the confines of group living. If you become incapacitated you may have to move temporarily to a rehab or nursing home facility. Some facilities offer assisted living in your home with a variety of help available.

Assisted living facilities are for those who need special help for temporary or permanent disabilities or for memory care. Some add on costs for each separate type of help you need such as managing meds or showers, and in some you just move from one monthly care plan to another.

CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Community) offer “tiered approaches to the aging process,” with different facilities for different needs. They’re more expensive because the health care costs of the future are part of your monthly fees for today. On the other hand, you never have to leave. It is a permanent home.

There were some good retirement homes but none quite fit my needs. Also, it was 3 hours away from the closest family. If the day came when I couldn’t drive, I’d miss out on a lot of family time. And the drive was a burden on them when I needed help, though they never said so. I loved my friends in the community but I could keep seeing them. They could come here and I could go back there. There were the same groups in both places, so I could keep on doing the same things in a new setting. Good for the aging brain, maybe.

After stewing about all the possibilities, the best option seemed to be moving nearer to family. They found many retirement living places and took me around to one or two each time I came up for a visit. When I found this one, I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t seem like an institution but more like a good hotel. It fit all my perceived needs, including an indoor swimming pool and residents’ library, and access to the river walk along the Willamette. There was good public transportation to shopping, several universities, and the public library. In addition there were absolutely gorgeous views of the Willamette River, Mount Hood, and Mount Saint Helens. I never even considered views as important, but they have turned out to make a BIG difference. For me.