The Great Construction Arms Race

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Photo courtesy of ell brown on Flickr.

There is tremendous pressure in retirement communities to continue attracting younger residents.  This has created what I call the “great construction arms race.”

The best way to imagine this is to think of a completely new community.  Most residents tend to be younger in a new community.  However, as the community gets older, so do the residents.  It takes a few years for apartments to open in independent living, and when they do, the residents are older than they were when the community was new.

Now the marketing department has older seniors living in the property.  When it brings in potential residents, the potential residents worry that the existing residents are too old for them. 

This starts a vicious cycle whereby the residents get older as the community ages, and it gets more difficult to sell vacant units to younger seniors.  It’s basically the same problem as aging in place.

As a result, existing communities have big incentives to remodel or expand their properties in order to attract younger residents who want newer apartments and fixtures.  In some cases, this remodeling is long overdue.  I’ve seen communities that have gone decades without a major remodel that desperately need a facelift in order to stay in business.  In other cases, the remodel is a sort of marketing tool that helps younger seniors get comfort with the thought of moving to a retirement community.

Whatever the case, you can expect construction at your CCRC during your years there.  It’s not absolute, but it’s likely.  I remember one community where the resident council was angry that management had begun making plans to complete a substantial remodel of the entire campus.  It was a multimillion-dollar renovation, and, to the casual observer, the campus didn’t need it.  But, the problem was that the campus lacked the infrastructure to grow in the future.  While most of its apartments and cottages looked fine, they weren’t built to last more than 20 years.  In order to remain competitive in the long haul, the community had to remodel.

Residents were justifiably upset.  The remodel entailed residents shuffling from apartment to apartment as different wings of the main building were redone.  Everyone was livid at the thought of being awoken to the sound of construction crews.

Yet, the remodel was in the residents’ best interest because it ensured that the community continued to attract new residents.  That meant that entrance fees would be repaid, and the community could remain a viable player in the local market.

Thus, as a resident, you should expect at least one construction project while you live in the community.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can actually make your investment more stable.  But, as with anything, the resident committee should be involved in the process and understand the implications to the community’s bottom line.

 

Sunlight & wandering, retiring abroad, nursing home visits, CCRC bankruptcies, and avoiding falls

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Sunlight during the day can help decrease wandering at night for Alzheimer’s patients.

Want to retire in luxury?  Move abroad.  More Americans are seeking better lifestyles in foreign countries.

British actor Tony Robinson stayed at a nursing home for a week.  He’s got some interesting perspectives on what it’s like.

Some senior housing developers see a few more bankruptcies on the horizon for CCRC’s.

Avoiding falls isn’t easy, but there are some common-sense things that you can do to prevent common causes.

Photo courtesy of Social Media Sass on Flickr.

Three tips for financial planners who have clients interested in CCRC’s

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I’ve been reading a lot recently about how the jobs of financial planners have expanded to include more specialized knowledge of several different industries, including senior housing.  Financial planning clients are asking for more and more services, and planners are obliged to increase their scope of services.  But, for someone who has never worked in the retirement community industry, understanding the maze of options can be overwhelming.

If you are a financial planner and you represent clients who are interested in CCRC’s, here are my top three tips for evaluating potential communities:

  • Read everything.  This includes the resident contract and the disclosure statement, but it also includes anything else that you can get your hands on.  You’re going to want to look at regulatory filings, if there are any.  See if you can’t get a copy of the community’s bond offering statement, if the community is still new.  Google the community to see if there is anything lurking on the Internet that might challenge the rosy picture presented by the community.  In most cases, your search won’t turn up any evidence that would dissuade a potential resident.  But, it doesn’t hurt to investigate.
  • Understand the terms of the refund. It’s not always simple to get your entrance fee refund from the community.  Sometimes the resident’s independent living apartment has to be resold.  Other times, the community requires that any apartment (including assisted living and nursing) occupied by the resident be resold before releasing the refund.  In some communities there is a maximum amount of time that the community can wait prior to issuing a refund.  In other communities you may end up never getting a refund if the apartment isn’t resold.
  • Negotiate additional amenities.  We’re in a bad economy, and providers are doing what they can to fill vacant apartments.  If your resident does decide to move in, now is the time to negotiate for a discount on a nicer apartment or for free parking with a signed resident agreement!

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

Want to learn more?  Here are some other articles that might interest you:

Senior Housing Overview Everything from age-restricted neighborhoods to nursing homes!

What is LifeCare? An explanation of the CCRC version of long term care insurance.

CCRC Entrance Fees and Pricing An explanation of entrance fees, monthly fees, and what they cover.

Aging in Place: Friend or Foe? Although living in your apartment forever sounds great, there are some disadvantages to choosing a community that offers aging in place.

Finding a CCRC The skinny on finding your dream community.

Destination retirement communities (Part 1, Part 2). What do you need to know if you’re planning on retiring in an exotic location?

What amenities are available in CCRC’s?  A CCRC is more than just a big apartment complex.  Most communities offer multiple dining options, swimming and fitness centers, and even spaces for you to learn new hobbies!

Can you really know how well a community is managed before you move in?  It’s not easy to tell what’s happening in a community before you make the plunge.  Here are some warning signs.

Visiting communities is a marathon not a sprint.  It may seem overwhelming to map out and visit all of your local retirement communities, but if you keep a steady pace, you’ll be just fine.

What is assisted living?  If you’re new to the world of senior housing, here is an overview of the popular housing option.

Senior boot camp: 5 days to your dream community! While I recommend taking more time in choosing your community, there are ways to make the decision in 5 days or less.  Here’s how.

What to Expect on your First Visit How to get the most out of first impressions and some red flags to watch out for!

What do they charge and entrance fee? CCRC’s compete for residents by building nicer facilities.  They pay for these by using entrance fees.

Ten Questions to Ask During your Visit If my grandmother were moving into senior housing, here is what I would ask the community.

Paying for a CCRC Just how much does it cost to live in a CCRC?

Giving up driving, technology at 75, Project Looking Glass, and heart attack PTSD

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Convincing a loved one to surrender keys is about as easy to convincing a kid to go to bed early. 

Want a tech job at the age of 75?  Call the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Project Looking Glass II is beginning: a senior housing researcher is living in a retirement community for one month and writing about it online!

It’s not just soldiers who are scarred by being in dangerous situations.  If you’ve recently had a major heart attack, you might also have post traumatic stress disorder.

 

Photo courtesy of Elsie esq. on Flickr.

Tips for Caregivers to Avoid Conflicts with Their Parents

Note: This post originally appeared RestartRetirement.com, a site sponsored by Willow Valley Retirement Communities. If you’re interested in providing articles for SeniorHousingMove.com, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, Ph.D.

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You can’t eliminate all disagreements and uncomfortable situations with your parents, but you can often resolve conflicts and make your relationships run more smoothly, if you just know how!  The following ten tips will help you avoid butting heads with your aging loved ones.

Start early.  There are some issues that almost all caregivers or would-be caregivers will face at some point, including changing living arrangements, drawing up a will or giving up driving, etc.  If they haven’t arisen yet, discussing them with your older family member before decisions must be made can be a lot less stressful.

Pick your battles.  As a caregiver, you will most likely encounter situations where you have to override your parent’s wish to keep them safe and well.  But do so only when necessary!  If your father wants to drive his car after his license has been revoked, for example, it’s your responsibility to stop him.  If he wants to wear red plaid pants with a blue striped shirt or put up his Christmas tree in August, let it slide.

Enlist the help of professionals. Even though you may be closer to your aging loved one than anyone else, that doesn’t mean you have to be the bearer of all bad news.  If you think your Mom needs to see a psychiatrist or trade in her high-heel pumps for safer shoes it might make sense to have a trusted doctor broach the subject with her.

Let your parents live in their own world.  If your father’s college football stories or your mother’s insistence that she’s never met your husband (despite the fact that she’s known him for thirty years) drives you up a wall, don’t let on.  How many times has your child or best friend told you the same story over and over?  Try acting amazed when you hear about that wining touchdown for the thousandth’ time or tell your mother that you’d love to introduce her to your husband (just make sure you let him in on the role playing!).

Don’t make assumptions.  If you need to make a decision regarding your loved one’s care, don’t always assume you know what’s best for them.  One article I read recently said that most caregivers thought their parent would be better off moving in with them, while most older adults said they would prefer to stay in their own homes or live in an assisted-living facility. If your parent is cognitively and mentally able to participate in decisions regarding their own care, by all means ask for their input.

Consider your parent’s feelings.  It’s not easy getting old.  If you look at things from your parent’s perspective – and consider that you will most likely be in their situation one day – you’ll realize it’s smarter to let go of past grudges that might lead to conflict and simply forgive.

Allow your parent to call the shots – sometimes. Many of the challenges that arise in caregiving come when parents feel they are no longer useful or in control.  As with parenting your own child, it’s important to give your parents some power in the family – particularly if he or she lives in your home with you.  If possible, allow them to plan meals, or pick TV shows or family activities now and then.

Use positive reinforcement. It’s easy to criticize when things aren’t going well, especially when you’re overwhelmed and exhausted.  But instead of complaining when things go wrong, try praising your parent when things go right.  Chances are your parent wants to please you and will appreciate the encouragement.

Foster your parent’s independence. Some older adults sit back and prefer to be waited on.  But many would much rather do things themselves – if they can.  By allowing your parents to do the tasks they are physically able to do you will help boost their self-esteem and maintain their independence.

Reconsider your arrangements.  If constant conflicts with your parents are having a negative impact on your health and your family, you may have no choice but to make other arrangements for their care.  If he or she is living in your house, perhaps they could live with another family member or move into an assisted-living home.  If you’re providing most of the care – perhaps another family member could take over some of the duties.

ALEXIS ABRAMSON, Ph.D. is cited as America’s leading, impassioned champion for the dignity and independence of those over 50. Abramson is the author of two
highly acclaimed books — The Caregivers 
Survival Handbook and Home Safety for Seniors. “Doctor Alexis” is an inspiring speaker, corporate consultant, successful author and award-winning entrepreneur and journalist. Her commitment to boomers and mature adults has been featured in many national publications including TIME, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and People magazines. Abramson is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has, in addition to many other media outlets, appeared frequently as an on-air expert Gerontologist for NBC’s Today show and Weekend Today. Abramson is also the author of two highly acclaimed books — The Caregivers Survival Handbook, a guide to help caregivers balance the responsibilities of caring for others and for themselves, and Home Safety for Seniors, a room-by-room reference and idea-book for making independent senior, and home-bound, living easier.

Concierge physicians, exercise & breast cancer, MRSA infections and long term care insurance

Are you considering a concierge physician? Here are some basic things to keep in mind:

Good news for women: a new study has found that if you exercise (even in modest amounts), you cut your risk of developing breast cancer.

More good news: MRSA infections (that nasty skin bug that can be fatal if left untreated)are on the decline.

Gentworth Financial is discontinuing some of its long term care insurance products.  This comes after several other long term care insurance companies have shuttered their businesses.

How the recession has impacted senior housing

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Photo courtesy of Ani Carrington on Flickr.

It’s a tough world out there.  After years of declining home values and rocky stock market returns, most seniors are more likely to head for the hills than move to a retirement community.  Like everyone else, the senior housing industry struggles with the same economic forces.  Here are some of the most common ways in which retirement communities have been impacted by the recession:

  • People stop moving in.  Since most seniors have seen a decline in their portfolios and their home values, the idea of moving into a retirement community isn’t always very appealing.  Instead, most seniors feel the need to delay their move until the economy improves or they absolutely must move to a place that offers more care.
  • New communities are delayed.  Since the recession began, the number of new CCRC’s (and even assisted living and nursing homes) has all but ground to a halt.  Not only has the pool of available funds dried up, but banks are also requiring more proof that the CCRC is viable.  It used to be that a new CCRC needed about 70% of its apartments to be reserved prior to construction.  Now that number is closer to 100%.  This makes it even harder for potential CCRC’s to get off the ground.
  • Existing communities try to attract more residents.  In the olden days, qualifying for independent living meant that you didn’t need any living assistance whatsoever.  But, as the economy worsens, communities must fill their empty apartments.  In order to do this, they stretch the definition of “independent” and allow for residents to have support in their apartments.  This makes it harder to attract seniors who are truly independent and might be turned off by neighbors who need large amounts of in-home care.
  • Some communities go bankrupt. It’s not as common as foreclosure in the mortgage market, but CCRC’s and other retirement communities do go bankrupt as a result of poor occupancy and declining prices.  There are several that have been in the news lately, most notably the Erickson Retirement Communities, which went bankrupt in 2009.

The good news is that most retirement communities aren’t on the verge of bankruptcy.  Most of the communities that have experienced financial difficulty have been able to write off their debt without residents bearing any of the financial burdens (the notable exception to this is the Covenant at South Hills, where residents lost their entrance fee deposit). 

Furthermore, now is the time for bargaining.  Retirement communities have pared back their entrance fees and are now offering generous benefits for new residents.  For seniors who have owned their homes for decades and have 100% equity, now might be the time to cash in and investigate senior housing!

Lost net worth, gaps in care, cheaper places to retire, and tutoring kids

Money

Seniors lost about 13% of their net worth between 2005 and 2010.  Younger people lost more.

More aging adults are facing a gap in care: they’re too sick to stay by themselves in their home, but they’re not sick enough for a nursing home.

If you’re looking for a cheaper place to retire, consider moving to a small town.

Retirement communities are now entering the tutoring business: a community in Massachusetts even has an on-campus elementary school where residents help students with their homework!

Photo courtesy of Philip Taylor PT on Flickr.

Posts that you missed the first time!

Newspaper

Photo courtesy of NS Newsflash on Flickr.

What exactly constitutes “creepy?” In a world where we could use technology to monitor just about everything, how does one choose between privacy and the benefits of technology?

Destination retirement communities (Part 1, Part 2). What do you need to know if you’re planning on retiring in an exotic location?

What amenities are available in CCRC’s?  A CCRC is more than just a big apartment complex.  Most communities offer multiple dining options, swimming and fitness centers, and even spaces for you to learn new hobbies!

How to scope out a nursing home.  These are some simple, industry-insider tips to finding the best nursing home.

The most interesting thing that I saw in senior housing.  Visiting retirement communities can be an opportunity for personal growth.  Here’s a personal story about my unexpected life lesson while visiting a CCRC.

Can you really know how well a community is managed before you move in?  It’s not easy to tell what’s happening in a community before you make the plunge.  Here are some warning signs.

Visiting communities is a marathon not a sprint.  It may seem overwhelming to map out and visit all of your local retirement communities, but if you keep a steady pace, you’ll be just fine.

What is assisted living?  If you’re new to the world of senior housing, here is an overview of the popular housing option.

What’s up with the wheelchair lots?  It may seem kind of silly to ask residents to park their scooters outside the dining area, but there’s a practical benefit to this design.

What can I share with the marketing agent? You may be tempted to talk about your life with the marketing agent, but keep the conversation on senior housing!

Senior boot camp: 5 days to your dream community! While I recommend taking more time in choosing your community, there are ways to make the decision in 5 days or less.  Here’s how.

Skydiving at 80, pets in retirement communities, living to be 100, and elder scams

Skydiving

It’s never too late to go skydiving; these 80+ women raised money for charity during their 10,000 feet drop.

Good news for animal lovers: More retirement communities are beginning to allow pets!

If you want to live to be 100, eat better and get some more sleep.

Elder scams impact even well-educated people.  This particular story is heartbreaking because the wife still feels like it wasn’t a scam.

Photo courtesy of flawedartist on Flickr.