Slightly Scary Articles about Senior Housing

I haven’t posted much on the state of the senior housing industry lately, but I saw something today that really  bothered me.  There was a headline from an industry magazine regarding acquisitions: “Erickson Acquires $176 Million of Foreclosed CCRC’s Senior Debt

That doesn’t sound all that scary off hand, but what bothered me was what happened in 2009: Erickson went bankrupt.

What’s worse, another headline came out almost at the same time this week: “Investor Buys $30 Million Senior Housing Complex at Fraction of Cost”  The property was an Erickson community that had been sold following their bankruptcy in 2009.

So, let’s summarize this week’s headlines: A formerly bankrupt company bought $176 million in debt (at an undisclosed discount) at the exact same time that a community that it lost during bankruptcy was sold for pennies on the dollar to another firm.

Certainly Erickson wrote off a bunch of debt following the bankruptcy.  I can see how they’re probably more financially stable now.  I can even see how they might be in a good position to invest in other projects.  But, frankly, I just don’t think it’s a good deal.

Compare this to the 2009 acquisition of Covenant at South Hills by Concordia Lutheran Ministries:  They did the $15 million deal in cash.  They have operated a stable, sustainable business for the last several decades.  They don’t have a history of overly ambitious acquisitions.

The world of high finance has certainly entered the senior housing market, but I still think that the good old boys who buy with cash and don’t overextend themselves are the heroes here.  It’s true that no one lost their homes during the initial Erickson bankruptcy.  However, hindsight is always 20/20.  At the time, there was a huge threat that Erickson would cease to operate:

But in recent days, the lenders apparently lost patience, sparking fears that Erickson may have to cease operating. After filing for bankruptcy, Erickson’s lawyers asked the judge for emergency access to the company’s cash collateral. Ceasing its operations “would have devastating effects on the residents of the communities,” Erickson warned, “including leaving many residents without food, medical supplies, and the health and support services that they require.”

Of course, this crisis was averted.  Erickson sold off many of their properties, reorganized, and began operating under the name, “Erickson Living.”  Should this change how potential residents view a community?

Since Erickson Living is now a private company, you can’t find their financial statements online.  So, if you were doing your own due diligence, you’d have to look at the Disclosure Statement for the community that you wanted to live in.  The problem is that one simple Disclosure Statement won’t tell you everything about the entire company.  Yes, you’d be signing your contract with a nonprofit that owns the local community, but you don’t know what sorts of agreements are made between the local nonprofit and the parent company.

This is the sort of thing that really frustrates me about senior housing.  Moving into a CCRC is a big deal for seniors.  Why should they trust a company that would go bankrupt in 2009 and then start trying to buy new communities again in 2013?  Maybe they know something that I don’t, but, frankly, I don’t think it’s a very promising indicator.

Reader Question: How do I time my move into a CCRC?


I’d like to move into a CCRC, but all of them have waiting lists of a year or more.  Houses in my area sell in 1-2 months.  Do I list my home now and then move into an apartment or with friends while I wait for an opening?  Or do I get on a waiting list now and then list my home when an apartment becomes available?  I don’t like the idea of liquidating assets to pay the entrance fee and leaving my house vacant until it sells.


Unfortunately, there isn’t one good answer to that question.  Obviously, you’d prefer to only have one move: from your home into the CCRC.

Your decision depends on the real estate market in your area.  Homes in some areas sell pretty quickly, so in these places, retirement communities don’t recommend that potential residents list their home until right before their move into the community.

For CCRCs that have a longer wait list and a less active real estate market, my instinct would be to get on a waiting list now, since your worst case scenario is that you turn down an apartment and have to wait for another one.  Additionally, I would begin the process of listing my home since waiting lists can sometimes move much faster than anticipated.

The transition from your home to a CCRC might not be a big deal if an apartment becomes available during the time that you are selling.  However, if that doesn’t happen that way, there are a few options that you might not have considered:

Option 1: Include a leasing provision in the sale of your house.

Depending on the eventual buyer of your home, you may be able to negotiate a short-term lease based on when you plan on moving into a CCRC.  The rate and terms depend on the buyer and their needs.  However, it’s possible that an investor would be happy buying a home from a seller who plans on renting for a short period following the sale.

Option 2: Negotiate for a temporary stay in the guest room at the community.

If your home sells, and the CCRC is still putting some finishing touches on your new apartment, you can always ask if they will allow you to live in their guest room in the brief interim.  It won’t always be an option, but at least you can ask.

Option 3: Find an executive suite.

If your home’s buyer doesn’t want to lease the house back to you, then an executive suite is always an option if you expect only a few months between the sale of your home and your move.  The benefit of an executive suite is that most of them come pre-furnished, so you won’t have to unpack everything more than once.  The drawback is that they can be relatively pricey.  However, if the period is only 2-3 months, then you might come out ahead.

Option 4: Break a lease at an apartment.

While there might be some local apartment complexes that will allow short term leases, you always have the option of breaking your lease and simply moving into the CCRC when an apartment is ready.  The cost of breaking a lease varies, but, at most, you might be out about two months’ rent.  When you consider the savings of living in a one bedroom apartment versus living in a large home, you might even come out ahead.  Of course, your goal isn’t to have to break the lease.  But, it can be done if need be.

Here are a few other things to think about:

Keeping in close communication with the salespeople at the local CCRC is key to timing your move into the community.  They can help you with timing the logistics of your move.

If mortgage interest rates increase, you might have to sell your home at a lower price than you had hoped (or let it sit on the market for longer to get the price you want).  Now might be the best time to list.  Check with realtors in your area and your financial planner to get their opinion, given your location and needs.

CCRC’s will often have moving assistants or other specialists who can help you time your move and find local apartments or hotels that will help bridge the gap between selling your home and moving into the community.

Thanks for the question, and good luck on your move into a CCRC!

If you have questions about CCRC’s, send an email to!

Fishing, working at McDonalds, sharing your home and shrinking retirements


A retirement community in Texas held a fishing tournament last month.

There’s an 88-year-old man in the UK who works two days a week at McDonalds; he’s their oldest worker.

If you’re not interested in moving to a retirement community, consider sharing your home with other seniors.

The economy, poor home prices, lost jobs, and paying for children to go to college has left many Boomers with smaller retirements.

South Bend Fish-Oreno #953” © 2009 Wapster, Attribution 3.0 Generic

How to Avoid Butting Heads with Your Older Parents

Note: This post originally appeared at If you’re interested in providing articles for, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, PhD

Dr. Alexis

You can’t eliminate all disagreements and uncomfortable situations with your older parents, but you can often resolve conflicts and make your relationships run more smoothly, if you just know how!  The following 10 tips will help you avoid butting heads with your aging loved ones.

  1.  Start early.  There are some issues that almost all caregivers will face at some point, including changing living arrangements, drawing up a will or giving up driving.  If they haven’t arisen yet, discussing them with your older family member before decisions must be made can be a lot less stressful.  For starters – just click here and you can find a list of the five most important legal documents your parents need to have in place prior to a potential caregiving crisis.
  2. Pick your battles.  As a caregiver, you will most likely encounter situations where you have to override your parent’s wish to keep him or her 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.
  3. 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.  One great technology that emphasizes wellness, communication, autonomy and social connectivity is the VTech CareLine ™ – this easy-to-use home phone system was designed with experts in aging and technology to answer seniors’ daily communications needs and support hearing, dexterity or vision challenges.
  4. 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, social worker or gerontologist broach the subject with her.  A great resource for professional guidance is the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers.
  5. 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 30 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 winning touchdown for the thousandth time or tell your mom that you’d love to introduce her to your husband (just make sure you let him in on the role playing!).  If you feel your loved one is experiencing an unusual amount of memory loss you might want to go to the Alzheimer’s Association website for additional information.
  6. 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 a 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 his or her own care, by all means ask for input.
  7. Consider your parent’s feelings.  It’s not always easy getting older.  If you look at things from your parent’s perspective – and consider that you will most likely be in the same situation one day – you’ll realize it’s smarter to let go of past grudges that might lead to conflict and simply forgive.  One of the reasons we tend to hold on to grudges is a sense of guilt – the overall feeling that we aren’t doing enough for our aging loved ones, ourselves or anyone else for that matter!  Click here to find my 10 tips for saying goodbye to caregiver guilt.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.  The Family Caregiver Alliance offers four different online support groups for caregivers and their aging loved ones – these groups might just help ease the stress you’re feeling and help you employ useful coping mechanisms.
  10. Reconsider your arrangements.  If constant conflicts with your parents are having a negative impact on your health and your immediate family, you may have no choice but to make other arrangements for their care.  If he or she is living in your house, perhaps your parent could live with another family member or move into an assisted-living residence.  If you’re providing most of the care – perhaps another family member could take over some of the duties.  If you’re looking for a referral source to help you find a housing resource in your area, there’s a great new website called that will point you in the right direction! 

Disclaimer:  Content and suggestions provided within should not be construed as a formal recommendation and AJA Associates, LLC makes no representations, endorsements or warranties relating to the accuracy, use or completeness of the information.

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.  For more information go to 

Follow Alexis Abramson, Ph.D.  Facebook | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter  

Should I move now or later?

In case you missed it the first time, here are some thoughts on to best time to move into a CCRC:
One of the things that marketing agents at senior housing communities hear all the time is that a potential resident “isn’t interested in moving right now.”  The argument usually goes something like this: I’m too young to move into senior housing right now, but one day I might be older and need to move.  When that day comes, I’ll make the move.

That’s a fine sentiment, and it’s understandable that seniors would want to stay in their homes as long as possible.  However, this strategy can backfire.  Here are some reasons you should consider moving when you’re younger rather than waiting until you need to:

  • You might not pass their medical test if you wait.  For most continuing care retirement communities (CCRC’s), especially those that offer LifeCare, there is a medical test that you must pass in order to qualify for independent living.  The longer that you wait to move into the community, the more likely it is that you develop health problems that disqualify you for independent living.
  • You want to make friends early.  It’s tough enough moving into a new community, but moving in after illness is even worse.  The earlier you move in, the more chances you have to be social and join group activities.  After all, what’s the point of moving into senior housing if you’re not going to enjoy the social life?
  • You don’t want to wait until a crisis strikes.  Do you have a lot of stuff at your house that you don’t feel like going through right now?  Will it get any easier to go through it if you’ve broken a hip?  Nope.  When a health event occurs, it puts the burden of the move on other people.  Since you’ll be recovering, you won’t have as much control over how items are handled and your house is sold.  The earlier you move, the more opportunity you have to get things set up exactly like you’d like.

Ultimately, if you want to stay in your house, you should stay in your house.  However, there are huge advantages to moving into a retirement community before illness strikes.  If it’s something that you’re interested in, consider making the plunge sooner rather than later.

Elder abuse verdict, approaching cancer patients, happiness & aging, and living like the Golden Girls


judge awarded $23 million to the family of an elder abuse nursing home victim.

What’s the best way to approach interactions with cancer patients?  (Tips here.)

We get happier as we get older.

Want to live like the Golden Girls?  That’s now a possibility.

“3D Judges Gavel” © 2012 Chris Potter, Attribution 3.0 Generic (Photo from

Should I Take the Keys Away from my Parents?

Note: This post originally appeared at If you’re interested in providing articles for, please see our submission guidelines.

Alexis Abramson, PhD

Dr. Alexis

The Pew Research Center reminds us that 8,000 boomers are turning 65 every day for the next 16 years. By 2030, they’ll represent almost one in five drivers. Safe driving is an important issue for everyone — especially seniors! Although older drivers are at a higher risk of becoming involved in an automobile accident than younger drivers, not everyone is an “accident waiting to happen” — and in fact many seniors are better drivers than today’s young folks.

The United States has unfortunately created a culture where in most situations we are forced to drive, and we embrace it. We use our cars to get our basic necessities, participate in social events and “the automobile” is often considered to be the cornerstone of American independence. Most people would drive from their bed to the fridge if they could! I recently wrote a blog about livable communities that are specifically developed to reduce the amount of driving as we age by making public transportation, social activities, parks and recreation more convenient — hopefully this trend is on the rise as the graying of America becomes more imminent.

We all age at different rates and with different needs. This is important to keep in mind because periodically we must check for those symptoms and outside causes that may impact our loved one’s ability to drive safely. Seniors are more likely to receive traffic citations when it comes to small things such as failing to yield, turning improperly and running stop signs. These types of incidents may be early signs of decreased driving ability. Research tells us that automotive collisions become significantly more deadly after a driver has reached the age of 70. The good thing is that in today’s world there’s plenty of information to help better educate caregivers and their aging loved one’s so that we can hopefully avoid this problem.

If you feel you need to have a conversation about safe driving with an aging loved one it’s important to be delicate in your approach. The AAA online senior drivers quiz discusses common risk factors and instructs readers as to how to avoid potentially dangerous driving habits or behaviors — this is a good place to start. Here are some warning signs AARP considers to be the most important indicators as to when someone should begin to limit driving or stop driving all together.

  • Feeling uncomfortable and nervous or fearful while driving
  • Dents and scrapes on the car or on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs etc.
  • Difficulty staying in the lane of travel
  • Getting lost
  • Trouble paying attention to signals, road signs and pavement markings
  • Slower response rates to unexpected situations
  • Medical conditions or medications that may be affecting the ability to handle the car safely
  • Frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing)
  • Trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance/exit ramps
  • Other drivers honking at you and instances when you are angry at other drivers
  • Friends or relatives not wanting to drive with you
  • Difficulty seeing the sides of the road when looking straight ahead
  • Being easily distracted or having a hard time concentrating while driving
  • Difficulty turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  • Frequent traffic tickets or “warnings” by traffic or law enforcement officers

If some of these signs seem to be a concern for you or an aging loved one you might want to consider consulting a doctor or a professional in the field. Stay safe. Care for your safety and others.

Disclaimer:  Content and suggestions provided within should not be construed as a formal recommendation and AJA Associates, LLC makes no representations, endorsements or warranties relating to the accuracy, use or completeness of the information.

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.  For more information go to