Tortoise and Hare: Planners vs Deniers
What do younger Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) residents have in common?
We recently attended a residents panel presentation at a prominent Life Care Services (LCS) managed community in a university town. The panel was biased (in statistical terms) to younger, more active members of this particular CCRC with several members clustered near 70 and only one above the community’s average age of 83. This particular community is approximately 30 years old and now has a well-established track record despite early teething problems. Questions by prospective residents focused on the decision-making process. What made you decide to move when you did? How did you decide to choose a continuing care community? And why this particular community? If you had to do it over, would you do anything differently?
It became obvious that both the panelists and their immediate friends in the community shared a few common traits.
- Planners. Not everyone likes to think about the inevitable changes of aging, including the ultimate rule that no one gets out alive. These residents were planners. They’d planned for retirement savings. To a person they had a financial or investment adviser. And the financial adviser was a key gatekeeper, because they’d each asked, “Can I afford this with my portfolio?” They’d thought about issues like, who will be the social support for the surviving spouse? Or, I want to assure access to the nursing center of my choice long before I need it.
- Framing experience with their own parents. A very high percentage of residents’ own parents had experience in a CCRC. Another large contingent had parents for whom CCRCs were not an option, and the negative experience of either isolation in the home or traditional nursing home made them say, “I won’t do that to my kids.”
- Early health challenges. Health still played an important role in considering future living options. One resident realized his choice was either early knee replacement if he stayed in his four level house, or moving. Think about the likely progression of your health challenges. It’s often very predictable. Why wait till it’s a burden on you or your family to make inevitable changes? These residents dealt with the future not the status quo.
The residents panel acknowledged that the majority bias in the wider world seemed to be for staying in the family home as long as possible. These residents confessed to being contrarians. They each said the choose to move into a CCRC while they could still enjoy it. To a person they said, move earlier than you think you have to. While downsizing was a challenge for all, the freedom from the burden of taking care of things, and the joy of community involvement were huge pluses.
And it’s not that life is without challenges. At least two of the panelists lost spouses during their tenure. These seemed to value the benefits of community support and involvement even more.
If you’re a planner, this should edge you to earlier action. If you’re a denier, the put off till tomorrow kind, it’s important to recognize the cost of in-home care and the burdens of social isolation the older you get.