Monday, August 31, 2009

Postponing Decisions

It's so easy to postpone decisions when the deadline is way in the future. After having fun with furniture placement, I started to think about how to get rid of "stuff" and getting ready for the move. Originally, the planners of our retirement home were going to have it completed in the fall of 2009. Thank goodness, that didn't happen because they weren't able to get the loan from the bank until the spring of 2009. In addition, housing prices fell and mortgages money was harder to get. And we are definitely not ready to move out of house this fall!!!

At first, I was trying to "get something out of the house" each day. Taking used items of clothing to the Goodwill and giving things away to people who could use them was easy. Trash collection every Thursday counted, as we are compulsive recyclers. I took advantage of our city's once a year rubbish collection to discard those old awnings (not used for over 30 years) and the garden trellises that supported lovely climbing roses when we first moved into our then new house 47 years ago. I also made an appointment to recycle all the hazardous waste in our house - oil based paint cans, pesticides, and fluorescent light bulbs that contain mercury (and wear out so fast when you turn them on and off frequently).

But the daily discipline of getting stuff out of the house wore off. With construction finally taking place, and move in time tentatively set for winter of 2011, time is starting to run out. We'd better get serious about going through all those places that we have stored stuff over the years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Apartment B319 is Ours!

Those premiums for promptly making the decision were just too good to miss. After thinking it over carefully for a week, we met again with the sales staff, deposit check in hand, and changed the red pin for a blue pin in apartment B319. There were papers to sign proving our ability to manage the apartment deposit and monthly fees as well as proof of our good health and ability to manage our "Activities of Daily Living". We made it through those hurdles and were presented with our signed formal agreement and a residents' handbook detailing all the advantages of the facility.

I went home with the apartment plan and began to make a list of furniture which we would take and what we would leave behind. The antique desk that belonged to my Revolutionary War ancestor would have a place of honor in the living room, as would the antique tilt-top table that my father had purchased from a home in Connecticut. But would I have room for the antique revolving bookcase that I purchased from the estate of my parents' best friend, also in Connecticut? There was no question about taking the old Morris chair from my husband's family home in Portland, Maine. I thought it would fit nicely into the second bedroom which would serve as our office.

While my detailed plan has changed several times, I had a lot of fun measuring furniture, cutting out tiny pieces of paper and placing them on the apartment plan. I'm still thinking about furniture placement, over a year later as we await construction of our new home.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Visualizing our Apartment

When I read over the last posting, I noted a typo in the location of our chosen apartment. Perhaps you wondered what was meant by the "SC" in the last paragraph. I should have typed SE for Southeast, as it was our choice to begin our days with the morning sun streaming into the many windows on that side of the building. In the winter, when the sun is lower on the horizon, the windows on the south side would bring that welcome warmth and cheer to the winter days that we spend in Grand Rapids.

That reminds me to tell you that since we spend four to five months of the year at our summer home in Northern Michigan, one of the great benefits of the apartment for us will be the ability to shut the door and depart for the summer, knowing that we won't have to plan for lawn and garden maintenance or pay a security service to "watch" our house. So, no more lawn mowing, weed pulling, grass watering, and snowshoveling for us! At least, after we have once moved into our apartment.

I'll tell you about my plans for the apartment in my next blog.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting into the Details

A week or so after the "free lunch" we met with the marketing staff who explained all the aspects of the planned CCRC as well as the financial arrangements. We were able to ask and have answered all the questions that had come to mind in the interim. The more we heard, the more we liked the plan as well as the flexible financial arrangements.

A center common area would house the reception area, dining rooms, library, mail room, meeting room, etc. It would be located between the two apartment wings, each three stories tall. A swimming pool and craft room was planned for the lower floor, in addition to underground parking (one space for each apartment). Did you get that? UNDERGROUND PARKING! In Grand Rapids, where it snows all winter long.

There were several choices regarding financial arrangements. The deposit required for an apartment depended first upon the size of the apartment and then upon the percent of the deposit which we wanted to have returned to us or to our estate. When we made the decision to have a certain percentage of the deposit returned to us, then the cost of the apartment and the monthly maintenance fee were determined. In our case, we chose the plan with the lower monthly maintenance fee which would return a larger amount to our estate.

Now, I must say that the marketing staff was very highly skilled. She was also delightful and highly motivated to sell the plan. She told us that if we would return within one week with a check for 10% of the apartment deposit we would be given some special premiums which included $2,500 toward any "extras" that we would want in our apartment. In addition, while we were waiting for the facility to be built, our money would sit in an escrow account at the bank and could be returned to us plus interest, should we decide to cancel our plan.

So, with nothing to lose, we went into the model room and put a red pin into our SC corner apartment on the third floor of the B Wing!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Who Says There's No Free Lunch?

In the winter of 2008 we began to receive some mailings about a retirement community that was being built in our neighborhood. It intrigued us, as we couldn't think where there was space for such a facility in our fully developed city. Then an invitation came for a "free lunch" which we decided to attend in order to find out what it was all about.

While we were initially skeptical as to whether we would like the facility and also whether we would feel welcome there, we were pleasantly surprised. The facility was to be built just a half mile from our home, on a large piece of land that had previously been occupied by a hospital. The plans appeared to be well conceived and the people on the sales staff assured us that progressive people like us would be welcome, and were in fact already represented in the group who had made the decision to move in.

A scale model of the complex was set up on a large table, complete with tiny cars on the driveways and tiny people standing on some of the apartment balconies. By the end of the meeting, I had made not only my choice of apartments but also its location. My husband's comment in answer to my question was, "It looks pretty good." That was high praise from one who does not easily commit himself! We made an appointment to discuss the details and financial commitment the following week.

So, "No Free Lunch?" Well, if we decided it wasn't for us, then the lunch would have been free.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's a Major Decision

So, the question is, do we stay in our home or move into a CCRC? CCRC --- that's shorthand for retirement community where life care is guaranteed. The decision involves thinking about growing older and perhaps needing assistance with housework, medications, getting around, bathing (ugh, what an awful thought, needing help in and out of the tub/shower), or worse. Finally, there's the thought we all want to avoid, what if we need full time nursing care at the end of our lives?

If you are like most people, you want to avoid thinking about any of these things and assume that life will just go on as it has. If we're lucky, we'll just die in our sleep one night, a shock for our family to be sure, but the best way to "go".

So, let's just stay in the house we've lived in for over 40 years, says my husband. It's paid for and conviently located near a shopping center, library, pharmacy, grocery, etc. Many of our friends have long ago sold their family home and purchased condos. But, my husband says, we couldn't get nearly as nice a place for the money that we would get out of this house. That's true when you consider the in town location, which we enjoy.

Now, you need to know that our house is a traditional two story house with four bedrooms and two baths upstairs. In the event that one of us becomes unable to climb the stairs or bedridden, we would have to convert the dining room into a bedroom. Let's be realistic, say I, think about how inconvenient the tiny half-bath on the first floor would be for an invalid.

So, we delay the decision and the years go by. But I remain open to the possibility of moving to a retirement community, thinking about how it was a good thing for my mother. I know I'd like having someone else decide what to fix for dinner each day!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Mothers' Decisions

Before I begin to tell about our decision to move to an apartment in a CCRC, I think I should share with you our mothers' experiences. My mother was ready at age 80 to give up housekeeping and moved into a retirement home. Even though she had only one small room with a half bath, she was happy with her new social contacts and loved having those "nice girls" serve her meals in the common dining room. My husband's mother, on the other hand, considered such a place to be anathema. When we dined with Mother as her guests, Stan's mother saw someone with a walker and asked if they issued those to all the "inmates." That is actually the word she used, inmates!

Then when Mother needed nursing care, it was right there for her and her new friends could visit her without leaving the building. Remaining in her apartment, Stan's mother required meals on wheels and a home aide to assist her during the day. Eventually it became obvious that more help was needed, and round the clock, so we had to find a nursing home for her. That was not an easy task and eventually meant a long drive for us to go and visit her.

I have always been thankful that my mother made the move to Pilgrim Manor, our UCC related CCRC in Grand Rapids. She did the tasks of sorting through her possessions and discarding those that she thought her children would not want. Then, she let me decide which pieces of furniture I would like for my home and we had a sale for all the rest. Perhaps that is the reason that it has been so easy for me to decide to move to a CCRC. But more on that, to come.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My First Attempt at Blogging

Well, here I am, attempting to start a blog. My daughter, who is an expert in social media, thinks I have something worthwhile to talk about, and encouraged me to do this. I have great respect for her, and always try to live up to her expectations of me. so, I'll try to do this.

I'll be writing about our decision to move into a Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC as they are known in the field. I hope it will be a good thing for both of us as well as for our children who won't have to worry about our care when we get to the point where we need assistance of (heaven forbid) nursing care. But, more about the reasons for the decision later. Today, its' enough just to get started and hope that someday someone may want to read these musings.