The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Glenn Ruffenbach called, “The Right Time to Move Into a CCRC.” Responding to a question from a couple in their early seventies, Ruffenbach recommended moving in sooner rather than later. Granted, a CCRC or Continuing Care Retirement Community, which provides care for life, with a spectrum of support arrangements from independent living to skilled nursing care, has a lot of advantages. But if you decide to move in sooner, what happens if you move out?
Four months after we moved into a CCRC, my husband passed away after a seven-year battle with cancer. Living in the apartment we had chosen and decorated together, the future seemed foggy and irrelevant. I walked my dog a lot, played the piano a little, and ate the dinners they brought up.
It took me six months to fully grasp that I had to move out in order to move on. Looking first on line and then in person, my goals evolved from staying put to moving out, to moving in with my daughter, to moving into my own house. A vision for the future emerged: a 4-bedroom single-family house with a big kitchen, a roomy garden and a bedroom downstairs for me. A house where Ozzie could run around the garden chasing lizards and butterflies, a kitchen for roasting turkeys and baking gingerbread, a place for my children and grandchildren to visit, individually or all at once. Space to be a grandmother. Space to be myself.
Continuing Care Communities vary, but they involve a large up-front payment to move in plus a monthly fee for living expenses, which covers most utilities, most meals, weekly housecleaning, transportation to activities and appointments, and so on. In my case, the recoverable amount of the initial fee declined monthly. The realization that my potential down payment was melting away gave me the resolve to move quickly. Within a week I had found a house in our old neighborhood with a familiar network of friends and church. I took it as a sign that in the front yard stood a pomegranate tree, the tree of life.
In the end the issue is larger than facing aging or even facing loss. Sometimes reclaiming the future requires a Plan B. I’ve settled into a downstairs bedroom, with easy access to the kitchen, laundry, garden, and of course my computer desk. But more than settling into safety and comfort, every decision, from placing furniture to hanging pictures, has me thinking what kind of environment I want to create. The garden especially provides scope for invention. Alive with fruit trees, roses, and lavender, the part that intrigues me most is a 9-foot square plot defined by railroad ties.
How to fill it? Vegetables, maybe, or herbs inspired by my past research on medieval pharmacies. Or flowers rich with color and scent? Then, my latest inspiration, how about looking into native flowers that would attract local butterflies? A butterfly garden might be a wonderful sight for me and the grandchildren. I’m making plans again.
- “The Right Time to Move Into a CCRC,” Glenn Ruffenbach, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7, 2017.
Books that helped me move on:
- Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again, by Christina Rasmussen, which helped me see the importance of taking action.
- Widowed, by Joyce Brothers, which helped me see the wisdom of living independently.