Special Section

Redefining Retirement Living

If you’re ready to downsize, a life-plan community may be for you.
By Alice Shapin — April 2024

he house is too big, the grass in the yard too long, the kids and grandkids too far away, and the possibility of uncertain health looms. These are just a few of the reasons many people start thinking about making a move out of their home in their 60s, 70s, 80s—some even in their 90s.

Of course, once the decision is made to move, the big questions are when, where, and what kind of place? Luckily, the Greater Baltimore area offers a myriad of choices, from Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), including rentals, to over-55 communities.

A CCRC is a type of retirement community that is part independent living, part assisted living, and part skilled nursing home. Today, many CCRCs offer memory care too. And there’s usually rehabilitation therapy onsight. All levels of care are on the same campus. According to AARP, a CCRC offers a tiered approach to the aging process, accommodating residents’ changing needs. Upon entering, healthy adults can reside independently in single-family homes, apartments, or condominiums. When assistance with everyday activities becomes necessary, they can move into assisted living or just get some extra help in their apartment. Or they can move into a memory care unit or nursing care facility. Usually, independent living includes one meal a day, while assisted and above have three. These communities give older adults the option to live in one location for the duration of their lives, with much of their future care already figured out.

Today’s CCRCs are nothing like your grandmother’s retirement home. As a matter of fact, many CCRCs now go by the name “life plan community” and are redefining senior living. The executive director of Blakehurst in Towson, Lonny Blessing, who’s been in the senior living field for 30 years, says, “More people are moving in at younger ages.”

Aging just doesn’t look the way it did years ago. Today’s residents want elevated experiences and expansive options. And older CCRCs are making exciting additions to support vibrant living. Blakehurst, for example, is undergoing an $18-million renovation of its interiors.

“We’re doubling the size of our bar to become a pub, where we’ll now serve meals throughout the day,” says Blessing. “It’s perfect for residents and visiting grandchildren to grab a burger. The pool is being redone and our store, the Exchange, is being expanded.”

Atrium Village Senior Living, a rental CCRC, recently underwent a renovation. Executive director Patty Dietz explains residents want to prolong their independence and desire an environment that is worry-free, encourages socialization, and fosters a sense of purpose. “With the recent renovation, our goal was to create a new standard for senior living in the Baltimore area, driven by a vision centered around healthy aging, vitality, and vibrant experiences. Seniors today want more than just a place to live. They seek holistic wellness, socialization, a sense of community, and truly live for the moment.”

Lisa Wells, sales counselor at The Village at Providence—a National Lutheran Community— helps people decide whether their community is a place they’d like to consider. “Our goal is for our residents to maintain their independence, their flexibility, and not feel they have to give up anything. We want them to enjoy their new community and expand their opportunities to learn new things, make new friends, and have an engaging lifestyle.”

Life in Retirement
Linda Lee and her husband, Bob Baker, were determined not to repeat the mistake their parents made— waiting too long to make a move. Lee says, “It left it up to us to make the decision for them.” So, in their late 70s, being in good health and active, they started researching their options. While they lived on the west coast of Florida for 25 years, they wanted to be closer to one of their children and live in an energetic area. They visited several places in the Baltimore region and chose Blakehurst, just 15 minutes from their daughter. They moved in at age 80.

“Our house sold faster than we expected, so we stayed with our daughter for a while as we decided on a place,” says Lee, who explains this all unfolded during the pandemic. “What sealed the deal at Blackhurst was the staff. I turned to my husband and said, ‘If the staff is so warm, welcoming, and happy, the residents must be too.’ And we were right.” She continues that they liked that it is a CCRC. Having cared for their own parents, they knew that even though they were healthy today, at some point they might need more care. “We wanted to take the burden off our kids.”

The couple was able to take two apartments and create one. It’s just under 2,000-square-feet and has an open concept. Besides the apartment, they love the many activities that are available. “The only problem is that there isn’t enough time to do everything I want,” says Lee, smiling.

Lee is on the community’s hospitality committee, and the residents’ association directors as a member- at-large, takes Body Blast three times a week at the gym, and more. Baker attends educational lectures and enjoys the gym, where he has a trainer.

They usually dine with friends and there are plenty of options. “With being so busy, we’ve designated Sundays as ‘Pajama Day.’ We stay in our jammies, and it’s the one day we don’t go down for dinner,” laughs Lee.

Thinking Ahead
Sixty-five-year-old Janet Goldscher and husband David, 76, haven’t made the move, but are being proactive about their next step. Their home in Owings Mills is, at 4,400-square-feet, too big for them, and David has some chronic health problems. Knowing they were going to need some help, they wanted to go to a community where they wouldn’t need to move again if the time came for assisted living.

They have opted to move to The Village at Providence Point—A National Lutheran Senior Living Community, which is projected to open in 2026 in Annapolis. “In some communities, if you need assisted living, you have to move,” says Janet Goldscher. “But here they will give you as much help as you need, all in your present residence. And of utmost importance to me is that the community is close to my family.”

They believe that, as a new community, Providence Point will likely attract younger people and they appreciated that they will be the first residents in their apartment. Goldscher says the social aspects have been a bonus, especially since she states they’ve been a little stuck in the house since the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though not fully open, the community hosts monthly happy hours so future residents can meet. Name badges indicating which floor they will be living on makes connecting with neighbors simple.

“At the monthly cocktail parties, we’ve met neighbors on our floor. Everyone is very nice and interesting. It’s exciting for us that we’re meeting new people. It’s a chance to make new friends and have outside interests,” she says.

An Over-55 Community
Gail Tomassini, 67 and husband Bill, 69, enjoy the outdoors and are very active. Retired and living outside of Savannah, Georgia, for seven years, they had great friends and loved the lifestyle their community afforded them—golf, biking, pickleball, and a clubhouse. But things change. “One son, his wife, and two little children live in Washington, D.C., and our other son and family live in L.A. My family and some of Bill’s live in the Philadelphia area. We decided we no longer wanted to be FaceTime grandparents,” says Gail. So, they started looking at places on the East Coast. “On our list of must-haves was to be fairly close to an airport with direct flights to L.A., near water, near a city, and plenty of outdoor activities.

Four Seasons at Kent Island checked all the boxes,” she says. Four Seasons at Kent Island is a 55-and-older community of single-family homes and condominiums. It made sense for the Tomassinis, as it is not far from some of the kids and it’s close to BWI Airport, Annapolis, and Baltimore. One can bike ride to the water. The only thing missing was a golf course, but there are plenty of courses in the area. “And even though it’s an over-55 community, it seems very family-friendly,” says Bill. “There’s a big playground for grandchildren and an indoor and outdoor pool. Our agent, Veronica Lawson, an associate broker at Real Broker, LLC, introduced us to some people who were very friendly. We learned about a golf group that plays at nearby public courses and found out some people are still working.” The Tomassinis chose the largest model, a four-bedroom, two-story home with all their personal space on the first floor. They will be moving in July.

According to Lawson, over-55 communities are ready-made for people like Bill and Gail, where physical and emotional wellbeing are key components addressed through clubhouse amenities such as fitness centers and resort-like pools, as well as social clubs that encourage interaction to the degree desired. Most communities also offer walking and bike trails, dog parks, and other outdoor social activities as well as planned trips to local events such as plays and concerts. The interaction between neighbors creates a strong sense of community, which in turn makes for a fun environment.

Whether you’re looking to move soon or in the future, there are myriad options for you.

Before you make that move, here are some things to consider.

Be clear on what you want.
What is important to you? Being near your kids, near a city, the water? What amenities do you want? Do you want a condo or a single-family home? Is a CCRC or an over-55 community right for you?

Do Your Research
Visit several places, be it a CCRC or an over-55 community.
Talk to residents and staff.
See if people look happy, have a sense of warmth, and if there’s a connection between residents and staff.
Ask questions. Is there transportation to the stores, doctors, etc.? Are pets allowed? Is there a garden area for planting, walking paths, putting green, pickleball––whatever is important to you?
Make sure to have a meal. Some places even let you stay overnight.

Once You’ve Decided
Have a lawyer or a knowledgeable family member or friend look over the contract for the CCRC, since they are very complex. And check with the AARP website (aarp.org) to find out what additional questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line.
Make sure to start decluttering and right-sizing as soon as possible.
Get a Senior Moving Specialist if you need help. Ask the place you are moving to for names or friends who have used one. Also, some facilities have someone on staff who can help you with floor plans.

Looking for your next home?
Here’s a guide to Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the Baltimore-Annapolis region.*

BayWoods of Annapolis
7101 Bay Front Drive
Annapolis, MD 21403

1055 W. Joppa Road
Towson, MD 21204

13801 York Road
Cockeysville, MD 21030

Ginger Cove
4000 River Crescent Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401

Carroll Lutheran Village
300 St. Luke Circle
Westminster, MD 21158

Charlestown Retirement Community
715 Maiden Choice Lane
Catonsville, MD 21228

800 Southerly Road
Towson, MD 21286

7200 Third Avenue
Sykesville, MD 21784

Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant
9000 Fathers Legacy
Ellicott City, MD 21042

Maryland Masonic Homes
300 International Circle
Cockeysville, MD 21030

Mercy Ridge
2525 Pot Spring Road
Timonium, MD 21093

North Oaks
725 Mount Wilson Lane
Pikesville, MD 21208

Oak Crest Village
8800 Walther Boulevard
Parkville, MD 21234

Roland Park Place
830 W. 40th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211

The Residences at Vantage Point
5400 Vantage Point Road
Columbia, MD 21044

The Village at Augsburg
6811 Campfield Road
Baltimore, MD 21207

The Wesley, Inc.
1400 Front Street
Lutherville, MD 21093


*Courtesy of the Maryland Department of Aging, as of January 2024.

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