You won’t get too many arguments on this: Moving is stressful. In fact, according to HealthStatus.com’s “Top 5 Stressful Situations,” moving comes in at number three, right after divorce.
But it’s a strain faced by many seniors, who know they can’t—or shouldn’t—keep living in the old homestead they’ve lived in for decades. But where should they live? And who’s going to help with the moving?
That was a challenge faced by Reed and Kathleen Hutner, who had lived in their Baltimore home for 30 years. It’s often a specific event that gets homeowners thinking about moving, and, for the Hutners, it was a major snowstorm and all the pioneer challenges that go with that.
“Even though we were on the young side, not yet 68, we didn’t want all the chores anymore,” says Reed. They first considered a condo, but realized that they would probably have to move again. “Moving twice was something we really didn’t want to do,” he recalls. So they started to entertain moving into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC).
Part independent living, part assisted living, and part skilled-nursing facility, a CCRC offers a tiered approach to the aging process, accommodating residents’ changing needs. Healthy new arrivals typically live independently in single-family homes, apartments, or condominiums on the CCRC campus. When assistance with everyday activities becomes necessary, they can move into assisted living or nursing-care facilities. And that means seniors live in one location for the duration of their lives, with much of their future care already figured out, which can provide for a great level of comfort.
For some seniors, it’s younger family members who help in the search for new living options. That was the case with Lucille Jacobson, 83 and recently widowed, who has three children living in the area. Five years ago, the Jacobsons’ children did a thorough search of CCRCs for their parents, who were moving from a single-family, six-bedroom home out of town.
“My children did a great job when they found BayWoods in Annapolis, a CCRC that is owned and run by the residents,” says Lucille. “We really liked being totally involved in the entire decision-making process. And, most importantly, they allowed dogs.”
But maintaining her super-active lifestyle was also a priority, and BayWoods, located on 14 acres overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, promised to help her do that. A former teacher at Penn State, Lucille teaches mindful-walking meditation, directs two brass bands, teaches memoir writing and knitting, and plays the washboard. She also does yoga and other exercise programs, as well as swimming—indoors in the cold weather and, in the summer, off the dock in the bay. And she can easily get off campus and see the sights: No longer driving, she goes on trips with fellow BayWoods residents to Baltimore and Washington.
“I’ve made lots of friends because I’m involved,” she says. “I recommend that to anyone moving here.”
CCRCs come in all sizes and vary in their services, conveniences, social activities—and in their costs. But all include three meals a day for assisted and more acute care. So, like Goldilocks, you’ll have to find the one that’s just right for your needs and lifestyle. And that’s just what the Hutners did.
When the couple started looking, there were a few must-haves. “My wife is from Baltimore and has relatives and friends here, so she didn’t want to move away from the area. We also wanted a large community with a variety of activities and dining options,” says Reed. After checking out several, they chose Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville. Set on 87 landscaped acres, it has more than 100 resident-run clubs, classes, and activities. And they got very good vibes from the place when they visited and spoke to several residents. They also appreciated that there was enough parking for their two cars, and they liked that they could get everywhere on campus without going outside.
There was, however, still that moving thing on the horizon. But to make that easier, they hired a professional.
“We used Heather Murphy, director of Move Management Services [Abilities Network] in Towson,” says Reed. “They did an incredible job. I love to read and they packed up 52 boxes of books. The most amazing thing was that they put the books back in the bookcase in the exact order I had them in my house.”
Once settled into their new digs, the Hutners immediately got involved in activities. Today, five years later, they are on the welcoming committee, the committee to bring performers to the facility’s on-site pub, and other groups. Kathleen uses a doctor at Oak Crest’s on-site medical center. And, yes, they’ve made lots of friends.