Finding a Good Home
Jungerman and his friends are getting their wish. After four years of negotiating for property, lobbying the city council for residential zoning, and coordinating with architects and builders, he and his wife, Nancy, were the first of 13 residents to move into Glacier Circle, the country's first elder cohousing community. Residents own their apartment or townhome (there are eight attached residences, all wheelchair accessible) and a portion of a separate common house that includes a kitchen, dining and living rooms, and a housekeeper's apartment. They also share chores and maintenance expenses. "We've been talking about sharing the cost of a nurse if several of us needed one," he says. Each home has its own kitchen, but residents share three meals a week-two of them whipped up by a professional cook-together in the common house. On Thursdays, it's potluck. In addition to spontaneous after-dinner socializing and movies, the residents meet every week to discuss new furniture for the common house, hiring a gardener, or business at hand. At least 20 other groups around the country are starting their own cohousing communities.
Like any group endeavor, cohousing presents daunting challenges. First, it's costly. Each family spent $350,000 to $450,000. Estate planning is tricky. All want heirs to be able to sell the property without changing the spirit of the community. And making group decisions can be difficult. "We definitely have more work on our hands than people who move into big retirement facilities," says Jungerman. "But it keeps our lives feeling meaningful."
Assisted Living, Continuing Care. In 2003, Nina Liebman, 65, of New York City gave her 93-year-old father, Jules Roskin, a choice: move to an assisted-living facility or agree to a home health aide. The Albuquerque, N.M., resident suffered from congestive heart failure and Liebman felt it was no longer safe for him to live alone. He opted for a health aide, who gave him his medications and helped him with dressing and grooming, as well as shopping, cooking, and cleaning. But he resented the lack of privacy. Next he agreed to try assisted living. The decision turned out to be the right one, allowing Roskin to keep his fiercely guarded privacy until his death in 2004. "People came when he needed them," says Liebman. "Someone could help him, but then he could be by himself. That was very important to him."
An assisted-living residence charges a monthly fee-the national average is $2,968, according to MetLife-for room, board, and services such as laundry, transportation, housekeeping, and medication management. The fee goes up for higher levels of service, such as meals delivered to your apartment or dementia care.
Some assisted-living homes are part of continuing-care retirement communities. These promise to care for residents for the remainder of their lives; they move to the various facilities as their needs demand. Unlike assisted-living facilities, most CCRCs don't simply charge rent and a service fee. Instead, seniors pay a hefty entrance fee, which can range from $70,000 to more than $1 million. In addition, there is a monthly fee that may or may not increase as the resident's level of care goes up. If this sounds like an insurance policy, there's a reason: Most CCRCs are actually considered a form of insurance and are overseen by state insurance regulators, as well as by state agencies that license assisted-living and nursing homes. Because of the complexity of fee structures, if you and your parent decide to go with assisted living or a CCRC, it's critical to understand what it will cost, what services are provided, and how those costs will change if your parent needs additional care.