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Luxury Retirement Communities: Sign Me Up!

The thought of my mother enduring another Massachusetts winter puts me in a full-blown panic attack, and I'm trying to convince her and Riley to move to Pennsylvania, ASAP. She's content with her snow blower and her new roof, thanks. (Translation to daughter: Would you please quit your meddling?)

Even so, I've been looking at a couple of continuing care retirement communities in my area and my only question is this: How soon can I move in?

You've heard about these places, right? The deal is this: Seniors live independently in an apartment or small house on the campus, enjoying the food, gym, bingo, cultural excursions and chauffeur service to the grocery store. As their health needs change, they can get more care by moving into the assisted living or nursing home portion of the community that's on the same campus.

I'm touring a place last week and it feels like the Ritz-Carlton. A beautiful dining room, or residents can call for room service if they don't feel like sitting at dinner with the ladies from the knitting club. Library, indoor swimming pool, game room and state-of-the-art fitness center. Housekeeping and linen service is included. The guy who gave the tour told us with a straight face of a recent residents-versus-maintenance staff pool volleyball game there last week. The seniors who weren't playing sat around a keg and ate pretzels. Apparently it's never too late to go back to college!

Please, couldn't I just come for a week? Swim in the pool, train for a triathlon, have someone do the cooking and cleaning? My mother and I have such different impressions of a place like this. She wants to live in her own home forever. I'd pay dearly to have someone else pamper me. She sees it as a loss of independence. I view it as a luxury.

OK, so getting in to one of these places requires a feat of financial and contractual gymnastics that makes health care reform look easy. You've got to have some dough - or be able to sell your home - to front the entry fee, which can range from $68,000 to almost $400,000, depending on the living quarters, the contract you select and how much is refundable. You need a financial planner and an attorney who specializes in senior issues to analyze the contract. That process is draining, to be sure. But once you're in, life is good. At least it appears that way to me.

In fact, I think someone could make a fortune if they developed one of these properties and marketed it toward 30- and 40-something parents with small children. I can just imagine the brochure:

Never Wrestle with the Crib Mattress Again!
Most of our residents move into assisted living when their first child is born and breastfeeding every two hours around the clock. You'll appreciate having someone to prepare delicious meals and make sure you don't fall asleep while standing in the shower.
By the time your child is sleeping through the night, most families are ready to move to independent living. We don't rush the transition.

As your child enters first grade, our staff is happy to check and sign homework and design solar panels for the science fair. We can help with fundraising for the school walkathon. It is your choice, of course, to remain in independent living, but we suggest your family take advantage of our assisted living services again when your child is old enough for a learner's permit. Our night staff strictly enforce curfew.

Skilled nursing is always available for the family bout with the stomach flu.
Ah, well, a mom can dream, can't she? When my daughter is old enough, I'm going to be sure to tell her what I'm thinking. And I want her to remind me of it when the time comes.

Photo courtesy Flickr user JoeDuck, CC 2.0
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