Gracious Moves - Senior Transition Specialists
Brooke's Blog

Moving Mom...Choosing the Right Retirement Community

As published in the Savannah Morning News - August 29, 2012
Choosing the Right Retirement Community
Seniors lifting weights, movingSenior transitions include many choices.  For young retirees, it may mean turning a dream into a reality...moving into a second home that was planned for retirement, or perhaps finding the perfect vacation home that will one day serve that purpose.
Whether you choose an Active Retirement Community, Continuing Care Retirement Community, or Independent, Dependant or Skilled Nursing Facility, here are some things to think about and helpful checklists when researching your options.
Tips to Help You Decide on Your Second Home or Retirement Community
  • Affordability on retirement income
  • Visit area during all seasons before buying
  • Weather during winter and summer months
  • Access and road conditions, winter driving
  • Traffic congestion
  • Year round services and shopping
  • Always stuff to do
  • Cultural activities
  • Noisy or disruptive peak season visitors   
Top Considerations for Active Communities
  • Range of services
  • Social events
  • Amenities
  • Social and recreation programs
  • Community center/club house
  • Fitness facilities
  • Computer labs
  • Hobby facilities
  • Gardening plots
  • Library
  • Cultural arts programs
  • Worship
  • Continuing education
  • Information and counseling
  • Restaurants and meal programs
  • Health care programs
  • Transportation to shopping and doctor appointments
  • Walking & jogging trails
  • Outdoor spaces
  • Lakes
  • Security
  • Business centers
  • Shopping
Age Restricted Communities 
  • Age 55+:  80% of units must be occupied by at least one person 55 or older per unit.
  • Age 62+:  all residents must be at least 62.
If you are considering one of these types of communities, know there are rules and requirements that apply.  Be sure and ask each community for their Rules and Regulations, so you are aware of some crucial elements that may or may not fit your needs.  These considerations may include how long grandchildren may visit in a single stay, or accommodating a younger spouse or adult child that may need to live with you.
Top Three Considerations for any Community
When I have interviewed various retirement community Sales Directors, they find the most frequently asked questions are:
  •  Will the Senior’s money last throughout their lifetime?
  •  What is included in the monthly fee?
  •  What are the options when the Senior needs more care?
Where’s The Money? 
You have choices, which are best explored with a reputable, certified Financial Planner.  Here are some ideas to explore:
“Buy-in” Continuing Care Communities, require the Senior to have a certain net worth to be allowed to purchase the rights to live in a unit.  In some communities, if their savings runs out, the Senior is still guaranteed continuing care.  In that case, the capital used to buy in is then reduced each month by the amount of the monthly fees and is utilized by the community to pay the Senior’s expenses.  When the Senior departs the Community, and the unit is re-sold, a pre-determined portion of this fee, or the balance left if utilized for monthly expenses (whichever is greater), is refunded to the Senior or their heirs. An attorney’s review is important to determine if a buy-in is a good option for you and your family.  It should not be utilized for short term plans.
Line of Credit:  Taking out a line of credit on your current home while it sells, or utilizing your investment portfolio as a means of a temporary bridge until your home equity can be tapped, may be a solution for a buy-in opportunity.  Again, Financial Advisors can discuss these options with you to determine which is your best alternative.
Veteran’s Benefits:  Many qualified Veterans and spouses are eligible for VA benefits to pay for senior living.  There are Elder Care Attorneys and Financial Advisors that can help you navigate these waters to determine eligibility.  Estate planning frequently comes into play here, so some advance financial planning is important.
Long Term Care Insurance Policy:  Hopefully, you already have this lined up and did so when you were spry and able to get a good policy at a good price.  Again, Elder Care Attorneys are great for reviewing these complicated policies and giving you the bottom line in plain language.  A consultation will give you peace of mind on what your policy provides and what your monthly allowances will be so you can plan ahead.
Reverse Mortgages:  If you are considering a down-size move into a smaller home, you can actually purchase a home using a reverse mortgage.  I hear positives and negatives on this option, and if you choose to go this route, you must use a reputable lender or mortgage broker that will meet with you personally.  There are unscrupulous on-line companies that are here today and gone tomorrow, so go local, and go with someone that you trust. To help you understand the nuances of this type of loan, there is HUD approved, required Independent Counseling.
Advantages to reverse mortgages:
  • The home is titled in your name and it belongs to you or reverts to your estate. 
  • There are no payments with a reverse mortgage (other than property taxes and home owner’s insurance), so the equity from your previous home sale or life savings can be utilized to pay living expenses. 
  • Any assets or investments that you have are protected with this type of loan, which is not so with a conventional mortgage. 
  • You will never owe more than the home is worth, even if the loan is larger than the market value.
The down side to reverse mortgages:
  • A reverse mortgage is not for people who are to live in a home short term. 
  • Once considered expensive, the costs of using a reverse mortgage have been greatly reduced in recent years.  Discuss costs with your lender or counselor.
  • If you leave your home for a period of a year, the loan will become due.
  • You or your heirs have generally one year to sell the home or, alternatively, your heirs may purchase the home for the actual loan amount.
  • This home must be your primary residence.
  • The loan payoff grows over time because you are not making payments.
It is prudent to have an attorney that is familiar with reverse mortgages handle the closing on this type of loan. 
What is included in the monthly fee?
Each community has their inclusions, so it’s important to shop apples to apples.  Most include the following:
  • Utilities:  All or most included (some free standing cottages do not)
  • Lawn Maintenance
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation: Shopping, groceries, doctor’s visits, churches, synagogues
  • Meals:  Allowance for some or all
  • Activities:  Many are included; some have extra charges
  • Day trips:  Off campus day trips; some have extra charges
What happens when the Senior needs more care?
Long Term Care Insurance is invaluable here.  If a Senior is in a down sized home, active or independent community, daily help can be obtained with this policy. Check with Medicare, your Long Term Care Insurance provider, and/or your Elder Care Attorney on this, so you will know what to expect in advance.
Family can move in with certain modifications, such as additional rent, and an additional charge to meal plans. The family member(s) must also meet the community age restriction requirements, if applicable.
Hospice Care can be utilized for pain management and/or end-of-life care.  Hospice care is covered by insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid, although there are maximum limits which need to be reviewed. Hospice providers will not turn anyone down due to inability to pay. The state will usually pay for hospice care, with some eligibility requirements.  It is a cost-effective alternative to end-of-life care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities provide peace of mind to the Senior and their family. This is a long term care solution for Seniors, since the Independent, Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing facilities are all in one community.  The Senior can move back and forth as need be, without having to leave their friends, support systems and possibly their spouses.  Many Communities also provide Memory Care, which ensures the safety of the resident who may develop cognitive issues.  Without the benefit of a continuing care community, as issues arise, a Senior may have to be moved to another community that can provide the care they need, if none of the other options mentioned above are possible.
Coming next, in the “Moving Mom” Series –  The Crucial Step, Floor Planning Your Next Home
By Brooke Bass, Associate Broker with Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners and owner of Gracious Moves LLC, a Savannah based Staging and Move Management Company. 
A nationally award winning Realtor, Brooke has been successfully selling and staging homes since 1985. She has earned the National Association of Realtors “Seniors Real Estate Specialist” certification, and is a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers and Greater Savannah Coalition on Aging.  For more information, contact Brooke at 912-655-9299 or visit

17 Comments to Moving Mom...Choosing the Right Retirement Community:

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Alexzander on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7:08 AM
Good to see your help with seniors!
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saclongchnmp on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 4:52 AM
Your article was very good and gave me a lot of to think about. Thank you for sharing, and I hope you continue to write these informative publications.
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BRANDI on Saturday, November 10, 2012 11:46 AM
Great writing! Your blog contains lots of information about choosing a community. Following your tips, I will definitely check the different types of living options.
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Dionne on Monday, November 12, 2012 11:22 AM
Choosing the right retirement community is a very difficult decision and one which should not be taken lightly! A very good article :)
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Bottes Isabel Marant on Thursday, November 22, 2012 3:35 AM
This is a great post, and a great topic to explore. Thanks for sharing
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Isabel Marant chaussu on Thursday, November 22, 2012 3:35 AM
Very helpful...I am really glad to have this information.
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vancouver mover on Monday, December 17, 2012 2:37 AM
Thanks for such a nice blog post. It really helped me learn more about this topic. Regards and best wishes.
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David Ben on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 1:55 PM
Outstanding post! The information you have provided is outstanding. Your blog is not only educational but constructive too.
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interest rate for personal loan on Friday, December 28, 2012 2:09 AM
I love the idea of a reverse mortgage. Ihanks for sharing.
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staceybeck01 on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 11:59 AM
My parents have lived next door to my family for over ten years now, and we're moving so I suggested they look at a retirement community. I think it would be great for them. This is good advice, and I need to send it to my mom to read. It might also help them a bit knowing my dad can get veterans benefits to purchase a home more appropriate for them, but if they rent, veterans assistance can help with their monthly rent payments. We are looking into benefit options now. Thanks!
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Thanks for sharing this. Good tips and advice... useful for everyone.
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Monte Gale on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 5:43 AM
This is an informative blog about top Considerations for Active Communities. I think that Computer labs are important, and enjoyed your article. Thanks.
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