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Looking Forward: Finding Your Road to Retirement
Making Residence Choices to Fit Your Future
As you consider retirement, consider this: You are probably more likely to pick up Runner's World than a pipe and slippers. It's safe to assume that you will probably live longer and remain more physically active than your parents' generation did.

Fortunately, the world has changed as your life and circumstances have changed, and there are many options available for your next chapter.

As with the transition of your law practice, the sooner you begin considering how you want to structure your life after retirement, the more options you will have. Many people nearing retirement consider moving to a smaller, home. Beyond just downsizing, the goal often is to simplify their lives by freeing themselves from the lawns that need mowing, the snow that requires shoveling, and the myriad other obligations of homeownership.

Another concern that becomes more prominent is understanding how to provide protection for yourself and your spouse as you age and your needs for care increase, at a predictable cost.

One residential option that addresses these objectives is the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). A CCRC is not just an independent living community, or assisted living, or a nursing home. It is a combination of all of three on a single campus designed to provide a continuum of care for residents.

Typically, people move into a CCRC when they are independent. If a resident's care needs increase over time, he or she can move to the next level – assisted living or, if needed, the nursing home – without relocating geographically, because all levels of housing and supportive healthcare are provided at the CCRC. There are at least seven CCRCs in Northern New England.

CCRCs have been around for 100 years, and there are more than 2,000 across the United States. Some were established by faith-based organizations; some have a fraternal base; and some, like RiverWoods in Exeter, were created through "grassroots" efforts.

Changes in our society have made the time ripe for CCRCs. Families today are more mobile, and they do not congregate in the same small town, as they once did. These days, you could have adult children who live in China or California as typically as they used to live across town 50 years ago. The proximity is just not there.

Traditional assumptions, such as that the eldest daughter will be available to provide care as parents age, are falling away as the daughter is now apt to have a full-time job and is likely parenting her own children at a later age, leading to what demographers are calling "the sandwich generation."

CCRCs remove the worry that responsibility for care will fall on succeeding generations. Properly chosen, the CCRC agreement provides residents with the security of knowing where they will receive care, should they need it, at a cost they have already predicted. These communities also provide a place where residents can make new friends who share their interests.

The concept behind CCRCs is often misunderstood. The following are some myths about CCRCs:
1. A CCRC is a real estate transaction.
This is incorrect. Although the price generally varies with the type of apartment that you choose, the contact you sign is to receive housing and nursing needs for the rest of your life. It is an insurance contract, and CCRCs in New Hampshire are overseen by the NH Department of Insurance.
2. You shouldn't move into one until you are sick or unable to live independently.
This couldn't be farther from the truth. To qualify for a CCRC, you have to demonstrate through physical and cognitive assessments that you can live independently. If you are part of a couple, you are assessed separately.
3. All CCRCs are essentially the same.
This is perhaps the greatest fallacy. When visiting two different CCRCs they may look alike and have similar amenities. However, there are vast differences in their contracts, costs and levels of coverage you receive.

Some CCRCs are for-profit, and some are nonprofit. Some CCRCs give 90 percent of your initial entrance fee back when you leave or pass away, and do not charge additional monthly fees when you are in skilled nursing or assisted living. Others charge a reduced rate or market rate. It is critical to review the contracts.

You have many options when considering how this next chapter will play out. Investigating CCRCs is a smart step, as it can save you financial worry, provide peace of mind in a changing health care environment, and invigorate your sense of community.

Download a printable version of Looking Forward.


Justine Vogel has been president and CEO of RiverWoods at Exeter since 2007. For more information about CCRCs, look for Riverwoods' "Insider's Guide" or visit www.riverwoodsrc.org.

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