My parents are in the process of visiting their local versions of The Villages. Because I would love for them to be near me, I am visiting a few in Houston in the hopes of offering them a comparable choice, both in amenities and cost. From what I’ve learned, it is a pretty darn appealing lifestyle. The ones they are interested in are referred to as Continuous Care Retirement Centers, and offer a range of completely independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing/rehabilitation services, and memory care.
Their first choice is essentially like living on a cruise ship. You buy in to your unit, and they have 21 floor plans to choose from of various sizes. There is weekly housekeeping, including changing linens, and some sort of call button if you have a problem. The Villages takes care of all repairs and maintenance, replaces your appliances (and makes your lightbulb selections!) when they need to be replaced, covers all utilities other than cable, and includes a choice of several restaurants and a bar that has “social hours”. On the day they visited, lunch in the fancier restaurant included salmon, asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and a slice of hot apple pie with ice cream for dessert. (No cooking or dishes, and hot apple pie – I think my mom was sold at that point!) In addition, you have no lawn maintenance, etc.
All at no additional cost, they have a fitness room, with personal trainers who come in at appointed times, offering yoga and other classes, a pool for swimming laps, and various healthy living courses. They also offer technology courses such as how to use your iPhone and iPad, they have an art studio, pool tables,putting green, poker tournaments, two libraries, and have outings such as architectural tours, trips to the movies, happy hours, parties, and other things. They will take you to appointments, haircuts, or wherever else you need to go. They also have a private dining room you can reserve if you want to have guests, and have a guest suite available for visiting friends and family. Again – my mom is pretty enticed by the fact that you don’t have to do all the work to get your house ready for guests.
When they were visiting, they saw friends my dad had retired with, former neighbors, and ran into people from church. It is clearly a pretty social place. Some friends told them they like to come down for lunch, order two lunches but split one and bring the other back to their room. Then they stay in for dinner and just reheat the leftovers. I’m sure you could get take-out or a meal sent up from the restaurants as well if you didn’t feel like a shared dining environment.
I had never given much thought to where we’ll live when we’re older, but I have to say The Villages is now a contender. I like my independence and a fair amount of quiet time, but it seems that you could have whatever blend of social and private that you would like. It seems like an excellent way to extend the amount of time you are able to live independently, albeit at a cost. It appears that the buy-in will be about $150-$200K more than my parents will sell their house for, and the monthly fee will be somewhere between $5500-$6000. The pricing is all very sketchy and non-transparent, with the whole “if you are willing to sign the contract today, I can give you a discount of x” pressure. So far, the ones I have seen a reasonable distance from me are nice, but are smaller so they do not offer as many amenities, or three meals a day, and in some cases, no bar and no wine or spirits available with meals.
Do you have any experience with any version of retirement living? Have you given any thought to where you’d like to live when you hit your golden years?