Jan. 22, 2013, 7:01 a.m. EST
8 quirky retirement communities Homes for RV nuts, theater buffs, and…postal workers? By Catey Hill
Aspiring Hemingways, die-hard recreational-vehicle fans, Harley-obsessed boomers: If you’re feeling a little uninspired about your retirement options (another community based around a golf course? Really?), you’re in luck. A new breed of retirement community is catering to those whose interests lie a little outside the mainstream.
The number of retirement communities that serve a specific niche, a group of people that share a common background or interest, is on the rise.
University-based retirement communities, for example, offer senior living facilities that are located on, and integrated into, college campuses. These communities, which attract aging intellectuals and self-improvers who want continuing education opportunities, have grown from almost none 15 years ago to around 50 currently, says Andrew Carle, an assistant professor at George Mason University who specializes in senior housing.
Universities, of course, cater to a fairly broad range of interests. But as the niche-community idea has caught on, communities have sprouted up to serve more narrowly-defined groups.
ShantiNiketan, a community for aging Indian-Americans in Florida, opened its doors in 2010 (and an expansion is currently under way).
Oakmont Senior Living, which owns 34 retirement communities, opened its first community for gays and lesbians in 2011. And NoHo Senior Artists Community, for writers, actors and other artists, opened just last December.
“Boomers have already sparked an explosion of products—why would it be any different with retirement?” says Carle. “The critical mass is there and boomers want to do a lot of what they love when they retire.”
Or, as Neil Schuster, founder of niche community Lake Weir Living, puts it: “The typical cookie-cutter gated community is oversaturated…a lot of people just don’t want that.”
Some developers have found that some retirees are willing to pay a little more to live in the company of like-minded people; and targeting their community to a specific niche makes marketing easier, too.
To be sure, not everyone wants to organize their lives around a certain group or a specific activity, and there is a risk of getting sick of the niche you pick. (RV living may be great, but do you really want to spend your entire retirement in a 40-foot-long box?)
And research from Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, author of “Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide,” suggests that people who spend a ton of time around like-minded people tend to get more extreme in their views about people who don’t share their opinions.
That said, these experiments in group living can give pre-retirees a sense of just how many different ways there are to structure a retirement. Here are eight of the most unusual retirement communities in America.
NOHO Senior Arts Colony
NoHo Senior Artists Colony The brand-new NoHo Senior Artists Colony is a community for those 62 and up in the trendy North Hollywood neighborhood; it was created exclusively for artists. Being that it’s Hollywood, most of the current residents are writers and actors, but it’s open to anyone who has a desire to be artsy. Noho is built adjacent to a performing arts theater that plays host to the well-regarded Road Theatre Company. Residents of the community get to use the theater when there are no professional shows running, and some of the actors in the theater company live in the community. The NoHo colony doesn’t simply give a nod to arts: In addition to artists’ studios, the community offers an array of educational programs. “The arts classes and programs can culminate in a performance or publishing or creating a film,” says Tim Carpenter, founder and executive director of EngAGE, a nonprofit devoted to turning senior apartment communities into vibrant places to live. “We want people to achieve a goal.” Though only a handful of residents have joined Noho thus far (it just opened last month), the management expects roughly 150 to move in within the next year or so.
Lake Weir Living Whoever said retirement was about slowing down clearly hadn’t met the residents of Lake Weir Living, a “toy-friendly” boomer community in central Florida—built around the idea that no kinds of community restrictions should keep retirees from enjoying (or parking) their RVs, motorcycles, boats or vintage Buicks. Here you’ll find boomers whose lives revolve around hopping on their Harley or into their hot rod (their “adult toys”) and whizzing around town for a Sunday drive, thrill-seeker style. The community offers customizable homes (20 have been built so far, with room on site for more than 1,500 more) with the option for a five-car garage or even a 50-foot garage customized for an RV, so residents can keep all their toys safe in one place. Plus, the community sits amid roads and rolling hills and near a national forest and the beach, which Schuster claims offers residents “the best scenic riding in the state.”
The community is right by The Villages—a massive retirement community big enough to take up multiple ZIP Codes—so residents have plenty of fellow retirees nearby. Home prices for the community start in the low $100,000 range, and currently about 50 people live there.
Escapees CARE For avid RVers, life is a highway—that is, until life forces you to “hang up your keys” for a while. Enter Escapees CARE. At this facility in Livingston, Texas, visitors can park their RV on the grounds and get nursing care, meals, and more on site. “We like to not be tied down to one place, so we’ve created a program here where you can come in on a month-to-month basis if you want,” says Russ Johnson, the facilities director. For example, if an RV lover has surgery and can’t get around that well, but doesn’t want to have to recuperate in a nursing home, he or she can pop over to Escapees CARE; residents are welcome to stay longer, even for years if they’d like. Prices for one of the 35 spots average about $850 a month, with which you get nursing care from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, transportation to doctor appointments, and three meals a day plus snacks. Just remember, it’s BYORV (bring your own RV).
National Association of Letter Carriers
Nalcrest Hey there, Mr. (or Ms.) Postalworker. Wondering where you’re going to retire? Nalcrest, a retirement community founded in the early 1960s in south central Florida, was built exclusively for postal workers. “Before the strike of 1970, wages for letter carriers were very low; in New York City some of us were even on food assistance,” says Tom Young, who handles operations for Nalcrest. “So the idea behind Nalcrest was to create an affordable place for letter carriers to retire.” Even today, this community charges a maximum rent of just $520 per month, which includes the home, utilities other than electricity, and grounds maintenance. There are 500 one-story apartments with around 700 residents, as well as a recently renovated pool, shuffleboard and bocce ball courts, a 75-acre lake (for fishing, kayaking and boating) and a small restaurant.
ShantiNiketan When you look around ShantiNiketan, you won’t find the usual retirement community amenities like a pool or tennis courts—and that’s how residents here like it. ShantiNiketan, near Orlando, caters to Indian Americans 55 and over, and its unique features reflect their cultural preferences. “Indians like to sit and chat and watch Indian movies or walk outside,” says Jeffrey Ignatius, who founded the community with his father Iggy in 2010. “They aren’t really into swimming.” The community also has an on-site prayer room and extensive vegetarian cuisine options. Home prices range from $160,000 to $180,000, and monthly fees, which include utilities, property taxes, homeowners’ association dues and an optional meal plan, are less than $1,000 per month. The community thus far has sold out, but Phase 2 with 112 more buildings will open by 2014.
Lasell Village There are retirement communities on college campuses—and then there is Lasell Village. Here, you are not merely encouraged to take classes, you are required to—to the tune of 450 hours of classes a year at Lasell College, ranging from French cinema to social psychology to current events to fitness and volunteer work. (You can take classes with your peers or with students at the college.) “Each of our 16 buildings has a classroom,” says Paula Panchuck, the vice president of the village. “The architecture here literally supports our mission.” Of course, the 200 residents at the Newton, Mass. community also enjoy other activities, from swimming in the heated pool to Pilates in the community room. Lasell Village is a continuing care retirement community, which means it offers independent and assisted living, as well as nursing care. Entrance fees start at $300,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and monthly fees start at $3,100.
Aegis Gardens When the team at retirement community management company Aegis Living saw the plans for Aegis Gardens, a community for Chinese Americans near San Francisco, they loved them. The designers envisioned a blue and white color scheme, a grand staircase leading toward the front door in the main building, a beautiful fountain in the middle of the community. Aegis’s consultants from the Chinese community, however, were less enthusiastic. Turns out, white is associated with death in China, and the staircase and sharp angles of the fountain were interfering with the building’s chi, or vital energy. The Aegis team reworked the entire plan before finally opening the facility in 2001. Now residents enjoy a Feng Shui-designed facility with staff that speak a variety of Chinese dialects; popular activities include Tai Chi, calligraphy classes and mah-jongg. Aegis Living is building a second community near Seattle, which is set to open in 2014.
Glacier Circle Community Association About a decade ago, Stan Dawson, his wife Peggy and some of their (mostly retired) Unitarian church friends got to talking about what they were going to do as they got older. The close-knit group soon realized that there was nothing out there that resembled what they wanted—a very small community where each member had an equal say in decisions about the community such as handling repairs, architectural design and landscaping. So they decided to create their own. It took a few years, and a lot of permits and meetings, but in 2005, the group officially opened Glacier Village, a senior cohousing community in Davis, Calif.
Cohousing communities are made up of a cluster of individual homes with shared common space, in which all residents actively participate in the management of the community; like a commune, but with separate homes and amenities. There are more than 100 cohousing communities in the U.S., says Sandra Timmerman, the director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, but Glacier was the first senior cohousing community in this country. Glacier Village is made up of eight homes on a shared plot of land; all 11 residents (their average age is now about 82) attend a weekly meeting, share dinners three nights a week (they’ve hired a cook for that) and enjoy amenities like a bocce court and lake. Monthly dues pay for the upkeep of the land, housekeeping, shared meals and other se
Caring for Your Aging Parents From a Distance 4 tips to make the challenge more manageable posted by Leah Eskenazi, October 14, 2014 More by this author
This article previously appeared on the site of PBS NewsHour.)
Concern about Mom or Dad’s health and wellbeing is top of mind for many boomers today. Worrisome signs of your parent’s frailty, progressive memory loss or the decline in health require more and more of your help and attention.
But what if you live a good distance away?
Whether you live an hour away, in a different state or maybe even in another country,caregiving at a distance presents very real challenges.
Help For Your Journey
No longer just a devoted daughter or son, you’re now what the professionals in the aging field call a “long-distance caregiver.” Thrust into what is often a new world of intricate responsibilities, you may find it hard to see the personal rewards ahead. But they are there, as is the help available to assist you on this caregiving journey.
(MORE: The Stress of Long-Distance Caregiving)
There is no one right way to be a caregiver; everyone’s situation is different. You will find that, among a host of things, family dynamics, financial resources and the ability of your parent(s) to provide guidance for the support that they desire will shape your situation.
You can expect your caregiving responsibilities to include, at a minimum, two key functions: information gatherer — from your parent(s), websites, books, word of mouth, etc. — and coordinator of services — contacting potential service providers, scheduling, coordinating payment and monitoring medical care. Do plan on traveling and spending some time on the phone to arrange care and services.
Pulling Together Key Information
It will help you immensely if, before there is a crisis, your parent(s) provide you with information to locate their important records, phone numbers, email addresses and other essential contact information. If a crisis has already occurred, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury, this information is still important to gather, but it may require more detective work on your part.
(MORE: Caregiving From Afar)
Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) has a free online tool called “Where to Find My Important Papers” that will help you collect information to simplify communication with government agencies such as Social Security or the Veterans Administration; help with banking and other financial transactions and make speaking with your parent’s attorney, accountant and physician easier.
Legal documents, such as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management, can and should be prepared before a health condition makes it impossible for your parent to do so. For more information, read "Legal Issues in Planning for Incapacity." One organization to contact to find an attorney knowledgeable about estate planning or with special training in elder law is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
To keep things in order, long-distance caregivers will benefit from keeping a care notebook — a central place for the important information that you gather. A number of care notebook templates (hard copy or digital) are available for purchase or you can create your own, either a digital version or by using a good old three-ring binder with pocket dividers. Be sure your notebook contains current information on your parent’s prescriptions.
If paid caregivers are employed to provide care to your loved one, you will want them to maintain a separate notebook documenting medication administration, vital signs and other key physical and mental health status information.
(MORE: Caring for Parents With Your Siblings)
If you feel overwhelmed at any point, never hesitate to call in a friend or professional to help. An objective adviser knowledgeable about Medicare and Medicaid can be immensely helpful in sorting out health care eligibility and coverage. A social worker (National Association of Social Workers) or geriatric care manager (National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) can facilitate a family meeting to help prepare a care plan and/or deal with family dissension.
No one can master everything, not even the people who are experts in their field. The solution lies in putting together a team and using each team member’s strengths — including yours.
4 Tips To Keep In Mind
Here are four key tips to keep in mind as a long-distance caregiver:
1. As much as possible, involve the one who needs care in any decision-making process, especially issues related to care and housing. Be sure to listen to his or her preferences and respect your parent’s known values, even when these differ from yours. Instructions to paid caregivers should be in writing.
2. Learn what kind of help is available. Educate yourself on the care and services in the area. Similar kinds of services are found throughout the U.S. (e.g. adult day care, home care, case management, etc.). Eldercare Locator at 800- 677-1116 can direct you to the Area Agency on Aging appropriate for your parent(s). FCA’s Family Care Navigator offers a state-by-state searchable database to help you locate help in your state.
3. Remember to take care of yourself. Caregiving can be stressful, so create a support network for yourself. Talk with friends and family. Allow yourself to hire help or involve other family members. Trying to do it all alone is not healthy for you or your loved one.
4. Understand that care needs will change over time. It’s not too early to think about possible future needs. Once you locate resources, speak to a social worker who has experience in planning for eldercare. There are many options to be considered, and you’ll want to make informed, well-thought-out decisions about your parent’s care.
The sudden realization of your new role as a caregiver is likely to be stressful. How can you be a caring daughter or son and the coordinator of a multitude of tasks required when taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of a loved one? You may feel overwhelmed and isolated.
In reality, you have lots of company. Approximately 76 million of family caregivers are boomers, many with parents who are approaching a time in their life that will require aid and assistance. And an estimated 43.5 million Americans provide or manage care for a relative or friend 50+ years or older — that number is growing every day.
The good news is that with so many of us involved in care from a distance, there’s lots of information to help. Here are additional guides offering checklists and specific tips to help you in your long-distance caregiving journey: