|The Wellington is just 5 miles from Laguna Beach!|
CCRCs are multi-level retirement communities that contain both independent living apartments or cottages, as well as at least one additional level of care such as assisted living. A CCRC also has skilled nursing and/or memory care facilities.
Although I have researched a variety of assisted living and continuing care communities, I have only occasionally spent any length of time touring or visiting one. When a friend of mine moved into The Wellington, a senior living community near my home, and invited a few friends over for the weekly cocktail hour, I thought it was time to check it out.
Although The Wellington in Laguna Hills, California is just one out of thousands of these communities around the United States, it is fairly typical of the way they are run. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when I visited. Below are some of my observations.
What are Assisted Living or Continuing Care Retirement Communities?
* First of all, these places are nothing like the old nursing homes where some of us may remember our grandparents living. The Wellington is part of the Vintage chain of senior living communities, which has multiple locations on the West Coast. Rather than living in a small room in a nursing home, residents in these communities have their own spacious, comfortable, private apartments.
* There are different ways to pay for a CCRC. At many CCRCs, they require you to "buy in" and this can cost $200,000 to $400,000 or more (which can be partially refunded when you move out or die). At the Wellington, and many other senior living communities, you rent your apartment and it is on a month-to-month basis. This allows residents more flexibility, should they decide to leave and move somewhere else. This is especially important because the Wellington offers independent living and assisted living, but it does not offer skilled nursing or memory care. In those situations where you need more intensive care, you may need to move somewhere else at some point in your life.
My Impressions of The Wellington
* Upon entering The Wellington, the lobby area has the feeling of an upscale hotel. On the far-side of the lobby is an elegant dining room with tables covered by white table cloths. I checked out the menu, which offers the residents a nice variety of choices in their meals, including daily specials. Residents order from the menu or off the list of specials and the meals are served restaurant style.
* Our hostess showed us around the community and we saw a number of pleasing amenities including a large pool and spa, a putting green, a fitness center, a barbecue area and several park like sitting areas, shaded by large eucalyptus trees that are scattered between the buildings.
* The individual apartments are large, comfortable and personally decorated by the individual residents, using their own furniture and artwork. Each apartment also has a covered balcony where residents can relax in privacy and enjoy the outdoors. Residents are even allowed to keep their pets with them. There is no need to give up your beloved animal companion.
* Most of the apartments at The Wellington also have large kitchens with full-size appliances, despite the fact that the residents are provided all their meals, as well as snacks throughout the day. However, it is my understanding that many of the apartments in other, similar communities do not have kitchens or have very small kitchenettes.
* Many of the apartments at the Wellington have stunning mountain and city lights views; others have a view of the tree lined paths in the inner courtyards.
* According to our hostess and the calendar we were given, there is a full schedule of activities for the residents. In addition to the weekly cocktail party, there are daily exercise classes, shopping trips to a variety of stores in the area, art classes, brain games, book club meetings, religious services, Bingo, movies, bridge and classes. There is no reason for anyone to sit alone in their own apartment.
* Transportation is available for field trips, shopping, doctor's visits, the airport, and special events or outings. There is no need to use your own car, although you can keep one at The Wellington if you choose, especially if you wish to plan your own outings to places like nearby Laguna Beach (pictured above).
* In addition to the independent living arrangement, additional services are available through their assisted living program. These are offered for additional fees above the cost of the apartment rental. These extra services can include keeping track of your medications, assistance getting to and from the meals and other activities, feeding assistance, housekeeping services, incontinence assistance, and help with bathing, grooming or dressing. They will even bring your meals to you in your room, if you prefer. If you have long-term care insurance, your rent and many of the xtra fees may be covered by your insurance.
What Else Should You Know?
* While The Wellington has many wonderful attributes, there are limits to the care that is available there. There are no skilled nursing services, physical therapy facilities, or a memory care unit. Should you need any of those services, you would have to move to another community, at least temporarily.
Is Living in a Senior Living Community or CCRC Right for You?
Only you can decide when or if you should move into a senior living community, assisted living facility or a CCRC. The average resident who moves into one of these living situations is usually in their 80's. Some people move in earlier, especially if a husband or wife has a serious illness and their spouse cannot care for them alone. For example, at the cocktail party I attended, my hostess introduced me to a very healthy, active man who had moved into The Wellington because his wife was dying and he needed help caring for her.
You need to be comfortable living and socializing with a wide variety of people, some of whom are feeble, ill or using walkers. On the other hand, not everyone living in these communities is in declining health. Among the outings that were shown on the monthly calendar was a men's lunch at Hooters and regular beach walks. Activities are planned that will appeal to a wide variety of senior citizens, including aging Baby Boomers.
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Photo credit: Photo of Laguna Beach taken by author, Deborah-Diane