Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reata Glen and other CCRCs in Orange County, CA

A growing trend in housing for senior citizens is the CCRC - Continuing Care Retirement Community.  These are communities where people initially move in while they are still in good health and enjoy independent living in their own private residence.

Later, if the residents eventually need higher levels of care such as assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care, they can get whatever help they need while staying in the same community.  There are a wide variety of CCRCs with different types of amenities.  The costs vary accordingly.

Why People Move to a CCRC

CCRCs are located throughout the United States.  They have become a popular alternative for people who do not have long-term care insurance and want to make sure they will receive care for the rest of their lives, no matter what happens with their health.  However, not everyone who moves into a CCRC is someone who does not have long-term care insurance.  Some types of CCRCs do take this insurance.  Others will accept Medicaid payments to cover at least part of the cost of nursing home care.

Most CCRCs require a buy-in or entrance fee that, in many cases, will be partially refunded to your estate when you leave or die.  On the other hand, there are some that are entirely rental.  All of them have a monthly fee, including the ones that require you to buy it at the beginning.  In some cases, the fee is guaranteed to remain about the same as long as your live there.  In other cases, you pay different amounts based on the services your receive.

It is wise to thoroughly investigate all the choices in your area so you know the options that are available before deciding which one is right for you.

Financing a CCRC

There is a wide range in costs for a CCRC.  If you choose one with a buy-in, it can cost $300,000 or more at the time you move in.  If you rent your housing unit rather than buying it, you may still have an entrance fee of $20,000 or more ... but not always.  In either case, you will also have a monthly fee.  Some facilities that cater to middle-class and low-income senior citizens may allow you to apply for Medicaid and apply it to your expenses.  There are also CCRCs for people who have long-term care insurance.

If the CCRC you choose is a life-care community, you will typically pay a large up-front fee plus a monthly fee that will remain about the same no matter how much care you need in the future.  This is particularly popular with people who do not have long-term care insurance or family members who could care for them, and want the security of knowing that they will be cared for no matter what happens to them in the future.  If you choose this option, financial advisers recommend that you have a professional scrutinize the financial viability of a community before you trust it with your life's savings and care.

Popular CCRCs Located in Orange County, CA

Below is a list of popular CCRCs in Orange County, California.  In nearly every major populated area in the United States, you will find similar types of communities.  In some areas of the country, the costs may be less ... or more.

Regent's Point - Irvine, California - Entrance fee ranges from $47,500 (for UCI alumni and faculty) to $467,500, plus a monthly fee of $2,352 to $4,936 a month.  In addition, there is a tiered cost plan.  The more services you need, the more you pay.

Capriana - Brae, CA - $300,000 to $500,000+ entrance fee - minimum monthly fee of $4,195 plus additional charges for extra services.  They will help you sell your current home to help make it possible for you move in.

Covington - Aliso Viejo, CA - No specific buy-in price was publicly available.  However, like most of the others in Orange County, there is an entrance fee and reviewers indicated it is one of the more expensive options in Orange County.  However, 90% of your entrance fee is returned to you or your estate when you leave the community, once the unit where you lived is reoccupied. The Covington does not accept Medicaid, Veteran's benefits or long-term care insurance.  Basic daily cost for a private room in their care center is $309 a day.

Fountains at Sea Bluffs - Dana Point, CA - No pricing information listed.  While not confirmed, one reviewer said that she was paying nearly $9000 a month for her father to live there in the memory care facility.

Town and Country Manor - Santa Ana, CA - Independent living ranges from $2,750 to $4,090 a month, plus $1,250 a month for a second person in your apartment.  There is a $1,000 application fee.  Assisted living ranges from about $4,000 to $4,550 a month, plus $1,250 for a second person.  Skilled nursing is based on the level of care needed.  There does not appear to be memory care at this facility.  Residents do not have a buy-in.  This is a rental CCRC.

Walnut Village - Anaheim, CA - According to reviews, this CCRC has entrance fees that range from $209,000 to $700,000+ and 90% is refundable. There is also a monthly fee that can range from $2800 to $6200.  There are cottages as well as apartments.

Morningside - Fullerton, CA - The reviews indicated there was a large entrance fee, but it was not published on their website. It is operated by the same company as Reata Glen, described in detail below, so fees and the way it is operated will probably be similar.  

Brookdale - San Juan Capistrano, CA -  There is an entry fee, plus a tiered level of monthly costs, based on the care you require.  You only pay for the services you need.  There are a variety of plans available.  For example, you have the option of paying a lower entry fee if you have long-term care insurance.  In addition, you can choose from a variety of refund percentages and this can alter the size of your initial buy-in costs.

Reata Glen - A New CCRC in Orange County

A new CCRC is under construction in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  They have 19 designs in both apartments and villas.  Sizes range from a one-bedroom with 646 square feet to three bedrooms with 2,827 square feet.   Depending on the size of the home you choose, the buy-in entrance fee can range from $400,000 to $2,499,000.    A typical two bedroom, two bath 1,268 square foot Garden Terrace with covered parking can have a buy-in of $949,000 to $993,000.  For those who do not have covered parking with their apartment, there is an optional additional entrance fee of $10,000 for a carport and $25,000 for a garage.  There is also a monthly fee which should remain stable during the remainder of your life.

Like most other CCRC's, there will be a variety of amenities.  When complete, this community will have tennis courts, a wood shop, gardens, a putting green, a swimming pool, a fitness center, and a performing arts center.

You can get a brochure and learn more about this newest CCRC in Orange County at

If you are interested in learning more about where to retire in the United States or overseas, common health concerns, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Photo credit:  Photo of Reata Glen from their website

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Death from Falls Can Be Prevented
In 2013, an estimated 25,464 senior citizens died from a fall.  Approximately 2.5 million more were injured.  Of those, 734,000 people required hospitalization.  Shockingly, one in three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall every year and a significant of them will suffer serious injuries, including broken hips or head trauma.  Medical costs for falling amount to over $30 billion a year.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that these numbers may double in the next five years as our population ages.  In addition, falls are also a major reason for emergency room visits for people in the 45 to 64 age group, so problems are not limited only to those in the 65 and over age group.

Researchers have studied this problem extensively and they have discovered that certain programs are effective in preventing falls.  However, there is virtually no government support for these programs, which means they are not always available in the communities where they are needed.  When they are available, the programs are usually sponsored by local hospitals, community groups and agencies.

Even if you do not believe you are at risk of falling, accidents can happen to anyone.  In addition, you may have a spouse or other family member who could be injured from a fall.  Everyone should be aware of the causes and how to reduce the risk.

Why Senior Citizens Fall

There are a number of reasons why people fall, regardless of their age ... although the problems associated with falling are more serious in senior citizens.  Some of the more common causes are:

Inner-ear Problems
Diabetes - Particularly for those who suffer from Neuropathy
Illnesses that cause patients to feel weak, dizzy or shaky
Medications - People should be especially concerned about sleeping medications or those that lower blood pressure or cause dizziness

How to Prevent Falls

Fortunately, there are steps everyone can take to dramatically lower their risk of falling.  Below are some suggestions you can implement yourself.

Attend the CDC program called "Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries" (STEADI).  Contact your local hospital or senior center to see when a class will be held in your community.

Attend a Balance Training Program.  Many senior centers and communities offer separate balance classes or include balance training in their yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, dance and other exercise classes for seniors.

Practice balance exercises at home including:

* Standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time
* Walk heel to toe along a straight line on the floor
* Practice sitting and standing from a chair to build leg and core muscle strength

Eliminate or avoid danger zones in your home, especially:

* Potentially icy areas outside your home in cold weather
* Anything in your home or yard that could trip you -- wires, plants, furniture legs, etc.
* Loose rugs or carpeting
* Slippery floors like polished hardwood or wet floors in the bathroom and kitchen

Other ways to reduce falls include:

*  Installing grab bars in your shower or around your bathtub.
*  Giving up your high heels.
*  Having someone move items from high shelves and placing them where they are within easy reach.
*  Avoiding risky behaviors such as climbing on ladders or standing on chairs to reach high items.

Finally, watch your medications and read the package inserts.  Pay close attention to the possibility of falling because of the prescription drugs you are taking.  Many medications can lower your blood pressure and make you dizzy, especially when you first get out of bed in the morning or get up from a chair.  Take things slowly and make sure you feel OK before making any sudden moves.  Talk to your doctor about your dosage levels or ask about alternative medications if one you are taking seems to make you especially dizzy.

If you are interested in learning more about how to take care of your health as you age, where to retire, financial planning or family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Social Security Plans of Clinton and Trump

Although it has not been discussed in detail by the media, one of the major issues for senior citizens in the November, 2016 election is the future of Social Security.  Because we have repeatedly been warned that the trust funds for both Social Security and Medicare will run out of money in the coming decades, this issue is on the minds of both current retirees and those who are approaching retirement.  As a result, AARP recently requested written statements from the presumptive candidates of both major political parties to ask their plans for the future of Social Security.  The results of those statements were in the July-August 2016 issue of the AARP Bulletin.

The statements expressed in the sections below are based on direct quotes that were provided in writing to AARP by the candidates.

The intent of this article is not to sway your vote either way, but to help you make your own informed decision, based on the candidates' expressed views.  Of course, any action by the next president will need the support of Congress in order to become law.

Hillary Clinton's Plan for the Future of Social Security

*  Raise the current income cap on Social Security contributions. Currently, only the first $118,000 in income is taxed for Social Security. This means that higher income Americans will pay more than they have in the past.  Some types of income which are not currently taxed may also be included.

*  Avoid risks to Social Security by resisting efforts to privatize it.

*  Maintain on-going annual cost-of-living adjustments for retirees receiving Social Security benefits.

*  Resist efforts to further raise the retirement age.

*  Avoid adding to the burden on the middle class by resisting efforts to cut benefits or increase the percentage of taxes withheld.

*  Expand Social Security benefits to widows and people who took time out of the workforce to be caregivers for their children, elderly parents or other sick relatives.

*  Reduce the amount that Social Security decreases when a spouse dies.  This is a particularly serious issue for two successful wage-earner couples after they retire.  When one dies, the remaining household Social Security benefits for the surviving spouse can be cut in half.

Donald Trump's Plans for the Future of Social Security

*  Have an economy that is "robust and growing."

*  Lower corporate tax rate to 15 percent and make other business tax changes.

*  Renegotiate trade deals and impose budget discipline to stop increasing our national debt.

*  Repeal both the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Affordable Care Act to increase competition and lower costs to consumers.

*  Reduce fraud, waste and abuse in the government, including reducing the size of the federal government.

*  Immigration reform will enable the government to save money on education, health care and public safety.  It will also increase security and lower the incidence of drug use.

*  In summary, "If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP ..., we will be able to secure Social Security for the future."

*  After the above have been accomplished, the administration would "examine what changes might be necessary for future generations."  Mr. Trump did not specify what future changes that could include in order to secure Social Security.

Summary of Social Security Plans of Clinton and Trump

This blog has long mentioned that many experts believe minor tweaks to Social Security could make it more secure in future decades and, possibly, indefinitely.  One of these tweaks would be to increase the amount of income that is taxed by lifting the current ceiling on taxable income.  Another possibility is to raise the full retirement age by a year or two.  A final choice would be to slightly increase the Social Security tax on income.  Analysts have suggested that any one of those tweaks, or a wide variety of combinations of them, would be sufficient to secure the Social Security Trust for future generations.

Of the above possibilities, Hillary Clinton is only recommending the first one ... increasing the cap on taxable income so that more income is taxed ... but not at a higher rate.  She also is against raising the full retirement age.  

Donald Trump is recommending an entirely different approach.  He believes that a strong economy will solve the problem, although he does not specify what mechanism he would use to get the additional GDP into the Social Security Trust ... through the use of a higher tax cap or an increase in the Social Security tax rate.  He only wrote that he would, "examine what changes might be necessary for future generations." 

This could be a good choice for a debate question for the candidates, so voters will have more specifics about exactly how the future of Social Security will be secured.


"Trump & Clinton - Where They Stand On Social Security" AARP Bulletin/Real Possibilities July-August 2016 (written responses submitted to AARP by the candidates for president.)

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Photo credit:  Photos from candidates' Twitter accounts.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Which Senior Housing Option is Best for You?

As Baby Boomers begin to reach retirement age, one thing on their mind is where they should live as they age.  Some Boomers want to make one decision and be done.  They hope to find a single choice that will meet their needs for the rest of their lives.  Other people want to live an active, independent life first and later move to assisted living or a similar facility.

There is no option that is perfect for everyone.  Your financial situation and health will almost certainly affect your decision.  You may also be influenced by where you currently live, as well as where other members of your family live ... aging parents, adult children, grandchildren and, in some cases, your siblings.

To help readers know their range of options, below is an overview of the types of housing that are available.  Most of these choices are available in every region of the United States.  Some of these may be senior housing options that you might not have previously considered.  However, before making a final decision about where to retire, it is important that we know what choices are available. You can find links to more articles about most of these options by clicking on the tab above labeled: "Retire in the U.S."  There are dozens of helpful articles that will give you more detailed information.

Senior Housing Options

Age in Place:  One of the most popular choices is to remain exactly where you are.  The Age in Place movement has become more popular and there are now a wide variety of resources to make it easier for people to continue to live in their own homes as they get older.  Contact senior centers and home heath care facilities in your area to see what types of assistance are available.  Many communities can help with low cost meals at near-by senior centers or Meals on Wheels delivered to your home; free or low-cost transportation; exercise programs; social programs and other activities that can make it easier for you to remain in your home.  Many communities also offer a PACE program.  This is short for Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly and offers the equivalent of high quality nursing home care in your own home.

Over-55 Communities:  Del Webb, Lenair, Trilogy and several other builders have created over-55 communities in a wide variety of locations across the United States ... especially across the Sunbelt, although there are also options in northern states.  These communities are more than subdivisions for senior citizens.  They often pride themselves in the resort-style facilities they provide their residents ... golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses, exercise facilities, theaters and more.  They are sometimes also called Active Adult Communities.  My husband and I currently live in an over-55 community near Laguna Beach, California.  It has been a very relaxing and pleasant option, since so much is done for us ... including lawn care and building maintenance.

Senior Apartments:  Many seniors choose to move into senior apartments, especially if they wish to get away from maintaining a home.  There are luxury apartments for middle class and affluent retirees, as well as subsidized apartments for moderate and low-income retirees.  In subsidized apartments, the rent is usually based on a percentage of your income (on a sliding scale).  Whether luxury or subsidized, most of these senior apartments provide special services for seniors ... social events, transportation, assistance with housekeeping, exercise facilities, swimming pools, etc.  Sometimes the services are provided by outside agencies in the communities ... such as transportation to medical visits.

Accessory Dwelling Units or Granny Pods:  Another option some Baby Boomers are choosing is to move in with their children.  Instead of boomerang kids, many Baby Boomers are becoming boomerang parents.  There are several valid reasons for this choice:  you may be in poor health and need assistance with meals or dressing; your children may want you there to provide care for your grandchildren; it could be the best choice financially for either you or your children.  One way to facilitate this when the parents have their own, separate living space. An accessory dwelling unit is the term used to describe a second living space in the home or on the property that will allow you some privacy while living with your children.  This second living space can be an addition to the home, a remodeled basement or a separate apartment.  Granny Pods, another possibility, are pre-fab senior homes that are set up on the property.

Board and Care Homes:  These are group homes for people who don't need a nursing home, but cannot live independently, either.  Many people like them because of their comfortable, homey atmosphere.  Residents usually have a private room and bathroom, but share meals and common areas. I have known a variety of people who have chosen this option ... for reasons such as severe arthritis or mild mental impairment which make independent living difficult.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs):  One new wave in senior housing is the CCRC.  These are communities which you usually buy into by paying a large upfront fee, as well as a monthly fee.  When you first move into the community, you live independently in your own home or apartment.  The community guarantees that they will then take care of your needs for the rest of your life, whether that means you need some assistance in your own home or you need to move into an assisted living facility, a skilled nursing facility or a memory care home ... facilities which are usually located within the community.  This is an especially popular option for couples who believe that one of them might have to move into a nursing facility, but not the other.  In this way, they can still be close to each other.  CCRCs have also become a popular option for healthy people who know they will not qualify for affordable long-term care insurance.  Once they move into a CCRC, residents do not have to worry about their future care, regardless of what health problems they or their spouse may develop.

Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Memory Care Facilities:  Many people who start out living in their own home or senior apartment will eventually need more care than they can easily receive in their personal residence.  Those people may eventually move into one of the other types of senior housing mentioned above, or they may move directly into the type of assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care facility that is appropriate for their needs.  These are usually paid for in one of three ways:  Medicaid, long-term care insurance, or out-of-pocket payments made by the senior citizen or their family members.  Of those, Medicaid (called MediCal in California) is the most common provider of funds for these programs, although there are financial asset and income restrictions on who can qualify for Medicaid.  These facilities can be expensive ... ranging from $6,000 to $12,000 a month, depending on the region of the country and the amount of care the resident needs.  That is why long-term care insurance is a good investment, especially if you believe there is even a possibility that you or your spouse could someday need to move into one of these facilities.

If you are interested in learning more about where to retire, common medical issues, long-term care, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare or more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

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Photo credit:  Photo of clubhouse at the Laguna Woods Village over-55 community was taken by author, Deborah Dian; all rights reserved.