How to approach independent living

John Gants of Oak Crest Village in Parkville and his wife, Clarice, knew they wanted to move into a retirement community while still in good health and able to make the decision on their own.

Recognizing they were getting older, the couple no longer wanted the chores of maintaining a home. “It was time to kick our feet up and retire the way you’re supposed to,” Gants said, “not becoming a couch potato.”

Gants maintains an active lifestyle that includes playing golf three times a week and being involved in his parish at Oak Crest, as well as his home parish, St. Ursula in Parkville.

The couple, now in their early 80s, also looked at Charlestown Retirement Living in Catonsville and Greenspring Retirement Community in Sprinfield, Va., before settling on Oak Crest nearly eight years ago.

Gants said living at Oak Crest is “like being on a cruise that never docks.”

When to make the move

Becki Bees, Roland Park Place marketing manager, called the decision to move into a retirement community a personal one, “but you should make sure that you move when you are in good health and can enjoy the conveniences that a retirement community has to offer.”

Retirement communities offer numerous amenities, including restaurants, hair salons and exercise classes, to name a few.

Phil Golden, marketing director at Springwell Senior Living in Mount Washington, believes there are two groups looking to make the move. The first is the group Gants falls into, those “individuals or couples [who] have simply grown weary of maintaining their own homes, so they seek alternatives that offer hospitality services and maintenance-free living.”

Golden said many of these individuals’ “neighborhood friends have moved on; their adult children are leading busy lives or are out-of-town, and they realize that the only people they are spending time with are Oprah and Dr. Phil.”

Lou Maranto, Oak Crest Director of Sales and Marketing, said residents at Oak Crest “are able to enjoy a great social lifestyle.”

“It’s amazing to see what people do, just having the time of their lives, because they don’t have all these other worries,” said Maranto.

Golden said the second group looking to make the move is “driven by … a desire to have access to assisted living or other health-related services should those needs arise.”

Oak Crest, for example, offers on-site health and EMT services, Maranto explained.

At least two communities in the Baltimore area have seen individuals entering at earlier ages. While the average age at Oak Crest is 78, the community has recently seen individuals making the move in their mid-60s. “People want to continue to work,” Maranto explained, but he said they don’t want to worry about coming home from a day of work to make dinner and keep house.

Patty Yingling, marketing director at Mercy Ridge, is seeing a similar trend. “I would probably come in younger because of the country club setting,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be isolated in my house.”

Selling your home

Making the move into a retirement community means first putting a house on the market. “Most people will wait until there is an apartment available before selling their home,” said Bees. “Roland Park Place will hold an apartment for 90 days before move-in.”

The first step is getting onto a waiting list for an apartment. “We ask people to put their house on the market very close to when they want to move into Oak Crest,” said Maranto, who explained there is a $1,000 deposit for individuals who would like to be on a priority list at Oak Crest.

Maranto said Erickson Retirement Communities offers an educational series for prospective residents. The series covers “financial planning and estate planning so people can get ready several years out if need be,” he said, also explaining Erickson Realty Moving Services provides a personal moving consultant to help individuals move forward. “Our model is based on selling the home, looking at the monthly income and positioning assets.”

“In this market, it sure makes sense to plan ahead and to be realistic about pricing,” Golden said, adding there are now residential real estate brokers certified in serving retirees. “Though you may not realize as much as you would have two or three years ago, most older adults who have owned their homes for quite a while, will still realize a nice boost to their nest egg by selling their home.”

Range of fees

Maranto recommended individuals start planning as early as possible and be more conservative with their money as they get older.

“You should try to make sure that after you pay the accommodation fee (entrance fee) that you have enough income for one and a half times the monthly service fee,” said Bees.

Roland Park Place’s fees are broad in range. The community’s “accommodation fees range from $147,250 to $868,190 depending on the size of the apartment and plan chosen,” Bees explained. “The monthly service fees range from $2,959 to $6,700 based on the size of the apartment. Part of the monthly service fee you pay is used to pay for future nursing care expenses and is considered a pre-paid medical expense for tax purposes.”

The entrance fees at Oak Crest and Mercy Ridge range from $100,000 to $300,000 and from $196,000 to $442,000, respectively. Entrance fees are 100 percent refundable in both cases.

Monthly service fees at Oak Crest range from $1,300 to $2,000 and include such items as utilities, safety and security, and one meal a day, among other things. Items not included, but which residents may add on, are storage bins and housekeeping.

On the other hand, “the monthly fee [at Mercy Ridge] covers pretty much everything,” Yingling said, explaining that it ranges from $1,889 to $4,386 and even covers the cleaning of sheets and towels.


Perhaps the toughest part of the move is deciding what to get rid of.

Golden suggested taking measurements of the new residence and the items that will furnish it. “I recently heard Steve Gurney, publisher of ‘The Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook,’ speak on this topic, and I thought he had a good suggestion,” he said. “Prioritize those items that are most practical of course, those that you will use the most and fit into your new residence.”

Nonetheless, he said, “don’t ignore those with emotional attachment that have strong connotations of ‘home’ for you. This can really help with the transition process.”

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.