Late last year, I had a recurrence of my Parkinsonian insanity… at least I hope it proves to be insanity. I became convinced that 2015 was likely to be my last year on earth. That notion was likely a side effect of the struggle I was having with blood pressure (BP) spikes that drove my systolic (top) numbers above 180… occasionally above 200 -- definitely stroke and heart attack territory.
The BP struggle that continued through the first half of this year is now resolved. Click here for the first in a series of posts about this positive turn around.
The idea that I might be around in 2016 and beyond was further bolstered when my neurologist remarked during a recent consultation that the rate at which one's Parkinson's progresses at the outset is unlikely to change. My disease has been progressing relatively slowly.
So, I'm looking at my future through new rose-colored glasses. As a result, I’m taking a fresh look at what is probably the number one question for seniors like me who are still hanging on: Should I move into a senior residence or should I age in place?
I know what my answer is for today: age in place. But I know my situation could change. A sudden fall could send me quickly into a senior residence – the option we’ll consider today.
Choosing an Assisted Living Residence
The Washington metropolitan area has dozens of senior residences. Most of them are designed so residents can choose independent living and later move into assisted living. Some places also add a nursing care option or a facility for people with dementia.
Here are some examples of the choices available in the Washington area that appeal to me.
Suburban Virginia: The Goodwin House, Alexandria
This was one of the places I checked out during the insanity of 2009. I knew several people who had moved into the Goodwin House in Alexandria or into its sister facility in Baileys Crossroads, Va.
As a drove to the sister residence in Baileys Crossroads, I said to myself, "I can't live in a place surrounded by highways and strip malls." I turned around and headed back into the District.
Even so, I have urged other retired friends to consider the Goodwin Houses.
All the senior residences I've checked out have many options for residence type and financing. For the purpose of comparison in this post, I'll consider the least costly of the regular independent living one-bedroom residences at each facility..
Goodwin House Alexandria requires an entrance fee of $192,150 and a $2,680 monthly fee. That entrance fee is refundable based on a declining formula of 1% per month if the resident moves out, or 4% per month if the resident dies.
Choosing a senior residence can get complicated. One also has to consider the possibility that part of the entrance fee might be tax deductible as a health care expense.
Goodwin House is rare among area senior residences because it guarantees access to all levels of care without an increase in monthly fees. A resident in independent living could move into assisted living or nursing care without additional cost.
Washington, DC: the Residences at Thomas Circle
I would've ended up here if my 2009 Parkinsonian madness had prevailed.
A block from Studio Theatre is a Whole Foods market whose 2000 opening is credited with starting the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood along 14th Street. It seems like every time I walk down that street toward Studio Theatre, I see a new restaurant or condo.
In a nine-month period between 2012 and 2013, 24 new restaurants opened on 14th Street. In a similar two-year span, almost every block along that corridor saw a major residential redevelopment project.
Another short walk from the Thomas House is Logan Circle, which now rivals DuPont Circle as the center for gay life.
So the Thomas House is right next to DC's new cool 'hood. While enjoying a Sunday lunch in the dining room there in a 2009 visit, I looked around and saw a good mix of white and black residents. My "gaydar" told me that I wasn't the only homosexual in the room. Diversity like this is rare in senior residences.
My treasured friend Lili Crane was my role model for happy aging. She spent almost all her senior years living in her own apartment on upper Connecticut Avenue in DC. But in the last of her 93 years, her daughters convinced her that she needed to move into a senior residence. She picked the Thomas House. On the day she died, I was invited to join the family for dinner at the Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on 14th Street... one of Lili's finds during her short stay at the Thomas House.
So the Thomas House would be near the top of my list of candidates. Look at the photo above, taken from the rooftop terrace. Can you guess my major reservation about this residence? Yep. The lack of trees and greenery. I want to live in both a city and a forest. Not easy to do but, as I noted in a post last week, it's easier to do in Washington than it is most cities.
So where to find an urban senior residence with trees? Here's what immediately comes to mind.
Click here to see why this looks like a great choice for someone like me who wants to live in the city with a surrounding forest. There's only one problem: Many others have come to the same conclusion.
Some 100 people are on the waiting list for one-bedroom apartments, and the estimated waiting time is about two years... perhaps about the time I have left to live. Two women friends my age who still live in their own homes were smart enough to put their names on the waiting list Some time ago.
For a one-bedroom apartment, the current entrance fee is $444,510 with a 50% refund or $632,310 with a 90% refund. The monthly fee is $2,167.
Grand Oaks opened in September 2000, right next to Sibley Hospital. Both are on the western border of my Palisades neighborhood in DC, just before Maryland line. I watched it being built, and I've driven past it a thousand times.
It has 139 apartments, all of them assisted living units. It has no independent living residences.
It reminds me of the Goodwin House in Alexandria, Virginia that I already mentioned. They both have an elegant style that makes me a bit uncomfortable.
For those still able to get around by car, it could be a good choice. But for me, it falls short of my "urban forest" ideal.
Grand Oaks has a relatively low entrance fee of $9,000. But the monthly fees range from $7,000 to $9,000. This tariff looks steep by comparison, but the residences I mentioned earlier were for independent living units, and the Grand Oaks residences are all assisted living.
Grand Oaks' location and proximity to Sibley Hospital are a decided plus.
Washington, DC.: Sunrise on Connecticut Avenue
I'd place Sunrise near the top of my list. For urban amenities, it offers as much to me as the Thomas House, mainly because The Politics & Prose Bookstore and Café is just a block away.
When I restricted my driving to neighborhood destinations only, I couldn't make the regular trips to P&P... outings that had become an especially enjoyable part of my life in Washington.
Here's how Wikipedia describes the store:
Politics and Prose is known for its knowledgeable staff and is seen as a part of DC culture. Its author events attract a number of famous speakers, such as Bill Clinton and J.K. Rowling, and have a reputation for their astute audiences.I averaged about a trip a week to the bookstore to hear one of the 7pm author talks. Every other week when my housecleaning lady came, you could find me having lunch at the store's café. Living a block away sounds idyllic! Several pretty good restaurants are in the same block.
The entrance fee for a one-bedroom at Asbury ranges from $126,900 to $270,000. The daily fee goes from $250 to $400.
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- The Goodwin House: http://www.goodwinhouse.org/
- Residences at Thomas Circle: http://www.thomascircle.com/
- Ingleside at Rock Creek: http://ircdc.org/
- Grand Oaks: http://grandoaksdc.org
- Sunrise on Connecticut Avenue: http://bit.ly/1JxmLDp
- Asbury Methodist Village: http://www.asburymethodistvillage.org/