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Retiring in Style

Jimmy Magahern | Mar 25, 2013, midnight

As it turns out, making that transition is anything but easy—at least psychically—and residents strive to maintain their abilities to remain on the independent side with a somewhat fierce determination.

“If they need to move over there, they can,” says Cowen, pointing to the Maravilla’s assisted living wing as he strolls by the elegant indoor swimming pool on the independent side (while, appropriately, the muted strains of “Someone To Watch Over Me” waft through the overhead speakers). “But statistically, fewer than 4 percent will. The bulk of people moving in here will not move to assisted living.”

That’s partly because more CCRCs, which typically charge a hefty entrance or buy-in fee that covers the resident’s lifetime health care needs (often refundable to their estate at the end of that lifetime, either in whole or in part, depending on the contract), are moving to a “fee-for-service” model, where registered nurses and health care professionals are made available to care for residents as needed, right in their unit on the independent living side.

“It used to be, if you fell and broke your hip, they’d tell you, ‘You need to go over there to the health care building,’” Cowen says. “You had to go to where the care was. Now the trend in the industry is exactly the opposite. If I need care, it’s ‘Come to me, thank you very much.’”

Cowen says this model works especially well in North Scottsdale, where a cottage industry of third-party health care providers have sprung up to serve its ever-growing senior community.

“Within a short radius from here, there are between 40 and 50 home health care providers that will bill in one- to four-hour increments,” he says. Depending on the resident’s health needs, that care can become more costly than opting for assisted living coverage. But Cowen says most of the seniors he talks to (average age: low 70s) are willing to bet they won’t need it, and will happily opt for lower monthly payments on their apartment rather than pay for a stay in assisted living they hope won’t be necessary.

“Most other places will ‘front load’ your payment, charging $1,000 to $2,000 more per month, for the possibility that you might need to get care over there,” he says. “We do not front load our monthly fees for a lot of health care assistance that 97 percent of our residents are not going to use.”

If they do need it, they can get it—often without having to go “over there.”

“Between home care, home health agencies and concierge nurses, we’re keeping people living independently, as long as they want.”

The other side

There’s another reason many residents on the independent living side of a CCRC never move over to its assisted living facilities, says Angela Olea—and it’s not quite as sunny sounding.

“Often, people would rather move to an assisted living facility in another place than move over to the one in their own community,” she says. “I have seen so many times, when a person has a decline in their health and they cannot remain in independent living, they come to that choice between staying in their own community and going somewhere else. And many would rather go to an assisted living facility in a different community and start fresh than be shifted to that ‘other side.’”

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