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What's Up Magazine

Give Me Shelter

Mar 26, 2012 10:58PM ● By Anonymous

The pent-up demand for versatile and practical housing choices for Marylanders over the age of 55 has sparked a variety of housing options in our region. According to Rob Love, a marketing research specialist: “… Recent housing trends suggest that the housing market has stabilized … For the first time in four years, in most parts of the country, someone considering a move to a senior living community realistically can expect to sell his or her home in a reasonable period of time. While the value of seniors’ homes may not match the abnormally inflated highs of 2006, home values are at levels consistent with normal long-term housing trends.”

From our own non-scientific survey of regional housing options for Baby Boomers approaching retirement, two sticking points jump out: flexibility and funding, and they go hand-in-hand.

Marylanders over 55 are not a small, silent segment of the population. Seniors represent 12 percent of Anne Arundel County’s population, 24 percent of the population in Talbot County, and 15 percent of Queen Anne’s County, as of the 2010 U.S. Census. Add to those population numbers, incomes of $75,000 or higher per year for approximately 26 percent of the households 55 or older. (According to the latest U.S. Census figures.) For the last five years or more, seniors have been waiting for the economy to stabilize so they can exchange their big houses and maintenance chores for well-designed, carefree residences.

Twenty-first century housing options have become more varied and more responsive to the changing finances, health, and mobility of the Baby Boomer generation. Renting, cooperative ownership, condominiums and home ownership within restricted and multi-age communities are among the choices, along with traditional assisted living and long-term care facilities.

Bobbi Hovis, R.N., USN Commander Ret., strides into the room; she’s tall, erect, vivacious. She lives at The Gardens of Annapolis, renting a comfy apartment in close proximity to the Academy and the friends she has in the Annapolis area. “This [The Gardens of Annapolis] is the best place of its kind in all the world—at least the world I know.” Cmdr.

Hovis has seen a fair piece of the world, too. She authored a history of her experiences in the early 1960s, establishing the first full-facility hospital in Saigon; more recently, she coached sailing at the Academy. She is enthusiastic and busy, as are many of the residents at The Gardens. Her friend, Tweetie Searcy, R.N., USN Commander, Ret., and cookbook author, consults with Josephine Swiechowicz and Marcie Levin on the food for a party they’re planning. Levin notes, “I have a perfect apartment here… and there’s lots going on. Superb!” Cmdr. Searcy chimes in, “The food is great, too.”

The Gardens simply rents apartments to older adults with optional housekeeping, meals, and transportation. In response to changing needs, Community Director Linda Cochran has added a new service, Transition Advocates. With an office on-site, Transition Advocates provides services to help residents remain independent. Anything from a nurse to a pet-walking service can be arranged promptly and safely.

Londonderry Retirement Community of Easton offers another type of flexibility, cooperative living. Residents buy shares in the cooperative, which owns the buildings and land, retaining rights to one particular apartment or cottage. The residents self-manage the community, build equity, and protect their assets should they wish to sell.

Gerontologist Leonard Glaser notes, “The essential benefit of the cooperative is that it provides an economic structure and social framework that fosters self reliance, self control and determination, interdependence, and cooperation among the resident members, even among those with severe chronic conditions… we know that these factors contribute directly to continued independent living, successful aging and the enhancement of longer life.”

Life Care Contracts
Heron Point in Chestertown, offers living options from independent carriage houses and apartments to assisted living and full nursing care. Proffering what’s called a “Life Care Contract,” Heron Point residents are guaranteed the same monthly outlay no matter what level of care they need.

Annapolis’ Ginger Cove provides a similar life-care residence. In fact, to enhance and expand the health and wellbeing of Ginger Cove’s residents, a stateof-the-art Wellness Center has been constructed. There are two pools, one for laps and another dedicated to aquatics-water aerobics. Jody Wadsworth offers her locally renowned “Splash Down” aerobics there. In the sparkling, new rehabilitation/physical therapy gym, personal trainers Roz Dove and Serelee Hefler offer workouts and individual sessions for Ginger Cove residents. Then top off all that great exercise with a dip in the new Jacuzzi or a stop in the Swedish sauna. Ah, retirement living seems anything but retiring.

Multi-generational, Multi-use Community
Another 21st-century approach to aging gracefully and independent living is being planned at Crystal Spring, Annapolis. With a target opening of 2016, this “community-integrated” retirement approach situates private and duplex homes, apartments, and nursing care facilities within an all-ages planned community of homes and shops, a cultural center and acres of protected, undisturbed, natural beauty.

The site for Crystal Spring is two historic properties, Mas-Que and Crystal Spring Farms. Property owner and philanthropist, Janet K. Richardson-Pearson bought the farms with a vision for these meadows and marshes. She began by transforming the old Mas-Que farmhouse into the Wellness House, a nonprofit center for patients and their families struggling with life-threatening illnesses. And, Wellness House will be expanded as part of the Crystal Spring community, the next phase of Richardson-Pearson’s vision for compassionate and comfortable living in Annapolis.

While the last five years have brought tough economic choices for most Americans, there are some silver linings. For those of us planning for or beginning retirement living, lifestyle options are expanding. Flexible financing and varied living arrangements help to make this new phase of life appealing.

Janice F. Booth is an Annapolis resident and frequent contributor to What’s Up? Annapolis and What’s Up? Eastern Shore. She previously covered this topic in the article “Recipes for Living: The Retirement Smorgasbord,” which appeared in our February 2010 issue.