Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Visualizing my Next Chapter…Again


We all live our lives in patterns. Those patterns might be dictated by the seasons or by our careers and maybe our hobbies or dates on the calendar, times on the clock. We are creatures of habit, we feel better when our lives ebb and tide at regular intervals like Mother Earth has been doing since the beginning of time. Birds fly south in the fall, they return in the spring. Nights follow days. Chickens follow eggs---or is it the other way around? Anyway, winters do follow falls and since my husband died, for me, summer house hunting seems to follow spring more often than not. 

The first summer of my discontent ending with me deciding to stay pull because I couldn’t find the opportunities for socializing in the condo communities on the south end of town that I was looking at. Our senior hall can’t be beat when it comes to offering a smorgasbord of daily activities. (Although, it’s changing character quickly as younger retirees are coming in. It’s like there’s a two-tier class system now that is less friendly than it was when I first started going there. The 55-65 year olds want their cheap entertainment but they’re click-ish, stay in little packs. High school all over again.) Anyway, I still want to be on the south side of 1.02 million people who live in the metropolitan area and the traffic jams they create between where I live now and where my family all lives.

The second summer of my discontent ending with me finding a condo I loved, would have put an offer on but they wanted to meet my dog before they'd accept an offer. Since he was three pounds over their limit he'd need a waver from the condo board and I wasn't willing to put Levi's future into a situation where we'd be subject to the continuing good graces of a condo board and my ability to keep him in diet mode for the rest of his life.

Enter the continuing care retirement community under construction and due to be completed in 2020. I've got an appointment to tour some of their models this week and their other phase that was built a few years back. (You get a lot of perks by signing up early.) I can’t find much not to like on their website. The place sits on 40 wooded acres on a lake with walking and biking trails, a dog park, a community garden, underground parking, concierge services, a bistro, a restaurant, sundries store, transportation options, art studio, lectures and wellness checks just to name a few. It’s not as far south of town as I wish it were, in fact it’s in a very dense part of town but it’s also near a road where I can make an easy escape and it goes all the way to my oldest niece’s house in 28 minutes, and I’d be out of the city in ten. It’s also located close to our Sculpture Park that I love and within a mile of all my medical doctors. Both my nieces come up from the boondocks to shop within a mile or two of this new place so I’m thinking I’ll be able to meet them for lunch once in a while or if I start needing more power-of-attorney kind of oversight, it will be easier for them. 

The way these continuing care places work is you start out in your own apartment but if you need a nursing home at some point you get moved to their onsite nursing facility, then to their Hospice when you need it. And for your buy-in fee they promise that even if you run out of money to pay your monthly fees they won’t turn you out. This place is run by a company that has be in the health care business since 1906, a dot org. They’ve got a good track record that leads me to believe they wouldn’t take the sizable buy-in fees from people then run off to Tahiti leaving everyone high and dry with no place to live but under a bridge. I have trust issues when it comes to money.

Back in 2017 when I was in my annual ‘need to move cycle’ I saw an elder placement guy---think A Place for Mom, sort of adviser---and he went over my income and assets and wrote in an email, “your financial situation looks like you will be able to privately pay for your long term care in nearly every foreseeable scenario.” And I’m thinking that kind of makes those buy-in, continuing care places a bad gamble for me. Why? Because if I died a week after signing the dotted line those big buy-in fees are non-refundable and we’re talking in excess of $250,000 that my heirs won’t get like they would if I bought a condo. On the other hand, if something disastrous happened to Social Security or my pension funds then it would be comforting to know that the continuing care would take care of me, even if I was penniless. Of course if something happens to Social Security I wouldn’t be alone in that basket of heartache. Every street corner would be crowded with panhandlers.

Visualizing my next chapter is filled with scary pit falls, endless questions and what ifs.  What if Levi doesn’t behave himself as he gets older and tries to pee in the hall on the way outside? Answer: buy a doggie buggy to push him in until we get to where he can go. What if Levi gets reported for barking too much? Answer: Have his bark surgically altered---although he’s getting hard of hearing and which means over time he’ll hear less things to bark at. What if I die of a broken heart trying to downsize 1,500 square feet of stuff into 1,057 square feet? Answer: I did it seventeen years ago and lived to tell about but this time I’d take more photos. My biggest worry truly is the dog. If this place has dog walkers or an onsite doggie daycare, you’ll hear my squeals of delight from two states away. After my tour, I’ll no doubt post about it again…. ©

46 comments:

  1. In my mom's continuing care, you buy the unit. The heirs get exactly that money back when the unit is "sold". Her monthly fees are reasonable.
    Here are some questions we asked her:
    Can you imagine living here for twenty years? Looking at the section of town- will it be safe in twenty years? Can you walk to someplace you can enjoy? What is the food like? Do you want to "dress" for food everyday?
    Some of the things we (my sister, mom and I) did to make it "home" ? Brought in California Closets.They took off one of the bedroom closet doors and put a vanity and shelves in it. Then they built in removable shelves in the "den". We took off the master bath door and replaced it with a drape (that now never closes. We chose spreads and drapes that made the room look lovely. She chose a balcony room (but you already live in a condo so you know the advantages of each).
    She moved in at 80, but many of the people she moved in with were in their 70's. Now that they are not the "new place", the age of move ins seems to be her own. I am surprised there are way more men then I expected. Do they have a good selection of things for men to do? My mom isn't interested in remarriage, but they, defiantly bring a different tone to the area.
    I hope you can find a place where you feel like it is home.

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    1. Those are good questions! I added them to my list for tomorrow. I don't live in a condo now, never have lived anywhere but a single family house so this will be a radial change. The one I'll like the least is having to get dressed every morning to walk the dog. Here, I can just let him outside to his fenced in yard. But I had a couple of scares last year that made me realist it's time to start living around more people..although, I'm not sure I'll like that. Thanks for all your input.

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  2. I used to love change but as I have aged, lost folks in my life, etc I realize I don't care for change, well that kind anyway. Although I know that sort of change is something we can not get away from I have a hard time dealing with it all. I get the SPRING moving feeling every spring. The way Nashville has grown, we are known as the IT city now makes moving hard for a lot of folks. Prices just keep going up. But with the sale of my house and what i get from my mom (she past in Jan) then I will be able afford something on one level, UNLESS it keeps going up and up. I understand your heartache and wanting to do something but limited at some point for some reason.Keep looking.

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    1. Nashville has a lot going for it but I can see why that makes it hard for people who've lived there before it got so popular to move. Finding places for older people is just going to keeping getting harder as the baby boomers start needing those places with living all on one floor. Knowing the right time to move is SO hard. I don't want to go too early so I'd run out of money but don't want to wait until a health issue forces me out and all the work of sorting for moving falls on hired help or whoever.

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  3. So much to think about! You're wise to be so proactive. A great many people are not, sadly, and then circumstances force their hand.

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    1. When you don't have kids it makes sense to go to a continuing care place but it's still a scary step, especially with a dog.

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  4. I'll be very interested to hear what you think of the tour on the continuing care place as that's the type of place I may be interested in moving to when I get to my mid 70s.

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    1. I toured one of these kind of places a few years ago when I was less ready to move. I dubbed it Stepfordville for old people. You can read that post here: https://misadventuresofwidowhood.blogspot.com/search?q=Stepfordville This new place looks difference, more middle class. At least on their website and I'm hoping it will be.

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  5. My mom just moved from her rural home of 65+ yrs to a lodge setting in our home town. She went from her 3-bdrm home to one room. She was content with her favorite rocking chair, foot stool and familiar items, i.e. favorite coffee cups, digital clock, pictures, etc. She knows ~80% of the people who live there. She's now in a safe setting with the services she needs readily at hand for a monthly fee that is easily covered with her monthly pension income. Was it easy? No. Was it necessary? Yes. Some things I've heard more than once since her move - people don't come here early enough; go when you can still enjoy it; the only thing this accommodation doesn't provide is a swim-up bar! I'm all for being proactive.

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    1. It's a rite of passage, hopefully we'll all live long enough to experience but I'm sure not looking forward to the logistics of a move. What I can say is I'm more ready for the idea this time around than the other summers I looked. Thanks for your input!

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  6. Oh, the dreaded "what ifs"! I think about them daily. Also daily, wishing for a crystal ball. Good luck, Jean! The place sounds good - I hope the tour goes well and ticks off even more boxes for you.

    Deb

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    1. Me too. Living in a dense mass of humanity is something brand new to me and I have to warm up to the idea with stuff that off-sets it.

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  7. This place sounds fabulous, I might move there. Can't you get a dog walker from Wag or Rover if the community doesn't have one? I've used Rover before and I like it.

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    1. I don't think finding a dog walker for the winters will be all that hard but I don't knowing if I'll have enough money left over after paying the monthly fees to the complex to cover the cost. I've never lived on a shoe string so that will be an adventure in itself. Lots to work out.

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  8. The place sounds pretty darned perfect. Moving is a giant hassle, but remember if it seems too daunting, the cost of hiring others to pack and/or un-pack for you isn't as bad as you might fear.

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    1. From someone who moved to another state recently, I'm sure you know what you're talking about. I'm not as worried about that aspect as I am about downsizing to fit without giving everything away.

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  9. Well, it sounds great! Ask questions but realize that there is very little chance of finding the "perfect place" . Because that doesn't exist, right? ( except in your heart). Don't overthink it out the window...maybe get input from your nieces? They'll be important in this decision too, although hopefully far down the road. I want to be able to read your blog for years to come! P.S. I'm with Peggy on dog walkers for Levi. Rover is pretty reasonable and if need be, could just be in really bad weather. It's kind of exciting, I'll look forward to hearing more about it!

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    1. I found a list of questions to ask about these kinds of places online, things I wouldn't think to ask. I can't wait until tomorrow to see if my impression of their website holds up.

      I've never heard of Rover but put that name in my notebook for moving info. I just can't quite picture me walking Levi in the winter.

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  10. Will you be near Meijer Gardens/Sculpture Park? That would be so lovely -- I adore going there. It does sound like a good spot -- worth it to check on if you buy the condo vs. rent and they get it all if something happens. Or, if you truly trust your heirs you could put a certain amount to them as a gift with a contract that it be used for your care until you are gone. I don't know the tax ramifications on that, how much you can do without it being taxed, but it might be worth looking into if you want to protect them (and trust them!!!). I can see why Levi would be your main concern but does he bark a lot now? Having dog walking services would be great, but maybe you can find a nearby kid who would do that for a bit of spare change if you can't. Lots of things to think about but it does make sense, finding a spot that will be secure and comfortable. I can't even contemplate downsizing...

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    1. Yes, that's the Sculpture Gardens. I'm a member but if I lived that close to the place I'd probably go weekly instead a couple of times a year. They even have art classes.

      I totally trust my nieces but if I buy into a place like this one I'm touring tomorrow I wouldn't have enough money to also put part of in trusts for them and my nephew. I don't know how people make decisions about moving and two month later they're out the door.

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    2. P.S. Yes, Levi barks a lot at other dogs who pass by the on the street and out for walks. I'm going to start carrying a tin of dimes to shake and they have a couple of types of collars I could try.

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    3. I am visualizing you with a tin of dimes! And I don't know how people make fast decisions on something like that either. I don't think I could. Living that close is indeed tempting!

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    4. The tin of dimes works in the house but I figured out why I stopped taking them on walks. They jingle in my pocket and scare Levi. He didn't bark once on our walk tonight just carrying the tin in my hand.

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  11. Your description of this place sounds a lot more positive than the places you described last year. I hope the tour goes well and I look forward to hearing more about it. It does have to be the right time.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. It sure does seem more middle class than upper class like that other place, which would suit me much better. Several people that I've mentioned this place to all had positive things to say about the dot.org that runs this and a couple of other places around town.

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  12. Yes my friend, It's a rite of passage we all will have to do. Mary Lou & I have decided to fix up our home and then sell. For me any place should do as long as it's nice but she will have to decided the location and it will not be places side by side together. he hates that. I would love to live near the water. We'll see but when the time comes, once we make the change, it will it for us and whatever takes place, we'll be happy. See ya Jean.

    Cruisin Paul

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  13. Hello

    I always read your blog, but nowadays usually unable to comment. Sometimes, like today, the Captcha appears, and I can.

    I am at the same stage as you. I'd always thought I'd live out my life in this house. Renovated 4 years ago with that in mind, never thinking otherwise. Today, I can see a time in the near future that I will not be able to look after a house. Something always needs to be repaired/done. Tradies difficult to get hold of, and those that do come, ready to take advantage.

    I have kids, and it doesn't make a difference. Everyone busy in their own life - its like that song "Little boy blue". C'est la vie.

    One thing I keep in my mind forefront: ME. I've stopped worrying about leaving money for the kids. Its my interest that's most important. (I say that, but difficult to follow through! But, I've started down that path at least.) ~ Libby

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    1. I do agree with what you said in the last paragraph. I used to tell that to my sister-in-law who would have ate cat food if it met saving money to leave to her kids. But it's hard to think about giving it to a corporation in a non-refundable lump then dying the next day. Otherwise I rarely think of that aspect. Ideally our lives and our money run out at the same time.

      Glad to know you're still reading here, even if you can't comment often. I enjoy the Australian view when you're able to contribute.

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  14. You're a lucky woman, to be able to have choices and make decisions. All I can do is cross my fingers and hope to die suddenly, so I don't have to face what's coming my way. I know I have to quit resisting downsizing right now, just so I can reduce my expenses at least a bit.

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    1. Not so much lucky as having been married to a workaholic and both of us working more than one job at a time. But I know what you mean. When I was talking to my niece about moving she asked if I was looking for a two bedroom and I said, "no because 1) If I'm going to downsize I only want to do it once more and 2) going to a one bedroom will make my money last longer." For you, if you can find a smaller place for less money, it's something to seriously think about. But change is SO hard, isn't it.

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  15. I hope that whatever you decide, you will be pleased with your decision. I think though that it will be an adjustment after living in a single house. Hopefully your will make some friends and that will help. When one gets older it is not easy to make friends. My only friend right now is my surviving cat, and you do have your sweet dog.

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    1. Me too on making a few friends but I'll settle for just knowing that wellness checks can be set up so I'm not laying on the floor for days dying of something I wouldn't need to die from if only I someone was around to help. I have my online 'friends' in the blog world and that really helps.

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  16. Will be interested to hear how the tour goes and if the reality lives up to the hype. Janette had some great questions to consider along with your own. I would also be concerned how my pet would handle the change. Let us know how it goes.

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    1. Me too! Levi is good boy but he's not a puppy anymore and he's set in his ways and very stupborn. I'm going out for the tour in any hour so look for my reactions in a post next week.

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  17. Well written of your "Visualizing"....love to read it.
    Hope, you enjoy in this live...

    Have a wonderful day

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  18. This all just gives me such a headache! BTW--even if you had kids, it wouldn't guarantee you NOT having to move to a care facility. None of my kids are offering me a suite in their homes.

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    1. Karen would step up to help you find a decent place, I'd bet on it.

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  19. It takes an awful lot of research, for sure! When we were searching for a place for my Dad, there weren't a lot of "nursing" homes available unless you were part of their community already. But you know what? Let the hospital social workers figure that out IF you have to go from home to nursing facility!!!! Or they will have to keep you!!!

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    1. I want to avoid going from a hospital to a nursing facility. That would put the responsibility for emptying out my house and selling it to my nieces which wouldn't really be easy for them, given the distance and their own family obligations. The continuing care places make sense for childless people like me. A major downsizing for me, but I need to let this big house work for someone else who needs a totally wheelchair friendly place.

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    1. I wrote an entire post about it for next Wednesday...hint: I loved it.

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    2. Since you sold that those sorts of units I'm sure you'll enjoy it more than most.

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  21. It's good to hear you've found a place you think will work for you. When I toured the place at the top of my list, I could not only imagine myself living there; I could imagine myself loving living there. This is my summer to do a little financial research on the place and then, if everything checks out, pay the small fee to get on their waiting list.

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    1. Without children to keep an eye us, places like this really make a lot of sense. Getting on the ground floor of the building has a lot of extra perks, too.

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