Elder Options

I’ve been looking at options for living when I want to be free of my house.  And for what’s available if I need assistance.  I find the options have changed a lot since I was a child visiting aging great aunts. I’ll post some of my observations here.


I’m not looking for resorts or active living communities. I’m only looking at places that have some independent living and assisted living. Several also have memory care units.

Few of the places I’ve seen provide skilled nursing. For that (oxygen, shots, nutritional support, etc), I’d have to contact with an outside agency.  More $. Presumably that would be covered at least some by Medicare.

Apparently people used to move into some of the places when they were still active and didn’t need care. But with the economic downturn, most waited until they needed the support.

I’ll give some prices we found, but note that these are for 2015. [Scroll to the bottom for updated & more complete prices.]  I hear the “industry standard” is a 4% increase per year. Most of the places also had a move-in fee, a pet fee, a fee for covered parking. Independent living usually includes one meal a day, sometimes with a continental breakfast (hopefully not just pastries!); housekeeping every couple of weeks with linen service, activities, transportation on their schedule, maintenance, and an ability to call for help. Usually you still have to pay for phone & cable TV and internet in your apartment. There are common areas with free internet service.



I’m looking at Tucson because it has a lot of retirees living there – so more options than there are in New Mexico. Here’s what I liked from my first trip.

Splendido! In Oro Valley a little northeast of Tucson proper.  The place is Drop Dead Gorgeous! Splendido_Web_Header_About It is a Continuing Care Retirement Community, like El Castillo in Santa Fe, but much prettier.  You buy in and also pay per month – and they will provide care throughout your life.  Pricey, of course.  1 bedroom = 846 sq ft = $195,200 buy-in and $2583/mo (if you have a long term care policy).  A nice feature here (and not at El Castillo) is that when you leave, the entrance fee is 90% refundable!!  There are other expenses – move in, covered parking, etc.  And for them to consider you, you have to have as assets twice the entrance fee and in income 1.5 times the monthly fee.  They’re only 4 years old, so I’m going to look into the 2 companies owning it to make sure it’s a sound investment.  http://splendidotucson.com/

Cascades:  Nice place, very near a hospital. Warm people. Megan is a delight and very helpful.  She greeted residents by name. They have a wonderfully detailed assessment tool for determining how much care someone needs and when it will mean going to the next level of cost. That gives me the impression they really know what they’re doing!  It’s physically lovely, with a bus stop right out front. Owned by an individual – and probably his family will continue it when he dies.  When we visited, the average age of people coming in was 85 to 90.  Their activity calendar included games, exercise, outings, church services, movies. Happy Hour on Friday.  🙂  There are separate activity calendars for independent and for assisted living, each geared to the differing abilities. 2 full time activity directors.  Independent Living 1 bedroom starts at $1920/month. I liked the 1 bedroom with den & balcony but it’s $3005/mo.  You can have a well-mannered dog – and can get a first floor apartment so it can easily go outside.  A 2nd occupant would add $700/mo.  The most basic assisted living is $650/mo.  The basic memory care studio is $4020/mo. There are ~200 apartments.

The Fountains at La Cholla: I was warned to be leery of national chains – they buy and sell properties, stressful for both staff and residents. But The Fountains is a good one – knowledgeable, stable. A Watermark Community (they have classes). I had visited a friend at The Fountains in North Carolina – she found it lovely & pleasant and enjoyed the people. The Fountains we visited was very nice also. Extensive grounds. ~416 apartments plus a number of casitas. In the apartments, you can have a cat on any floor; a dog on the first floor.  The emphasis is on safety.  Independent living 1 bedroom starts at $1800, with $410/mo for a 2nd occupant. Assisted living 1 bedroom starts at $3595, plus $800 for a 2nd occupant. Memory care starts at $4250 for a shared “suite”.


Comparative Spreadsheet: In 2014 the Arizona Daily Star put out a supplement on aging options,  including an awesome spreadsheet on Assisted Living Facilities in Tucson.  Here’s my attempt to make it available to you. Not great – I had to copy & cut & paste.  :-}

Section 1 of 2Tucson Assisted living 2014 p1Section 2 of 2
Tucson Assisted living 2014 p2

Questions to Ask & Observations to Make

Questions to AskI’ve seen several lists of questions. One is to the right.  And here are ones I felt were important.

Who owns this community and how long have they owned it? How long have they been in business?  (Some major companies turn over their properties – potentially resulting in confusion for the staff and therefore the residents.)

When showing you around, do they know the names of the residents?

Do they have an activities director and what sort of activities do they provide?

Does it smell?  Not just a urine or stale smell; also I don’t like heavily perfumed scents.

If you’re interested, can you come and hang around a while?  Spend the night? Have a meal at the very least?  Go to an activity and hang out with residents? For me it would be important to like the residents and feel I was accepted.

Demographics?   Number of men vs women, couples vs singles. Also I ask if they have any non-standard couples (gay, lesbian, etc).  I can’t ask for political leanings but I look around for indicators.

Who are the key people – overall director, director of nursing, etc.?  And how long have they been in that position?  If new, how long were the previous people there?  (High turnover tells me there are management problems.)

Of the people I’d come in contact with – caregivers, housekeeping, food servers, etc – what % speaks fluent English?  (As I age, I could find it harder to communicate especially with people who aren’t fluent in English.)

I also want to visit assisted living areas on weekends. That’s often when facilities have people not show up, especially if low paid.


Here are “just the facts” about prices we saw for comparable sized apartments. Splendido’s costs are higher if you don’t have a Long Term Care Insurance Policy.

3 Responses to Elder Options

  1. Richard Lindsley says:

    I ment good job not good job. Thanks, Richard


  2. Richard Lindsley says:

    Loved you review and summery. Excellent and accurate. It makes me feel like I’ve been there. Goog job. Richard


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