Close Comfort

Carolyn Paske is glad her father now lives in a Cary retirement community. For more than a year, they have been planning and anticipating the move. And in mid-May Arthur Schrafft, 78, packed his belongings, left his Massachusetts home and moved south to be closer to his daughter.

More seniors are moving to the Triangle.

Schrafft certainly isn’t the only senior citizen making the journey to live near children in the Triangle. The region’s historic growth is attributed to out-of-state residents moving to the area — primarily due to increased job opportunities — but the number of seniors is on the rise, too. The reason? Many of the newcomers have parents who decide to move here, too.

In most cases, the decision to sell the family home and to move nearer to family is difficult and emotional for both seniors and children. But it is one that seems to be gaining in popularity all across the Triangle.

“As the baby boomers get older, we are seeing more and more elderly parents following their children into our state,” says Chris Urso, family caregiver specialist with the Division of Aging and Adult Services in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “We expect the seniors to keep right on coming as their children also continue to age.”

In fact, within the next 20 years, the number of North Carolina residents ages 65 and older is expected to increase 122 percent, according to Census Bureau population projections released in April.

In North Carolina, the number of residents 65 and older in 1995 was 899,000. By 2025, the state is projected to have 2,004,000 older residents. Beginning in 2011, the 65 and older age group will grow faster than the total population in every single state, the Census report projects.

The Triangle had about 245,000 residents 55 and older in 2005, according to DemographicsNow, a population estimating service. That number is expected to increase 30 percent by 2010.

Start planning now.

Many factors need to be considered when moving elderly parents closer to their children. These factors can range from financial to logistical to emotional. For everyone involved, the entire process is a major learning experience, experts agree.

“I tell families that the sooner they can convince their elderly parents to make the move, the better,” says Urso. “It really helps for the parents to move while they still can be active in their new home or community. This social aspect really helps as they grow older down the road.”

Before moving to a new area, seniors need to consider the services they are currently receiving and investigate the options in the new community, according to Chris Schafale, director of information services with Resources for Seniors, an organization serving senior adults and their caregivers in Wake County.

“Mom may be getting an in-home helper two days a week in New York, but we don’t have much of that available here,” she says. “Mass transportation for senior citizens also is not much of an option in the Triangle.”

A move can mean big changes in health-care options, so seniors need to investigate their new options very carefully. It can be difficult to find a primary care physician for a senior citizen because many practices do not accept new Medicare patients. States also vary in the plans for the new prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D.

“What seniors get in one state under Medicare Part D may not have a comparable plan in North Carolina,” says Urso. “All these medical issues must be taken into account to help for a smoother transition.”

But where will they live?

The health of the elderly parent and the financial situation typically dictate the living arrangements, which is why money is a primary concern for so many seniors. They worry that their job pension, Social Security benefits and income from savings will not be sufficient to meet the costs of buying a home or arranging for a long-term retirement or senior community.

A valid concern. Although financial options vary among communities, the costs of living in them can be quite high. Some require a substantial entry fee plus a monthly payment. Others offer just monthly payments. Monthly fees for independent living often start at $3,000 while assisted living monthly fees begin around $4,000.

Most retirement communities employ counselors who can help review a family’s financial situation to see if the senior meets the requirements for entrance, but the bottom line is that it’s going to come out of someone’s pocket.

“Children need to look at their parents’ financial resources carefully when making this decision,” says Schafale. “The more money they have, the more options they will have in the Triangle.”

In many cases, there are waiting lists for those seeking low-income subsidized senior citizens housing in the Triangle, she says. Waiting lists also can be found at many upscale retirement communities across the area. These range from posh communities for “active adult living” to independent living or assisted living in retirement communities to nursing homes.

In an independent-living setting, residents live in apartments or garden homes and enjoy community benefits, including meals, social activities, transportation, organized outings and home maintenance. Monthly fees in these communities vary depending on the services used.

Michelle Westrom, director of marketing for Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill, stresses the importance of careful planning before making the move. A continuing care community, Carolina Meadows offers independent living apartments, assisted living and nursing facilities.

“I meet now with lots of people in their early 60s who are just looking and planning for themselves,” she says. “The education is out there and people are realizing that today’s senior communities offer a chance to maintain a very active lifestyle without the worries of home ownership and maintenance.”

The need for housing options is growing.

As the senior population in the Triangle grows, so too grows the demand for housing and care options. Several active adult communities under development in the area are attracting buyers.

Developer Del Webb is building Carolina Preserve in Cary, a 1,300-home neighborhood for people 55 and older. Contracts were signed on more than 100 homes during the first 10 days of sales in May. Homes at Carolina Preserve start in the low $180,000s and go up to the mid $300,000s. The upscale community will feature a clubhouse and community center with indoor pool, outdoor pool, spa, meeting rooms and exercise equipment. It also has established a partnership with UNC Health Care to develop wellness programs for its residents.

“Carolina Preserve is for people who want to retire from work, but not retire from life,” says Kevin Metz of The kjm Group, working with Pulte Homes and Carolina Preserve in the Triangle.

Numerous independent and assisted living communities also are available across the Triangle.

Carolyn Paske moved her father, Arthur Schrafft, to Woodland Terrace, a senior living community in Cary. It features apartments and cottage homes for independent living as well as assisted living and Alzheimer’s care.

The move and adjustment have gone well for both of them, she says. But it is definitely a change for both. Paske, the mother of three children, now visits her father daily, often taking him shopping or to numerous family activities.

“We both agreed from the start to be completely honest with each other and voice our concerns if something was not working out between us,” she says. “I want him to tell me if I am invading his privacy too much. So far, it has gone beautifully.” — CP

Packing It All Up

Peg Guild, an owner of Assisted Moving in Raleigh, knows about moving older residents from their homes into senior communities. Her company plans, sorts, packs and organizes customers in both their old and new homes.

She encourages families to plan carefully and, if possible, wait to sell the family home after the move takes place.

“Having the house on the market, trying to keep it straight and sorting through a life-time of belongings all with special memories can be extremely stressful,” Guild says. “It is very helpful to have at least a month, if possible, to get everything organized and ready for the move.”
Jane Paige is a freelance writer and mother who lives in Cary.