For readers who aren’t (yet) Kendal residents, here’s a bit of lighthearted advice about what moving here entails.
Those who have moved into Kendal (or a similar retirement community) will recognize the six steps you go through. They are loosely based on comments that Kendal resident Walt Herbert made to us at dinner a few months ago.
The steps are:
- Reveal all your finances
- Prove your brain still works
- Dispose of all your stuff
- Sell your house
- Move into a shoebox
- Make 400 new friends
For those who aren’t at Kendal and don’t recognize the humor here, I suppose I should spell out what those steps refer to.
Step 1: Reveal all your finances. When you apply to Kendal, the admissions department needs to review your financial situation. From Kendal’s point of view, one of the worst things that could happen is that you get here and after a few years, you can’t pay your bills. To kick you out at that point would be heartless—nearly unthinkable at Kendal. But to let you stay without paying is not financially viable. At Kendal there is a fund to help people who outlive their resources. Many residents contribute to it, but it is adequate only for a limited number of people.
So careful financial screening at admission is critical, and you have to lay out the details of your savings, investments, pensions, and other financial resources. We’re grateful that Kendal requires this. It reassures us that we can depend on Kendal for our future needs, whatever they turn out to be.
Step 2: Prove your brain still works. Kendal is a “Continuing Care Retirement Community” (CCRC), which means that three levels of care are provided (independent living, personal care, and skilled nursing) but your monthly fee does not change as you move from one to another. The fee seems quite high if you are in independent living, but that’s because part of it is basically insurance against the costs you will incur if you move into the other levels of care. Kendal incurs the highest costs if you spend many years in skilled nursing. That can happen with Alzheimer’s, which destroys much of your brain while your body remains in relatively good shape. Hence, Kendal cannot afford to let people in if they already have Alzheimer’s, and you have to pass a battery of mental tests when you apply.
Step 3: Dispose of all your stuff. For most of us, the move to Kendal means moving to a space that is just a fraction of the size of the house we are leaving. Getting rid of most of your possessions is a remarkably difficult task. In fact, many (if not most) Kendal residents can’t manage to fit their possessions into their new home and end up renting storage units filled with boxes and excess furniture.
Step 4: Sell your house. This usually involves understanding what today’s young families are looking for and trying to make your house into their ideal home. This can be expensive (when you figure out everything that needs to be fixed) and jarring (when you learn you need to paint over beautiful dark wood cabinets with light gray paint).
Step 5: Move into a shoebox. See Step 3.
Step 6: Make 400 new friends. Kendal, like many retirement communities, functions as a tight-knit village. You are going to see the same people again and again. You will start to recognize their faces, but you are going to have to ask them their names several times (perhaps many times). At Kendal, one meal a day is included in your fee and most people eat dinner in the dining room or the café. Over the course of a year, you may end up eating dinner with hundreds of different people, and you’re just not going to remember them all. Not even close.
But in spite of all the challenges of moving into Kendal, it was the right move for us. We knew we would like it, and it’s even better than we anticipated.