By Joseph Hight
55 + communities
They first appeared in the sunbelt states, but now you find them almost everywhere, as far north as Maine and New Hampshire. We have them in NoVA. They like to call themselves active adult communities. They restrict residents to the 55 and over age group. They tend to be home-for-sale communities offering homes and condominiums with one-floor living, outdoor property maintenance and social and recreational activities. Most AACs provide a club house or community meeting place, common area landscaping and upkeep. And, they are usually governed by housing association rules that require payment of dues and assessments, and some require new homebuyers to pay a one-time capitalization fee. Many offer amenities like community swimming pools, exercise gyms and more, while some have golf courses.
Heritage Hunt, an AAC in Gainesville covering over 750 acres, includes a golf course, fitness center, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and two club houses. River Ridge, an AAC in Woodbridge, offers a clubhouse, swimming pool, walking trails and tennis courts.
Homebuyers at Heritage Hunt pay a one-time $3,300 capital contribution fee to the homeowner association and a monthly fee of $275 per month. Golf membership brings additional fees.
A dining establishments at Greenspring (Courtesy of Erickson Living)
Continuing care retirement communities
AACs like Heritage Hunt and River Ridge do not offer assisted living facilities. Continuing care retirement communities that typically restrict residents to those 62 or older offer transfer from independent living to assisted living when and if it becomes necessary, though most residents at CCRCs live independently in apartments or cottages. The average age of entering residents in CCRCs is older than for AACs.
At a CCRC, seniors don’t own the home or condominium. These communities usually require an entrance deposit and a monthly fee for a cottage or apartment. The monthly fee almost always covers a meal plan and many living expenses, including maintenance, utilities, cable TV, internet access, trash removal, security, snow removal, landscaping, transportation to local shopping and events, security and in some cases maid cleaning services. Entrance fees can be substantial, akin to buying a home or condominium, but a large part, as much as 90 percent, can be refunded when a resident leaves the community, or it can revert to a resident’s estate in the event of death.
Greenspring is a CCRC retirement community of about 2,000 residents in Springfield. Media spokesperson Jessica McKay says the standard meal plan is for one meal a day. Greenspring provides many options for dining, she says, including a full kitchen in residents’ apartments for home cooking, or dining at the many on-site restaurants, with names like The Fireside, Woodland Skies, Mixing Bowl Bistro and The Bar and Grab ‘n’ Go. McKay says that living at Greenspring is much like living on a college campus.
Greenspring residents live in apartments in colonial-style brick buildings no more than four stories high. Covered passageways, some of which are glass-enclosed bridges with lots of natural light, connect all buildings on the site. Corridors and passageways are wide with ample lighting. Everywhere there is a feeling of spaciousness.
CCRCs offer several types of contracts. A type A contract includes prepayment for assisted living as part of the monthly fee. Goodwin House in Alexandria is a CCRC with approximately 1,000 residents that offers a type A contract. A type C contract does not include prepayment for assisted living. In that arrangement assisted living, should it become necessary, is paid on a fee for service basis. Greenspring offers a type C contract.
Courtesy of Westminster at Lake Ridge
Westminster at Lake Ridge on Clipper Drive is another CCRC that offers type C contracts. Westminster has about 350 residents. It offers woodland and pond views. Creeks feed the Westminster ponds that empty into the Occoquan River. Resident great blue heron, Harry, resides at one of Westminster’s ponds.
Westminster offers apartment living and cottages. Kimberly Andreadis, sales counselor at Westminster at Lake Ridge, says the monthly fee includes 15 days each year in their fully staffed health center with access to nurses and doctors and round-the-clock care.
Residence at these retirement communities is age restricted, but it doesn’t mean younger people aren’t there. Overnight visits and short vacation stays by grandchildren and young relatives are encouraged. McKay says there is much babysitting at Greenspring, and Andreadis tells the story of how one granddaughter, while on an extended visit encouraged her grandmother to learn to swim. Most retirement communities, including Greenspring and Westminster allow pets, including dogs.
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