Bags of snow melt are piled high in the entrance to Hy-Vee, the local grocery. It made me feel kind of giddy. I will never need to buy snow melt again! Come to think of it, I will never buy water softener salt again.

Our move six months ago to an apartment in a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) / life plan community was a very deliberate choice made over years. My husband had a number of Excel spread sheets that he prepared as part of a decision-making process. The sticker shock of the endowment buy-in was the scary part. He spent many hours working to identify the value of the transfer of assets to the CCRC. With great attention to detail, he weighed the expense of utilities, insurance, home maintenance and repair, housekeeping, recreational and fitness programs and facilities. He projected inflation costs of assisted living and nursing home versus the long-term security of a lifetime continuum of care for us, reassured that even if we need different levels of care, it is guaranteed. With great detail, he researched the future value of present dollar — particularly as it relates to future assisted living and nursing home care.

With the thoroughness of the professor/administrator he is, every little expense was identified; nevertheless, I’m not sure even he identified snowmelt and water softener salt savings. I’m not sure that any recruiter or marketing professional can itemize all the little advantages of retirement residence living without personally experiencing it as we have. The little list includes:

  • An in-house car wash that now includes a heavy-duty, wall-mounted car vacuum
  • $5 burger baskets in the bar for Big 10 football and basketball games
  • Two buses making rounds each day and to evening arts and athletic events
  • The original anytime fitness — 24-hour access to the fitness center
  • Special arts performances and lectures
  • Resident-involved committees and residents’ council
  • An aggressive resident lead-recycling program
  • An apartment nurse for episodic or chronic health issues in independent living
  • A hair salon with massage, manicures and pedicures available

Even this list doesn’t describe the most satisfying asset that could not be found on that spread sheet of his. We are now part of an exciting retirement community of 400. In one day, I noted two distinguished physicians skillfully hanging art as placed by the art committee; a respected university librarian managing the complex, multi-location recycling program; a group of teachers organizing the library; and two home economics professionals making alterations and completing sewing projects for fellow residents.

As the little things list grows beyond snow melt and water softener salt the BIG advantage — our wonderful new community — outpaces it.

Linda Muston was a 25-year public relations professional and hospital administrator following 15 years as a stay-at-home mother of three. She has served on numerous charitable, chamber of commerce, Rotary and civic boards and previously served six years on the board of the retirement residence where she and her husband, Ray, moved this past summer. She maintains an active exercise and volunteer schedule and totally enjoys retirement with her husband and, whenever possible, their adult children and eight grandchildren, who range in age from 10 to 21.