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Luxurious senior living communities

Retirement » Senior Living »Luxurious Senior Living Communities

The braised salmon was just delivered poolside with your favorite bottle of Bordeaux. Next stop: a trip to the spa -- or maybe an art class -- while your husband gets in 18 holes on the professionally designed golf course.

It's not a resort. It's home for a growing contingent of well-heeled retirees who may need help with housekeeping chores or personal care, but they aren't willing to sacrifice their taste for luxe to get it.

High-end senior living communities, some of which charge seven-figure entry fees, offer a variety of independent and assisted living housing options for aging adults.

Many, such as Vi at Palo Alto (in California), offer a continuum of care, with independent living units, assisted living apartments, memory support suites and skilled nursing rooms for those requiring 24-hour care.

Like most senior living communities, they also offer help with yardwork, cleaning, medication, meals, transportation, and activity planning to keep retirees mentally and physically stimulated.

But that's where the similarities end, says Tim Hermeling, vice president of marketing for Chicago-based Vi communities.

"We are very focused on providing quality in everything we do, from our chefs who are trained at the Culinary Institute of America, to our programming, to the decor and furnishings in our rooms," he says.

Built in 2005 on land leased from Stanford University, Vi at Palo Alto offers a state-of-the-art pool, fitness center, library and computer lab, along with a salon, spa and wellness center staffed daily by a registered nurse.

Healthy meals are planned by a nutritionist to meet the individual needs of residents, with nightly specials and desserts prepared by a pastry chef.

Vi at Palo Alto also offers a professional real estate counselor to support incoming residents in the sale of their homes.

But all those amenities don't come cheap.

The monthly fee for a one-bedroom unit with den is $4,790, plus a one-time entrance fee starting at nearly $1.1 million. A two-bedroom unit with den costs $6,370 monthly, plus an entrance fee of $1.9 million. (Spouses pay a reduced rate.)

Eighty percent of that entry fee, however, is refunded when the resident moves out or passes away.

Your money back

Indeed, while the fee schedule may induce sticker shock, high-end assisted care communities that return most of the entry fee they charge can actually help preserve the value of your estate, says John Falldine, managing director of Edgemere, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community, or CCRC, in Dallas.

The one-time entrance fee for independent living units at Edgemere, for example, ranges from $325,000 to $900,000, with monthly fees thereafter ranging from $2,800 to $6,500.

Ninety percent of that entry fee is returned to the resident when he moves out or returned to his estate when he dies.

"It's a smart financial decision that preserves your asset base for your children, wrapped in a decision to live in a luxurious, carefree environment," says Falldine.

As with Vi at Palo Alto, the cost borne by residents also helps those in independent living manage future costs as their functional level declines, providing access to assisted living and skilled nursing services at a vastly discounted rate.

For example, while the market rate is roughly $6,000 per month for assisted living care and $9,000 per month for 24-hour skilled nursing care, residents enrolled in Edgemere's Life Care independent living program can lock in a flat rate of $4,200 per month. That guarantees them priority access to whatever service they need for as long as they need it at no extra cost.

"The real discount comes into play with skilled nursing," says Falldine, noting the residents who opt to move to Edgemere "are really bright people, and they look at what they get at Edgemere for that money."

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