3 Ways to Explore
Retirement and Active Adult Living
The Dallas-Fort Worth region continues to be a popular retirement destination because it offers a variety of amenities including the ease of living, temperate, year-round weather, access to quality health care, educational facilities, plenty of park space and availability to enjoy arts and leisure. That’s not all – there are economic reasons including job opportunities, housing prices and the absence of state taxes. All combined, it’s a compelling package for many adults 55 and over.

Thanks to a growing retiree population in Dallas, the area is able to offer a wide array of activities, events, services and residential amenities that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of active adults as well as retirees. This is important as studies are finding that today’s over 50 population are healthy and active individuals who may be interested in working, going to school and volunteering as well as enjoying free time – all of this and more is available in the Dallas region.

With the advancing age of the baby boomer generation transitioning into their retirement years, medical cost and housing options are becoming of increasingly greater importance. The significance of senior populations can be found in the numbers. In 2006, it was estimated by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics that 12 percent of the population were 65 and older. The forum projects that by 2030 the percent of those 65 and older will rise to 20. Along with the climb of the amount of seniors is the rise of health care cost. The good news is that most of the current generation transitioning into their golden years have enjoyed increased prosperity, more than any previous generation, and there are many resources and programs designed for the success of senior living. It is also important to keep in mind that when it is time for retirement, those happiest are those who planned for it the best. This chapter will help weigh housing options, assist in selecting a community type, and inform you about activities and resources.

In a recent survey, Forbes.com named the Fort Worth-Arlington area as the best place to retire in Texas thanks to its low cost of living, access to arts and leisure and relatively low health costs. This mix is especially important as America’s over 50 population is healthier and more active and interested in working, going to school and volunteering as well as enjoying free time – all of this and more is available in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. In fact, Dallas County residents age 65 and over get up to six hours' tuition free at Richland College every semester. Many public colleges around the country are also offering similar programs which give seniors a chance to take classes without tapping into a fixed-income.

For many retirees, housing is the most important concern. For those living independently, single-family housing is available and affordable; in fact the median price of a single-family home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is $138,500 and the media price for a condo/townhome is $150,000. Throughout the region seniors can select retirement communities, age-restricted homes within master-planned communities, neighborhood homes near the city center or vertical living options available throughout the area.

If recreation is important, Fort Worth offers retirees more than 248 golf courses within 30 miles. The population over age 55 is 19.4 percent, which provides a good diverse mix of other age groups. As for cultural access, there are 78 museums within the area, 26 libraries and 82 movie theaters. In Dallas County, 8.4 percent of the population is over 65, while the U.S. average is 12.5 percent. While the area may not be as recognized as others in the U.S. for retiree relocation, it appears this is changing due to favorable economic factors. Texas cities, including Dallas and Fort Worth, are among the best cities for jobs, and the region is home to a mix of large, medium and small businesses, all who benefit from a state that is friendly to business and able to keep its residents prosperous.

To support the needs of an aging population, numerous Fort Worth organizations are assisting seniors with delivery of daily meals, transportation, social programs, guardianship services, advocacy for nursing home residents and respite care for Alzheimer’s care-givers. Agencies providing these services include the American Red Cross, Area Agency on Aging, Guardianship Services, Mental Health/Mental Retardation of Tarrant County, Senior Citizen Services of Greater Tarrant County, Meals on Wheels, Visiting Nurse Association of Tarrant County and the Parks and Community Services Department.

Through its Neighbor Helping Neighbor program, the United Way and its partners in the Dallas area are reducing the isolation of seniors 60 and older and increasing the dignity, caring relationships and services they need. United Way’s Neighbor Helping Neighbor project has brought together nonprofit professionals and volunteers, government entities, neighborhood groups and faith-based organizations to identify isolated seniors in selected neighborhoods. After determining each senior’s individual needs, they provide or arrange for transportation, household chores and minor home repairs, shopping assistance, wheelchair ramps and safety equipment, yard maintenance, food assistance, visits by phone and in person, information and referral. Older adults helped by Neighbor Helping Neighbor have received dozens of services and report they now have more satisfying social relationships and more help available in difficult times.

Senior Living Communities and Independent Living Communities
Independent and senior living communities are places for seniors to retire where they can continue to live independently, yet don’t have to worry about a home or its upkeep. These places should provide a safe and comfortable setting as well as provide an opportunity in which to make new friends in the same age range who share the same interests.

After making the decision to live in a retirement community, how do you select the right facility that meets your needs? First ask your friends and your doctor for recommendations. In addition, consult the relocation directory on the left hand side of homepage.

Living options may be apartments, townhomes or rooms requiring little or no maintenance. Experts suggest that whichever type of housing is preferred, it’s important to see available apartments and, if they have don’t have an availability or do not have the type of facility requested, find out about getting on the waiting list and also determine the length of the expected wait. When visiting and interviewing at retirement communities, shop around. Make several visits at different times.

Services offered can vary depending on the type and cost of the facility. In independent living communities, seniors are responsible for their own finances, transportation, meals and health care. Recreational activities are usually offered, maid service may be provided, some meals may be provided in a common room, and the facility may offer transportation to physicians or shopping. People interested in this type of facility should be healthy, able to communicate with independent health care professionals without the help of on-site staff and must desire an active community environment.

It’s important that a facility under consideration be close to your services, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, grocery stores and favorite shopping places. Identify what amenities are important to you, such as an onsite beauty shop, a store in which to buy items before you can get to a store, transportation for doctor appointments, shopping, cultural events, church and social outings. Review the facility’s activity calendar to see what it offers and ask the marketing director or the activity director about programs. Don’t hesitate to ask other residents how long they have lived in the community and how they would rate it.

Due to the wide array of choice available to Dallas-Fort Worth seniors, retirement communities are very competitive, which is a plus for consumers because they can shop around to ensure the right one matches their lifestyle.

Before making a selection, review this checklist:
  • Word-of-mouth referrals from friends, relatives or professional contacts are important.
  • Once a community is selected, visit the location several times at different times of the day.
  • Ask the managing directors how long they have been in operation and who owns them.
  • Find out about the activities and services offered, including:
– Beauty shop
– Pool
– Spa
– Activity Calendar offerings

There are many advantages for seniors who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The year-round temperate climate provides opportunities for many outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, walking and golfing. As the third largest airport in the world in 2008 in terms of passenger activity, DFW Airport is served by 20 international and domestic airlines and offers nonstop service to more than 173 worldwide destinations. For newcomers, it doesn’t take long to make friends and share interests. There are many opportunities to enjoy the sights and sounds of the region, including organized visits to museums, local theater and concert venues. If volunteering is of interest to you, there are plenty of organizations that are interested in your participation, and there are agencies to help you find a job.

One important agency that has been serving the senior community for more than 45 years is the Senior Source (www.theseniorsource.org). Among its primary goals is to provide help to caregivers of aging loved ones, offer financial management services and consultations, assist with job search and employment opportunities, advocate for nursing home residents and educate the community on issues affecting older adults. The Senior Source also hosts a rich line up of events including support groups, job-search seminars and networking tips.

The Southwest Fort Worth Chapter of AARP (www.swfwaarp.org) is active in promoting a healthy image of aging by demonstrating vitality, creativity and leadership in community involvement. It provides information about health care, economic security, consumer protection and other key issues through a variety of programs and speakers. The chapter maintains a strong relationship with Tarrant County College and the college’s Senior Education program, which encourages continued learning for mental, physical and social stimulation. Participants can enjoy extended trips and outings to Texas and U.S. locations

The Texas Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) provides classes on exercise programs, aquatics and Tai Chi that are held at many facilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department (www.dallasparks.org) offers senior wellness programs such as a mature adults club, ongoing aerobics, walking and fitness and senior exercise classes.

The Community Council on Greater Dallas publishes the Aging Information Office Directory of Services & Caregiver's Guide. It’s a free specialized directory of services and family caregiver guide for seniors and includes listings for more than 300 governmental nonprofit and private agencies and programs that provide services for senior citizens in Dallas County.

Many Americans are moving into their retirement years while also tending to the care of a parent or elderly relative. As a caregiver it is important to understand what options are available for your loved one especially if you are the primary decision-maker for them. There are a number of lifestyle choices depending on the person’s physical condition and the level of care required to live comfortably. In the Metroplex, the housing options run the gamut from assisted living facilities to Alzheimer care facilities to resort-style neighborhoods. These facilities offer accommodations that provide a dignified standard of living while professionals oversee the residents’ well-being.

— Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
Continuing Care Retirement Communities allow seniors to “age in place,” with flexible accommodations that are designed to meet their health and housing needs as these needs change over time. Residents entering Continuing Care Retirement Communities sign a long-term contract that provides for housing, services and nursing care, usually all in one location, enabling seniors to remain in a familiar setting as they grow older.

Many seniors enter into a Continuing Care Retirement Communities’ contract while they are healthy and active, knowing they will be able to stay in the same community and receive nursing care should this become necessary. When a senior who is in good health signs a Continuing Care Retirement Community contract, he or she may expect to pay lower fees.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities provide services and facilities that allow access to independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Seniors who are independent may live in a single-family home, apartment or condominium within the Continuing Care retirement complex. If they begin to need help with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and eating, they may be transferred to an assisted living or skilled nursing facility on the same site. Seniors who live in this setting can be assured their long-term care needs will be met and will not have to relocate.

Any elder (single or partnered) can be a good candidate for a Continuing Care Retirement Community. These include people who are independent, healthy and able to care for themselves; need some assistance with daily living; require skilled nursing care; want the security of living in a seniors-only community; no longer want (or are unable) to maintain a house; prefer to live among their peers; and who have enough money to pay the Continuing Care Retirement Community fees.

Seniors who live in Continuing Care Retirement Communities can select a service plan to suit their needs, abilities and preferences. Typical assisted living services include recreational, social and educational activities; transportation, emergency help, housekeeping, meals, assistance with daily living and personal assistance.

— Assisted Living Facilities
These housing options combine a level of independent living with some assistance for personal care. They provide care to residents who cannot live alone, but do not need 24-hour nursing care. Assisted living communities offer residents the privacy of their own bedroom, often with a small kitchen. Most offer meals in a community dining room, snacks, laundry services, housekeeping and assistance with personal needs such as bathing, dressing or medication supervision. These facilities are not designed for people who need serious medical care, but there are some facilities for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss.

When looking for an assisted living facility, experts say it’s important to find a quality one. Make an appointment to visit the managing director or director of the assisted living facility. At that time, be sure the RN is present at the meeting and be sure to obtain a disclosure statement that will tell you all the things the community can and will do for you. Ask about the facility’s levels of care provided and costs at each level. Ask if you can speak with other residents and ask questions of them to determine if they’re comfortable and well treated. Consider eating a meal in the facility, as food plays a big part in the residents’ lives.

Assisted living residents can be young or old, affluent or low income, frail or disabled. A typical resident in an Assisted Living Facility is a widowed or single woman in her 80s. Residents may suffer from memory disorders, or simply need help with mobility, incontinence or other challenges. Assisted living is appropriate for anyone who can no longer manage to live on their own but doesn’t require medical care.

Once a decision about a community has been made, review everything and ask questions if you do not understand. Ensure everything is spelled out and clear. If you don’t feel good about the place, it’s probably not the best option. Pay close attention to what is going on and how you feel.

— Residential Care Homes (Personal Care Homes)
These group living facilities, usually single-family homes, are designed to meet the needs of people who cannot live independently, but do not need nursing homes. These homes provide some type of assistance with daily living activities including eating, walking and bathing. Some homes provide skilled nursing, rehabilitative services or specialized care for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

— Skilled Nursing Facilities
A Skilled Nursing Facility is staffed by registered nurses who help provide 24-hour care to people who can no longer care for themselves due to physical, emotional or mental conditions. A licensed physician supervises each patient’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Most nursing homes have two basic types of services: skilled medical care and custodial care.

Skilled medical care includes services of trained professionals that are needed for a limited period of time following an injury or illness. Skilled care may also be needed on a long term basis if a resident requires injections, ventilation or other treatment. Custodial or personal care includes assistance with what are known as the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, getting in and out of bed or walking around.

People who are able to recover from a disabling injury or illness, may temporarily need the custodial care as they are getting back the strength and balance to be independent again. For people who are losing their ability to function independently due to chronic disease and increasing frailty, custodial care may be a long-term need.

In the most severe cases where a person is bed-bound, ongoing supervision by an RN is necessary along with the custodial care, to ensure proper hydration and nutrition and to prevent skin breakdown. If a custodial care resident becomes ill or injured, they may spend a period of time in skilled care, and then return to custodial care. Whether a resident is under skilled or custodial care is important in terms of who provides the care and who pays for the services provided.

— Memory Care Communities
Alzheimer’s care communities are special units or free-standing communities designed to care for individuals living with Alzheimer’s, which is a degenerative disease that attacks the brain, impairing one’s memory, mental processing ability and behavior. Special on-site care is provided to residents 24-hours a day. While these communities are for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, alternative senior assisted care centers may be appropriate for residents. Long-term insurance or personal monies usually fund the care in these communities.

In order to best match a senior’s needs with his preferences, there are numerous factors to weigh in making a decision about care.
  • Temporary versus long term care: An older person may go to a nursing home for rehab following a surgery or stroke, then return home. In other circumstances, a senior’s needs are better served by planning a move into a situation that is likely to remain the same for the many years to come.
  • Independence: Can the senior live alone, and more importantly, does he/she want to? Or would living in a more service-oriented environment be more nurturing?
  • Privacy: If the senior’s desire for privacy is important, independent living, assisted living or a Continuing Care Retirement Community would be preferable to a nursing home.
  • Needs for personal care: How much and what kinds of personal or “custodial care” are needed or desired? There are online needs assessment questionnaires to help determine this and then match the care needs with the right type of housing.
  • Needs for medical care: If the senior has a chronic illness that necessitates special medical care, or ongoing services of medical professionals, independent living and even assisted living may not be suitable.
  • Costs: Learn about the financial aspects of senior housing to determine what options are affordable for you. Certain options may be unaffordable, such as Continuing Care Retirement Communities.

In making any housing selection for yourself or a loved one, ask your doctor or your attorney to review the contract, especially if you feel uneasy signing it. However, there are many residents who make the decision on their own and don’t feel the need to ask anyone else.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is also charged with managing community-based programs that prevent delinquency, abuse, neglect and exploitation of Texas children, elderly and disabled adults. The agency's services are provided through its Adult Protective Services, Child Protective Services, Child Care Licensing and Prevention and Early Intervention divisions. Every day, almost 6,800 DFPS employees in more than 249 offices across the state protect the physical safety and emotional well-being of the most vulnerable citizens of Texas.

Adult Protective Services (APS) Facility Investigations – APS investigates allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in facilities that care for adults including: private homes, adult foster homes (with 3 or fewer consumers), unlicensed room and board, state facilities and community centers that provide mental health and mental retardation services, home health agency staff, exploitation in nursing homes when the alleged perpetrator is someone outside the facility.

Abuse Hotline for APS Facility Investigations: 1-800-647-7418

Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) – Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private ICF/MR, adult day care. For complaints (reports of abuse), call 1-800-458-9858 and Nursing Home Information: 1-800-252-8016

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) – Hospitals, psychiatric hospitals (including private psychiatric facilities), and various other medical facilities. Complaints: 1-888-973-0022

Texas Council on Family Violence, Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
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