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Change of plans

Overnight stay at Brooksby alters retirement course for Woburn couple

Created date

April 10th, 2017
Before moving to Brooksby Village, Johanna and Allen Hill spent two nights in one of the community’s guest suites as part of the community’s Live the Life program.

Before moving to Brooksby Village, Johanna and Allen Hill spent two nights in one of the community’s guest suites as part of the community’s Live the Life program.

Allen and Johanna Hill could have summed up their retirement plan in three words: age in place.

“We were talking with our daughter one day, and I listed all the reasons why aging in place was the best option for us,” says Allen, a retired architect who specialized in historic preservation. “We wanted to stay in familiar surroundings, and it was definitely a more economical choice since we hadn’t had a mortgage in years.”

The couple’s daughter listened patiently before asking a simple question, “What happens when you can’t drive anymore?”

“That was the pivot,” says Allen. “At that point, we realized that it might be in our best interest to at least consider other options.”

Exploring their options

Allen and Johanna, who were living in Woburn, Mass., contacted their local council on aging, which supplied them with a list of all the continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) in Eastern Massachusetts.

“We did our due diligence and visited the CCRCs on the list,” says Allen. “We narrowed our choices down to five: two life care communities and three fee-for-service communities.”

Life care communities require a long-term, upfront financial commitment. Residents pay a substantial fixed monthly payment that remains the same as they progress through the continuum of care.

By contrast, residents living in a fee-for-service CCRC only pay for additional levels of care as they need them.

Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, which operates on a fee-for-service basis, was on the couple’s short list. 

“We eventually narrowed our choice down to two communities—Brooksby and one other,” says Allen. “They both had nice facilities, lovely residents, and interactive staff-resident relationships. But that was where the similarities ended. Brooksby was large, the other was small. Brooksby operates on a fee-for-service basis, the other was a life care community.”

Perks of the priority list

On the advice of a sales associate at one of the communities they visited, Allen and Johanna joined the waiting lists for all the CCRCs that interested them. At Brooksby, that list is called the priority list, made up of people who have expressed an interest in moving to the community and put down a fully refundable $1,000 deposit to reserve their place in line for the apartment home of their choice.

Brooksby’s priority list comes with a number of perks, including access to the Live the Life program, which allows prospective residents to spend up to two nights at the community.

“Live the Life has been such a successful program because guests can stay in one of our beautifully appointed guest suites, dine in our restaurants, try out clubs and activities that interest them, and get to know our residents,” says Sales Director Sue Davis.

For Allen and Johanna, the opportunity to spend two nights at Brooksby was the catalyst they needed to make a decision. They booked their Live the Life stay for two nights in April 2016.

“It was like being on a cruise,” says Allen. “There were so many activities, so much good food, and so many wonderful people.”

Customized experience

Prior to each guest’s Live the Life stay, Sales Associate Stefanie Graves sends guests a questionnaire asking about interests, hobbies, and preferences. Graves then uses that information to suggest possible activities and to plan meals with current residents.

“It’s tempting to attribute a little bit of magic to Stefanie’s work,” says Allen. “She arranged for us to have dinner with some delightful residents. When we got back to the guest suite at the end of the evening, Johanna and I both felt like we’d had dinner with great friends whom we hadn’t seen in 20 years.”During their Live the Life stay, Allen popped into Brooksby’s woodshop, television studio, choir rehearsal, and a French conversation group. Johanna was interested in the community’s fitness offerings and tried several exercise classes.

“On the second day, I told Allen I was just going to rest my eyes on the sofa, and I fell fast asleep,” says Johanna. “I don’t normally nap, but we’d been so active.”

The other benefit to their two-night stay? Candid answers from residents and the opportunity to see lived-in apartments.

“We’d seen unfurnished apartments during our previous visits to Brooksby, but it was invaluable for me to see apartments where residents lived,” says Johanna. “I got to see how they’d arranged the furniture and used the space.”

Embracing life

Following their Live the Life stay, Allen and Johanna felt confident that a move to Brooksby was the right choice. They opted for a two-bedroom, two-bath Hawthorne-style apartment and moved to the community in August 2016.

These days, Allen maintains a full schedule, singing with the Brooksby Singers and the Protestant choir, volunteering in the television studio, and teaching a music class to other residents as part of the community’s spring Live and Learn series.

Johanna indulges her love of crafts with the Brooksby Afghan Group, the Heart Ladies, and the quilting group. She also tends her plants in one of the community’s newly installed raised gardens.

“We’re thankful we didn’t stick to our original plan,” says Allen. “Our Live the Life stay helped us realize how much Brooksby has to offer.”