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Doing their homework

Bedford couple researches retirement communities along the East Coast

Created date

October 13th, 2017
Peggy and Bob Ciampa’s apartment at Brooksby Village in Peabody, Mass., evokes images of the Florida coast.

Peggy and Bob Ciampa’s apartment at Brooksby Village in Peabody, Mass., evokes images of the Florida coast.


In the months leading up to Bob Ciampa’s 80th birthday, Bob and his wife Peggy knew they had homework to do.

“When I retired in 2001, Peggy and I bought a place in Sebastian, Fla., halfway between Melbourne and Vero Beach,” says Bob, who spent his career in machine tool and industrial robotic sales. “We divided our time each year—eight months in Florida and four months in Bedford [Mass.], where we raised our family.”

The arrangement worked well for 15 years.

“We told ourselves we’d reassess our living situation when Bob turned 80 in the summer of 2016,” says Peggy. “We loved every minute of living in Florida, but we also saw people stay in their homes too long while their health declined. They had kids living across the country who were flying back and forth to take care of their parents at a time when they should have been preparing for retirement themselves. We didn’t want to put our kids through that.”  

Compounding the situation was the fact that Peggy was injured in a car accident in 2013.

“I’m better now, but it was a long recovery and gave us the additional perspective that we needed to be in a place where we had easy access to amenities and health care services,” says Peggy.

Exploring their options

The couple visited retirement communities all along the Eastern seaboard, from Vero Beach, Fla., up to Scarborough, Maine.

“We looked at life care communities and fee-for-service communities,” says Bob. 

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, people who live in a fee-for-service continuing care retirement community only pay for additional levels of care as they need them.

“Deciding between a life care and fee-for-service community is almost like buying insurance,” says Bob. “How much do you need? Do you want to prepay for medical care that you may never use?”

Brooksby Village, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., which operates on a fee-for-service basis, was one of the communities Bob and Peggy considered.

“We visited Brooksby for a lunch presentation in the summer of 2015,” says Peggy. “Right away, I noticed the glass walkways connecting all the buildings on campus. Coming from Florida, we hadn’t experienced a winter in 15 years. I liked the idea of being able to move around the community without getting out in the weather.”

Bob was drawn to the size of the community and its beautiful grounds.

“Brooksby is a small city,” he says. “Everything you need is on site. It’s so well-kept, like a college campus.”

Situated on 90 acres, Brooksby is home to more than 1,700 residents. The community features a variety of spacious, maintenance-free apartment homes, five restaurants, an on-site medical center staffed by full-time physicians specializing in geriatric care, a fitness center, swimming pool, wood shop, television studio, bank, pharmacy, and hair salon. Additionally, it offers more than 100 resident-run clubs and activities. 

“We liked the size of Brooksby because we could see the diversity of the offerings,” says Bob. 

‘Change is coming’

Bob and Peggy joined Brooksby’s priority list in October 2015, putting down a fully refundable $1,000 deposit to reserve their place in line for the apartment home of their choice.

Priority list members have first right of refusal on their desired floor plans, according to the date they joined the priority list. 

“Once we gathered information about all the communities we were considering, we started getting down to the details of each one,” says Peggy. “It’s important to understand the nuances in policy and contracts. You have to do your homework.”

Bob, recognizing that any move would be a life change, kept coming back to one truth.

“You can manage change, or change can manage you,” he says. “Either way, change is coming.”

Making their decision

Bob and Peggy spent the summer of 2016 in Massachusetts, giving them ample time to interact with Brooksby’s residents and staff.

“We attended all four of Laurie’s Lunch and Learn presentations, which gave us an idea of what moving would entail and provided resources to help us throughout the process,” says Peggy.

Laurie Phillips is the personal moving consultant at Brooksby. She offers complimentary coordination of moving resources for anyone moving to the community. Several times each year, Phillips runs Lunch and Learn sessions, which meet weekly for four weeks, where she introduces topics related to moving, such as downsizing and estate sales.

As personal moving consultant, Phillips maintains a network of trusted moving professionals who have been vetted by Erickson Living, and she introduces several of them to priority list members over the course of each four-week session.

In addition to the Lunch and Learn offerings, Bob and Peggy also took advantage of Brooksby’s Live the Life program, which gives prospective residents the opportunity to spend up to two nights at the community.

“Prior to our stay, Stefanie [Graves, sales associate] sent us a questionnaire asking about our likes and interests,” says Bob. “Then she planned our visit according to the preferences we’d indicated. She matched us up with two couples who hosted us for dinner, and it was like having dinner with old friends. By the end of our Live the Life experience, Peggy and I were convinced Brooksby was the place for us.”

Right choice

After looking at floor plans, the couple was drawn to the two-bedroom Harrison-style apartment and let the sales team know of their preference.

“That fall, we left for Florida as usual, where we got a call from the sales team letting us know that a Harrison had just become available,” says Bob. “We flew back up to Massachusetts at the end of November to look at the apartment and liked what we saw.”

The couple worked with Phillips and her trusted network of moving professionals to coordinate the move from their Florida and Massachusetts homes. They also met with Brooksby’s Custom Interiors department to choose paint colors and flooring for their new apartment.

“I loved the color palette and bamboo flooring in our Florida home, and I wanted the same look in our Brooksby apartment,” says Peggy. “We recreated Florida in Massachusetts.”

The couple moved to Brooksby in mid-February 2017.

“Brooksby has exceeded all our expectations,” says Bob, who’s been playing poker and bowling at the community, as well as working out in the fitness center. “It was absolutely the right choice for us.”