Inside Track liNDA MAlloN
MY liFe iS MeASuReD ou T iN SCRAPS oF PAPeR.
Like many people, I have endlessly renewing lists of things
to be accomplished, which are satisfying to create—and even
more satisfying to check off. But I don’t stop there. At home and
in the office, my workspaces are punctuated by brightly colored
Post-it notes reminding me of particularly urgent tasks. Put out
the recycling. Buy more cat food. Write Inside Track.
More than the proliferation of comfortable shoes in my closet, these notes are the harbinger of encroaching senescence.
The sad truth is that without my lists and my Post-its, I would
forget to do a lot of my to-do items. Not forget completely—I
can count on the cat to remind me about her breakfast—but
forget long enough to inconvenience myself and others.
Memory lapse, I fear, is just one of many troublesome aspects of aging. From here, I see myself progressing along an
increasingly dire continuum that extends beyond wrinkles, cataracts, and gravitational sag to concerns about long-term care
and, if the market continues to stagnate, outliving my savings.
It’s for these reasons, among many others, that I’ve always
liked the concept of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). In most cases, when you buy into a CCRC you
are buying not just a roof over your head. You also are buying peace of mind about what will happen to you in the event
of a protracted illness, or dementia, or both. And the ancillary
benefits are significant. I think CCRCs offer you the opportunity to relive your college years—minus the Frisbees and finals.
Think about it: Everyone is looking to be friendly, you all like
the same music, and even if the food isn’t great, at least you
aren’t the one cooking it (or cleaning up afterward). Sure, the
dinner lines at most CCRCs start forming at
4 p.m. and the nightlife pretty much shuts
down once “Jeopardy!” signs off the air, but
as a resident of a CCRC you’re assured of
spending your days in the company of folks
with whom you share similar concerns, a
common vocabulary, and, most important,
the same generational touchstones.
It sounds like a sweet deal. And it is—as
long as your CCRC stays financially sound.
On Page 34, actuaries Dwight Bartlett
(a member of Contingencies’ editorial
board) and Dave Bond take stock of how
the financial downturn has affected the
CCRC industry. While the vast majority of CCRCs remain actuarially
and financially solvent, there have been some well-publicized
bankruptcies that resulted in investigations by both the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Senate Special
Committee on Aging.
Regulations governing CCRCs vary widely from state to
state ( 12 states and the District of Columbia have no statutes
at all). In the 38 states that do have regulations in place, there’s
inconsistency as to which state agency has oversight. In many
states, it’s the state insurance department. But in others, it’s
the department of aging, the health department, or some other
agency entirely. Strikingly, only a handful of states require actuarial studies in the development of a CCRC.
Bartlett and Bond, who served together on the Continuing
Care Advisory Committee for the Maryland Department of Aging, argue that the regulation of CCRCs most properly belongs
under state insurance departments, which have the financial
and actuarial expertise to judge a CCRC’s ability to fulfill its
long-term promises to residents.
Considering the aging of the U.S. population and the
expected growing popularity of CCRCs, Bartlett and Bond’s
suggestion is a good one. As a resident of the District of
Columbia, I’m making a note to question my council member
as to why the District lacks laws governing its CCRCs. It’s on
my list, right after the reminder to revisit the investments
in my 401(k).
bARTPRoDuCTioN / iSToCK, boNo ToM STuDio