Dealing with the cost of senior living facilities

About 30 members of Mason-Dixon Business Association attended the organization's Feb.15 luncheon meeting to hear a presentation by Kevin Cysyk, executive director of Country Meadows Retirement Communities of York, Pa.

Held at Geneva Farm Golf Club's Twin Silos Restaurant, the meeting featured information about the living and financial needs of senior citizens, described by Cysyk as "something you haven't had to think about too much."

Cysyk challenged the business leaders present, saying, "All of you have the ability to serve this market — the senior market."

He said both society and businesses need to prepare for the impact of increased numbers of elderly people and the costs involved in their care and needs.

Cysyk explained the range of life styles in retirement communities. In independent living, people still drive their vehicles but receive help with meals and housekeeping, he said.

Then when they find they need more assistance, they move to the strata of assisted living or personal care, and their last move is to nursing care, available to those with extreme health needs including dementia and Alzheimer's, he added.

Those who remain in their own homes have independence, but have little opportunity for socialization, he said, adding facilities like Country Meadows provide community or communal living.

Cysyk said his retirement community provides housing for 240 residents and is run by a staff of 140 people.

He described senior living as a blend of housing and health care needs and said full-time chaplains are available to handle spiritual needs, also. Seniors experience a lot of loss, he said, such as their homes, their driving abilities, their spouses, and, as life expectancy rates increase, even their children now.

Cysyk said senior living has changed to a degree, with those in such housing in the past enjoying outings to Denny's or Golden Corral eateries and residents today wanting to go to the Milton Inn or other upper-echelon restaurants.

According to statistics, Cysyk said, one of eight Americans is 65 or older and 900,000 people are now in independent living. In Maryland, the economic impact of such housing now runs $2,500-5,000 per month, he said.

Cysyk, who formerly worked at a Maryland retirement facility, said assisted living in that state can cost $3,500-6,500 monthly and nursing care run $9,000.

He said Pennsylvania facilities can cost less since the commonwealth has fewer mandates, and it also offers retirement benefits.

Cysyk said the average senior person is on 18 different medications, and he told of the emotional stress and astronomical costs involved in senior issues.

Cysyk said more and more families are subsidizing elderly relatives, and others say, "My mom's paying for this, but what's going to happen to me?" as they worry about their personal estates.

Craig Tilghman, of Edward Jones Investments, one of those present at the Mason Dixon Business Association meeting, urged people to give some thought to protecting their personal families and their estates.

"Every day you don't have long-term insurance is a day at risk," he said, adding that people cover other risks for cars and homes with insurance.

Mason Dixon Business Association member Bob Wehland of Freedom Federal Credit Union said his firm provides many financial programs dealing with senior issues.

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