It seems like only yesterday we were touring college campuses with our teens. Now, we’re touring assisted living facilities, looking for a place for my husband’s father. When it comes down to it, there isn’t much difference in the whole process. I’m still asking the same two questions. First, and foremost, How is the food? And then, Are there any activities or clubs to join?
My husband is still asking the same two questions he used to ask the college admissions officers: How much does it cost? And Is there any financial aid available?
We go on the facility tours, which are much like the college tours – except that the elderly guide in assisted living speaks louder and walks a lot slower than those perky young college students that jogged through the campus tours.
The rooms they show us on the tours are spotless, compared to the college dorms we were shown so many years ago. The square footage in each bathroom is larger than my son’s freshman dorm room. There is a cleaning service that maintains the bedrooms and bathrooms once a week, and laundry is done “in house” by aides.
The dining room resembles a five-star restaurant, with wait service, centerpieces on the tables and real cloth napkins at every place setting. This is so much classier than the college cafeterias we toured.
“What if you take a nap and sleep through dinner?” I asked one assisted living guide. “Will you still be able to get some food if the kitchen is closed?” I remember my son telling me that the cafeteria at his college closed at 10:00 PM and, if he missed dinner, his only option was a sleeve of Ritz crackers with peanut butter.
“No problem,” the guide answers. “You simply call down to the kitchen and a staff member will make whatever you like and bring it up to your room.”
Sounds more like Downton Abbey than assisted living.
One thing that is identical to the college dorm scene is the arrangement of the living quarters. There are men and women on the same floor, and I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the elderly residents behave like college students and sneak into each other’s rooms at night for a little hanky-panky. Now that medical marijuana is legal in New York, they can share a joint while listening to music and discussing the difference between Medicare Part A & B. Every night can be a party!
I add up the hours I spend grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry and just maintaining a “tidy” home (because I honestly don’t do much real cleaning). In assisted living, someone else would be doing all those mundane chores for me. With all that free time, I would actually be able to have fun doing the things I want to do.
I’m ready to enroll on the spot. Assisted living would be my last chance to see what it was like to live away at college – something I still regret not being able to do in my youth – when I worked full-time and attended college at night. I missed out on all that college dorm fun and communal living and never experienced the thrill of living on my own.
If I ran the PR ad to attract Baby Boomers like myself to assisted living, it would read:
Assisted living: Reliving The Glory Days Of College – With Legalized “Medical” Marijuana On Site
As we leave the assisted living tours, I’m chattering excitedly about the possibilities – the different room sizes available, the huge bathrooms that someone else would clean, the prepared meals, the room service, the laundry service and all those day trips on the calendar.
“I want to live there!” I tell my husband. “Let’s do it. We’ll sell the house. I won’t have to cook or clean. I’ll finally have time to write my book! Did you see how empty the exercise room was? No more standing in line at the crowded gym, waiting for an exercise bike with a sweaty seat.” I try to find something he can get excited about…”You won’t have to shovel snow or mow the lawn anymore!”
But he cuts me off and punctures my balloon. “My father is the one who has to decide on a place,” he reminds me. “He’s the one moving into assisted living; not us.”
When I tell my adult son about the assisted living facilities, he agrees with me. “We should all be able to live in assisted living, no matter what age we are,” he says. “Then we could play all day and have everyone else do the work.”
“Exactly!” I say. At least someone in this family understands me.