Comfort, companionship, compassion in continuing care at Riverwoods retirement facility in Exeter
The vision was to provide a dignified way for people to retire, before they became inactive, and to provide continuing care through the end of their lives without burgeoning costs as their needs enhanced.
At the time, there were few such communities in the country, and even fewer in New England.
Around the time of RiverWoods construction in 1994, Rivermede was built in Peterborough, Kendall was constructed in Hanover a few years earlier and Wake Robin opened in Vermont.
But RiverWoods has expanded twice, adding the Ridge campus in 2004 and the Boulders campus in 2010.
"What is starting to happen is people are aging. Baby boomers are aging into our marketplace, and there is a real belief that doing this right from the start is really helpful," Vogel said.
The one thing that has not changed is the lack of understanding about what a CCRC is.
"People think of a CCRC, and think nursing home and assisted living. While we have that, it is far more inclusive than that," Vogel said.
"The first step in the planning is just to understand all of your options. What happens is you don't really want to think about getting older. People think of getting older as a loss, or any move out of their single-family home as a loss … When people think of it as moving to something instead of from something, they do really great work," Vogel said.
Entry fees range from $164,000 to $670,000, and are 90 percent refundable, meaning when a resident departs, 90 percent of that fee is returned to the resident's children or estate. Monthly fees range from $2,000 to $6,000 and are tax-deductible up to 40 percent as a pre-paid medical expense.
There are just under 400 independent living units at RiverWoods, including independent apartments and cottages. There are 75 assisted living apartments and about 75 skilled nursing beds, which are all private rooms. In total, the campuses serve about 615 residents over the course of the three levels of care.
Frank Gutmann is a current resident of RiverWoods and one of the original group members who developed the idea.
Rosemary Coffin and her husband lived in a dorm at the Phillips Exeter Academy campus with Gutmann and his wife. Gutmann and Mr. Coffin both taught at the private school for many years.
Around the same time, Maryanna Hatch in Durham, wife of artist and university professor John Hatch, was having similar thoughts.
Gutmann said the founding members wanted to create a retirement community where seniors would feel confident in their surroundings and the support they would receive. Health care had to be a component as did a sense of community.
So by 1987 they started looking for partners. They began talking with Kendall, which was developing a community in Hanover, but the two sides could not reach agreement on the issue of returning deposit fees. The founding residents were adamant that a good chunk of the money be returned to a resident's children or estate when the person departed, but Kendall would not buy in to that idea.
Gutmann and his wife were not old enough to enter when RiverWoods opened, but said they stayed involved because they liked the concept.
Katherine Southworth, 77, first learned of RiverWoods in the 1980s from original members. In 2006, she realized she and her husband, Robert, would soon be in need of help, and had lunch with friends at RiverWoods.
Robert died a year ago at the age of 95 after many happy years at RiverWoods with his wife and many friends.
She said it is also a collaborative process deciding when it is appropriate for someone to move to the next level of care.
His wife was not enthusiastic about the move to a CCRC, but after awhile, it came to be home.
Alpin is also a member of one of the community's great love stories. Following his wife's passing, he met a new resident and the two fell in love, marrying on the campus with nearly 300 fellow residents in attendance.
At the time, neither Trulson or his wife were considering leaving their home, but his wife loved the campus, and the idea of no longer having to cook. Trulson was not necessarily upset about the prospect of not having to shovel in the winter either.
The couple moved into the Boulders three years ago from Hopkinton as one of the first residents in the newest campus.
They also get out to a family home in New Castle regularly for family events.
About 42 percent of RiverWoods residents are from New Hampshire, and the rest come from a smattering of other states as far west as Arizona.
"A lot of those people have ties here. They have kids here, grew up here, summered here … ," Alpin said.
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