Sweetwood (see autumn photo, taken from the road to Mount Greylock) is located in a relatively rural area of Massachusetts near Williams College, and has 70 apartments. By contrast, Freedom Pointe has 240 condos and is across the street from The Villages Hospital and a shopping center not far from one of the town centers in our giant (80,000 people and growing) retirement community.
Howard, who is still busy editing his latest book, kindly sent me some text and photos, which I am happy to post here.
Your move suggested that a good discussion topic is retirement communities and the health care problem from our more limited point of view. The big national health care problem is just too much of a political mess to be solvable, but there is a lot of promising effort to improve home health care for the elderly. We are a member of Mass. Life Care Residents' Association (MLCRA) http://www.mlcra.org/ which promotes legislation in our favor.
Ira, your physical description inside the Villages Independent Living apartments and the services sounds very similar to ours. The area is exactly the same down to the 8 x 4 foot locked storage. Outside there are some differences. We are small, only 70 apartments. We are 4 miles by road or hiking trail from Williamstown (see Google Earth). Above is an Autumn view of Sweetwood from the road to Mount Greylock.
Here is a Spring view from Sweetwood with Mount Greylock in the background.
And below is a Winter view from our apartment window.
As you know, moving your home is always a hard choice. Moving to a retirement community is harder because it is very likely your last move, and you have to make a lot of guesses about your aging and health care. You were wise to move early so you can enjoy the advantages of the Villages. Too many people wait until they need assisted living or nursing care.
One of the most important conditions for us was having the option of “age in place” so you can choose to have home health care and hospice in your own apartment if it is what you and your spouse want. Every state has different laws governing levels of care in retirement communities and each community (and insurance company) has its own rules, so it takes careful investigation.
In Binghamton we had to help my stepmother move four times at Hilltop Retirement Community―moves which were required by NY State law for accreditation of their facilities. Each move was stressful and psychologically like a slow death as she gradually lost space, familiar belongings, friends, and freedom. She never lost her wits. She died peacefully in hospice care, but alone in a strange room. She could have been cared for better (and at less cost) in her original independent living apartment.
Keeping costs down must be the major health care issue nationally, and it should be outcome-driven, not liability-driven or ideology-driven. For example, after my valve job, my surgeon would not release me from the hospital unless I was driven by ambulance to a skilled care nursing home (for liability protection). Fortunately, Sweetwood has a nursing home next door and I knew the director who let me go back to my apartment without doing my rehab in the nursing home, because we have 24/7 care available. The 75-mile ambulance ride was fun, but it cost the taxpayer $30 per mile. It would have cost another few thousand to keep me a week in the nursing home, and I got much better food and care at home.