Coffee heat rising

The Instacart Experiment: Living & Learning

Okay, so after the last Instacart experience — which was mixed, but overall pretty good — I decided to try again, needing a few items from AJ’s Fancy Overpriced Gourmet Grocery that I knew M’hijito would not be able to pick up in this week’s Costco expedition. This led to another strangely entertaining interlude.

Once again, the runners tried to substitute stuff for products they knew little or nothing about. Instacart would be excellent if you bought a lot of plain-vanilla processed, packaged foodoids — since these seem to be what most Americans eat today. But if you ask for anything at all different from what they’re used to, the results can be hilarious.

Day before yesterday, I tried to get another package of the Italian flour the last AJ’s runner stumbled upon (not having any clue what she’d found). The cupboards were bare of old-fashioned unbleached flour, but she found a tiny package — one kilo, 2.2 pounds — of real, unadulterated, un-Round-Upped, un-genetically modified Italian flour. I pointed to a picture of it on the AJ’s site and said that and only that was what I wanted. She showed up with a pound of tapioca flour! Heeeeee!

Asparagus? AJ’s carries, tucked away in a particular part of its produce department, lovely thin dainty spring asparagus. Well. Spring has sprung. I got the King Kong of asparagus, thick stocks trying to take after a sequoia tree. So those’ll be…uhm…just yummy. Maybe I can make them into asparagus soup, if I can find someone who can figure out how to buy plain old heavy cream. 😀

So, it looks like, unless there’s a way to connect through Instacart with a single person whom you could train to shop in your own style, that system isn’t going to work well for the Aging in Place scheme. It would work to some degree — you could get SOME of the products you use regularly. It surely would be better than the Beatitudes, because even if you were buying mostly processed foods, they’d still be better than the chow served in the old-folkerie’s mess halls…uhm, “restaurants” (heh!). But you’d have a very hard time getting an ever-changing variety of runners to bring what you want consistently. And that would be annoying.

An alternative might be to train your cleaning lady to shop for you. At least if you had her at hand as you were presenting your requests, you could say “…and if you don’t see this, that’s OK — don’t try to substitute anything else.” Someone like Luz, for example, could pull this off a lot better than the Instacart runners, because she’s very smart (indeed) and because she knows how to cook.

And another alternative might be to hire a college kid… There used to be two culinary schools in town. Two of the community colleges now have culinary programs, and there are a couple of free-standing scams. You could hire a student in one of those — community college kids, in particular, are always looking for side gigs. And if they’re interested in food and cooking, they’d probably have a better shot at understanding what you’re asking for.

The adventure continues…

Making the Best of Self-Isolation

Planning a new strategy. As you know, I’ve decided I really love my house and want to stay here till I croak over. That decision taken, it’s time to begin putting in place a few mechanisms to make that possible. The self-isolation gig has spawned some services that may help with that project.

We already have the yard guy, the cleaning lady, and the pool guy. The C.L. is laid off for the duration of the coronavirus plague, but the other two are around. While I’m less than fond of housecleaning, it’s still easy enough for me to do.

But now, I think, might be a good time to get used to using grocery delivery services like Instacart. Old age or no old age, this coronavirus thing is going to be around for quite awhile. Those in the know believe we’ll see a second wave, and it’s likely to be ugly. Grocery shopping was never my favorite activity…so I’m thinking it would be wise to stay out of grocery stores as much as possible, whenever the lockdown ends. And make that a permanent thing.

So this week I think I’ll sign up for Instacart and try ordering a small set of items…

  • Some fresh produce: gotta know how well they can discern the difference between ripe, green, and rotten stuff. Some years ago, I tried Safeway’s order-out service. Total bust: apparently they consigned the job to stockboys who have never eaten a fresh veggie or piece of fruit in their lives. Most of the produce they brought was inedible.
  • Kleenex: M’hijito couldn’t find that on last weekend’s foray into the shopping jungle.
  • Sugar and flour: these also have been off the shelves for weeks.
  • Cucumber: good for making xergis, one of my favorite standbys.
  • Knee brace: put my knee out walking four miles the other day.
  • Lettuce: heads I planted are already bolting to seed
  • Cheese: staple breakfast food for someone who dislikes eggs, mush, and greasy meats
  • Smoked salmon: decent substitute for cholesterol-laden cheeses

Once I’m on their rolls, it will get rid of some inconvenience and save a whole lot of gas.

We’ll see what their shoppers can do with those. If it’s not a total bust, the plan is to continue doing this once every couple of weeks. Of course, I’ll still have to visit the various stores now and again, just to keep up on what they offer and where they stock it; I figure I could go to a couple of stores once a month or every six weeks, as long as I’m able to.

Get this started now, and then when I reach the point that I can’t drive to or hobble around a Costco, an important mechanism for maintaining independence will be in place.

The Strange Benefits of “Lockdown”

So we’re told that the “lockdown” of America’s population — basically urging everyone to stay in their homes, to shut down businesses, to stay at least six feet away from other people (preferably more), to stay away from church services, movie houses, athletic events, restaurants, and whatnot — has apparently begun to work. The coronavirus wildfire is beginning to cool. But we won’t be safe, not a chance, until a vaccine is produced. And when will that be?

“Given the current severity of the crisis, there are efforts to fast-track a vaccine for COVID-19 in as little as 12 to 18 months,” Dr. Abe Malkin, the founder and medical director of Concierge MD in Los Angeles told Business Insider.

A year to a year and a half? As little as? Seriously?

Our honored leader, dumb as a post as usual, craves to reopen the economy ASAP even though at the moment our country has the highest covid-19 death toll of any in the world: 20,000 of our people killed. This ill-advised desire of his is hardly surprising given that we’re headed into a depression the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1929 and that he campaigned on promises of invigorating the economy.

Meanwhile, those who understand economics warn that we’re skateboarding down the tubes at accelerating rates. “The pain will deepen,” opine the august editors of The Economist, “as defaults cascade through domestic payment chains.” Far as I can see, they’ve got that dead right. Recovery from this fiasco in the short term will be miraculous; in the long term it will require fortitude, patience, and — hang onto your hat — intelligent leadership.

If this thing goes on much longer, we could find that the measures we’re taking to save lives could alter the fabric of our society: change the ways we do things permanently.

On the other hand, not all is angst. Let us consider the strange benefits of “lockdown.”

It has given Mr. Trump a royal opportunity to display what a bumbling clown he is. Maybe his performance will move voters off the dime to get him out of office.

There’s almost no traffic! Even at 7 or 8 a.m., I can get across Feeder Street N/W without risking my life. The horrid Conduit of Blight Blvd. is relatively quiet and clear. Driving on a freeway is not the usual nightmare.

I haven’t bought gasoline in a month! And the car’s gas tank is still three-quarters full!

My auto insurer is refunding 15% of this year’s car insurance premium! Hafta say, it had crossed my mind to quietly resent having to pay to insure the tank for the weeks and possibly months that I’m not driving it. Since the cost of insuring that damn Venza is in the vicinity of $750, a 15% refund will go a ways toward next year’s tax & insurance budget.

With people home all the time, the neighborhood is safer: fewer burglaries, fewer car break-ins, less harassment of women.

Delivery services are growing. Getting someone else to bring your groceries to you instead of having to do battle with traffic and crowds is kinda nice. Walmart, Sprouts, Albertson’s, Safeway, Basha’s (a local grocery chain), Fry’s (Kroger), CVS, Walgreen’s, and Home Depot will deliver whatever your heart desires, right to your door. Right now I could order 20 pounds of (much-needed) birdseed from Walmart for a tiny fraction of what the same stuff goes for on Amazon.

Restaurants are turning themselves into grocery stores. In addition to selling cooked meals to go, many are selling grocery items. One proprietor here will sell you a margarita to go, too, with your upscale gourmet “Mexican” meal.

My son has been working at home for the past three weeks. He says his employer, a large nationwide insurance company, has closed and locked its large building in the East Valley. He’s afraid they won’t re-open it. Whether that means he thinks they’ll move their operation to some other city, laying off all their Phoenix workers, or whether he suspects they simply will ask everyone on their staff to telecommute has yet to be articulated. But…

Why not have all office workers work from home all the time? Companies wouldn’t have to rent expensive office buildings — these could be converted into homeless housing or retail space. Or  torn down to provide some green space. All a company would need is a meeting room to bring staff together once a month or so, and private space for one-on-one meetings.

Meanwhile, my neighbor across the street, a high school teacher and English-as-a-second-language specialist, appeared to be relaxing on his front porch the other day, talking into his laptop’s microphone. In response to a quizzical glance, he announced “I’m teaching!

Yep. I’ve done that. Created the Great Desert University’s first online course in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. It surely has its advantages over standing in front of a roomful of students for 90 minutes to three hours.

Why not put schools online all the time? Where schools exist to provide free lunches and baby-sitting services, why not frankly make them child-care centers? For single parents and couples who both have to work, existing school buildings could be converted into baby-sitting facilities with computer hookups to have the kids do their schoolwork online. Is it really necessary to congregate kids in prison-like facilities to teach them?

When I was teaching at the university’s westside campus — a commuter campus smack in the middle of a district where you really don’t  wanna put your kids in a public school — I was surprised to discover that a bunch of otherwise perfectly sane adult students were homeschooling their kids. Nooo, amazingly, they were NOT religious nuts or end-of-the-worlders. These were people who had tried the public schools in that part of town and found them beyond wanting. And because most were working-class folks, few of them were earning so much that one partner’s salary would be sorely missed. Several classmates explained that after doing the math, they realized that if one parent stayed home to supervise their kids’ homeschooling, it actually cost the family budget nothing — and indeed in some cases they came out ahead. This was because if one parent, usually the mother, stayed home, they didn’t have to pay for office clothing, for gasoline to commute, for higher auto insurance to cover commutes to two jobs, for lunches out, for day care, for summer child care, and so on. Not only that, but these people were convinced their children were getting better education — and having taught the products of Arizona’s public schools after they reach our universities and community colleges, I’d say they had somethin’ there. Not one but several of them reported that their kids could get through a whole day’s classroom instruction in two hours, sitting at the dining room table. They said that if they sat their kids down shortly after breakfast, the kids would go through the lessons, do the homework, and finish by noon.

They would then spend the afternoon in field trips, learning projects, music lessons, or other creative activities. Kids had no problem passing the standardized tests and no problem with the SATs.

Think o’ that… As for socialization, the public schools here are required to let home-schooled kids join in extra-curricular activities, so many of these kids were on track teams, baseball teams, band, debate clubs, even football teams. In addition, the Phoenix area has large kids’ soccer and baseball leagues, so there are plenty of PE-like things for home-schoolers to join.

I’m tellin’ you…if this lock-down maneuver goes on for very long, a whole lotta parents are going to figure that out. Why would you put your kid in a prison-like school where they’re going to bring home a disease, a pack of cigarettes, or a baggie of weed…when you could teach them better at home?

If that happens, school districts will (one hopes) respond by providing extensive online instruction. And then maybe all teachers will be able to hold forth from the comfort of their front patios.

And speaking of change in the offing…

Sheltering in place is about the same as aging in place. This fiasco is giving me a chance to see what will be involved in staying in my house when I’m too old to go out and bat around the homicidal streets of Phoenix, and to figure out how to make it happen, while I’m still “young” enough and clear-headed enough to figure anything out.

Being forced to figure out how to get damn near everything delivered is good preparation for the Aging in Place Scheme. If all the places that are doing home deliveries now continue to do so into the future — and they probably will, because most of them are contracting out the service — it would be relatively easy to stay in your home (assuming no crippling disability) well into your dotage. All these delivery services essentially co-opt the largest part of one’s need to drive.

For other purposes — entertainment, for example, or church, or clothes shopping — Uber or else catching rides with younger friends will do the job.

What’s good about social distancing and self-isolation in your parts?

Of Taxes and Best-Laid Plans and Lamps…

WonderAccountant is having a tax frenzy. Honestly…I don’t understand how anyone can do that crazy-making tax-prep ditz for a living!

I thought I’d set up my spreadsheets to totally simplify this year’s antics, but apparently I failed. One thing I didn’t realize is that repairs and maintenance on the house are now tax-related because we’re now a sole proprietorship, not an S-corp. It’s been many a year since I incorporated The Copyeditor’s Desk. We decided to de-incorporate, though, because she felt we would do better on the personal tax side if we did that.

This afternoon the young(ish) eldercare lawyer is supposed to call. I want to discuss the matter of the long-term care insurance, which everyone is telling me to get rid of. Naturally, when I called to cancel it, Metlife had a trained poodle on the phone coming up with every which way to keep me paying premiums.

So the next step was to plow through a four-inch-deep pile of paperwork from Metlife and its predecessor, TIAA-CREF. Metlife is truly notorious for trying to weasel out of paying benefits.

It was my understanding that if you quit paying, the issuer was supposed to pay back your premiums ($19,000, so far, since I started with TIAA in 2001). But…no. However, according to the original policy, which as far as I can tell was unchanged when Metlife bought TIAA’s LTC insurance business, they apply the balance to any nursing home bills you rack up — but they do not repay the unused premiums to you.

Well, after all these years, 19 grand would pay for 2.8 to 3.6 months of nursing home bills (private room/shared room)

Most people die within 3 months of admission to a nursing home. So what remains there would probably cover most of the bills.

If I quit paying premiums now and instead put the money in a CU savings account, at $133/month, that would add up to $1596 a year.

American baby-boomers can expect to live to be about 85, on average. So that would add $15,960 to the 19 grand already in Metlife’s coffers, for a total of $34,000 available (supposedly) to cover nursing home bills. Assuming I can get Metlife to return my money to me if I cancel their policy. At about $5,000 a month (by then, presumably), that would cover about 7 months in a home.

Some people, of course, are stuck there for a good deal longer than that.

My healthier relatives — the Christian Scientists who did not drink and did not consume coffee and walked daily and ate what we today call “whole foods” — lived to be 94. They each effectively dropped dead of heart attacks. Neither one went into a nursing home. But…let’s suppose you weren’t made of quite THAT sturdy stuff, but still you managed to stumble along to, say, about age 92 or so… Hmmm…. That would leave time, at $133/month, to accrue $27,132 for nursing home coverage. Let’s figure the price will be around 6 grand a month by then, eh?

$27,132 plus 19 grand (assuming Metlife even still existed to cough it up, assuming Metlife would cough it up) would give you $46,132 as a nursing home fund. Assuming nursing homes cost about 6 grand a month by then, that would last you about 7 1/2 months. According to my English-major arithmetic, which is nothing to place a bet on.

So…you’re takin’ your chances. My father was in a nursing home about two weeks before he croaked over. But…heaven help us! D-XMiL is a hundred and five years old and still alive, laying in a bed in a nursing home unable to see or hear. God help her. And she’s been in that state for years.

Interesting. Assuming inflation drives nursing home costs to “only” $5000 a month in 10 years (not a safe assumption) and to 6 grand in 15 years, the number of months that saving program would cover is almost same.

Jeez. Think o’that…

So after a brief telephone chat, our proposed new estate-planning/elder-care lawyer engineered a meeting in a couple of weeks. He thinks — contrary to the advice of the financial dude and the accountant but in accord with Consumer Reports’ opinion, that it’s actually a good idea to continue paying LTC premiums, if you can afford it. I can, but it frosts my cookies. PLUS: reviews of Metlife are awash in horror stories. Apparently they do every goddamn thing they can to avoid paying as agreed in their contract.

In less tenebrous climes…

Isn’t that a great word? Translations of the Greek epics describe Hades — which was just an underworld populated by the shades of the deceased, not Hell as in a place of torture — as “tenebrous.” Shady. 😀

In less tenebrous climes, the new glass shade arrived to replace the one I busted a couple weeks ago. None of us — we’re talking moi and not one, not two, but three lamp store and repair folks — could find one just like the deceased. The closest I could find is not opaline — it’s just milk-white — and is shallower & flatter than the late lamented shade. However, if you’d never seen the old shade, you sure wouldn’t know any better. I think it will do the job just fine. And to my amazement, it fits in the fixture and accommodates a 3-way bulb just fine.

The Lamps Plus dude proposed to adjust the fixture to make it fit exactly, which I suppose would be nice. But the fact is, it looks fine and I fail to see why it needs any adjustment.

And also in the lights department: The middle bathroom in my house is illuminated by a pair of matching wall fixtures, one on each side of the mirror over the sink, that each use a couple of small halogen lights. Naturally, one of those crapped out this morning.

So it was off to French’s Electric Co to try to snare replacement bulbs. Good luck, I figured, since every light bulb that works has been taken out of our sticky little hands.

To my surprise, they had a few! 40 watts, said he. So I bought the whole boxful, sensing that these will not be around much longer.

Indeed, when I got home I found that 40 watts was what the fixture was rated for…but that the other bulb in the lamed fixture was a 120-watt number. Jeez. So I replaced them both, elegantly not touching the glass on the things. Perfect!

Then I noticed that another bulb was out on the other fixture. Replaced that. Noticed that the two bulbs in there were also 120 wats. Hm.

BUT…the result was gorgeous! Much brighter than the incumbents…so much so that one could in theory paint one’s face in front of that mirror, which until today has not been an option. It’s been much too dim in that bathroom to make up your face.

I hope these will last. The upshot, though, was that I used two of the four lights I’d bought, trying to stockpile three of them for future use. So now I’ll have to go back over to French’s and buy another box of them, hoping to have enough to last into my dotage.

What a stockpile I have in the storage room! Almost every drawer is jammed with incandescent lightbulbs. That’s how much I hate, loathe, and despise the eye-stinging light from those horrid LED things. Once my stash is gone, I guess, I’ll have to switch to candles.

Since I habitually turn off the lights whenever I leave a room (unless I have to go out after dark and need to make it look like maybe someone’s home), light bulbs last a LONG time at the Funny Farm. A couple of those bulbs in the bathroom had been there since I had the fixtures installed — sixteen years ago. So I expect eight or twelve extras will last until I croak over. And then some.

Old Age: Fightin’ Back!

Yay! This morning WonderOrthodontist decided not to perform the next step in replacing the busted tooth, because he felt it needed some more healing time. Six weeks!!

This was not something I was looking forward to: I’ve had about enough pokes in the gums to last me for the rest of my life. So despite having to trudge over to his place through the rain, I was delighted to dart in, socialize with his charming staff members, admire his cuteness briefly (this is yet another highly educated specimen of gorgeousness!), and dart out.

However…  Driving across town reminded me — again — that Old Age is creepin’ up. That would be old age in the form of freaking senility.

I have to admit that I am beginning to feel some concern about issues that seem to be associated (possibly) with age.

Ever since I tripped in the dark over that busted slab of sidewalk, I’ve felt weirdly unsure on my feet. Especially in the bathtub…but also just about anyplace in the house. I find myself picking my way across the floor, particularly near steps, for fear I’m going to trip or misstep again. That is not my style.

But given that I walloped myself magnificently and that it took weeks and weeks to recover, it makes sense. It’s reasonable, right?

Fine. However, we have another issue that is much more worrisome: an apparent growing degree of confusion.

This is not forgetfulness, though like anyone over about 50, I forget where my keys are if I don’t put them away where they belong. As issues go, that one is neither very serious nor does it seem to be getting worse.

The problem has to do with not recognizing or remembering exactly where I am, even though I’m on a path that’s so beaten it’s practically polished.

I have been driving in this city since 1966. That is fifty-four years. I navigate by dead reckoning because a map of the roads and neighborhoods is imprinted on my consciousness like the migration routes in a mallard’s brain. Yea verily, I know the city so well I can get from point A to point B without even looking where I’m going. No, I don’t have to read the road signs anymore.

Except…

The other day I went out to the credit union, which lurks on the ASU West campus at 45th Avenue and Thunderbird. You understand, I worked at that place for ten years. I drove out there five or six days a week, every week, at least once and often twice in a given day. Frequently I drove out and back after dark, to teach night classes.

ASU’s westside campus is bounded on the east side by 43rd Avenue and on the west side by 51st Avenue. Both of these are faceless, bland, Southern-California-style runways that pass through faceless, bland tracts falling to decay and past faceless, bland strip malls that invite you to do nothing more than to pass them by.

So I’m cruising up 43rd, and on the way am looking for a Fry’s Supermarket that stands on an east-west thoroughfare called Peoria — another faceless, blandly ugly road. When I can’t find the thing, I figure it’s on the next road over, west of the campus, not east of it.

I know that is wrong, because I know what’s on 51st, and it ain’t a Fry’s. But nevertheless I come to believe that is the case. But here’s the thing: I think I’m on 35th Avenue and that the next road on the other side of the campus is 43rd. Which it decidedly is not.

When I realize I’m not northbound on 35th but instead am already on 43rd, I become seriously confused…as in I don’t know quite where I am. Not until my car comes up beside the campus do I recognize where I am, but I still can’t understand why 43rd is in the wrong place.

It’s not, of course…35th is the road I use to drive from the campus up to the Costco on the I-17 — it’s another couple miles to the east of the campus.

Even after I finish the errand in the credit union and climb back into the car, I’m still almost convinced that 43rd is on the west side of the campus. To wit: I’ve come unstuck in space!

That was creepy.

And now we have today. I head off to the orthodontist’s. His office is situated on a road I have used to drive home from the ASU Main campus and back and forth to various shopping and business venues for many, many years. I’ve been to his office several times over the past three months or so.

The usual route would be across Glendale (which gets renamed “Lincoln” as it passes eastward) to 36th Street, down through a ritzy neighborhood to Stanford, eastward again past the swankiest private school in the state, and then south on 40th to the doc’s office building. However, Glendale/Lincoln has been all dug up for yet another public-works boondoggle and is projected to be so for months. It is one of the most heavily traveled surface streets in the city, and so has been bumper-to-bumper all the way from 24th Street to Tatum, on the edge of Scottsdale.

Avoid!

Hordes of avoiders are driving all the way down to Camelback Road to move east and west across the north-central part of the city. Thus, Camelback Road:

Avoid!

So the plan is to drop down 7th Street (where I have to buy some gasoline) to a major feeder street called Missouri, cruise across that to 24th, and from there go north and then navigate east across Stanford to 40th Street.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

See…the problem is… Stanford doesn’t go through to 24th Street.

You have to pick it up on 32nd, where it debouches into the fast-moving traffic flying between Camelback and Lincoln.

I know this. I know it as well as I know where the water glasses in my kitchen cupboards are.

Nevertheless, I make my way across Missouri to 24th and then northward…growing ever more puzzled that I can’t find the turn onto Stanford.

Not until I get almost all the way up to Lincoln do I realize that I’m on the wrong road to turn east on Stanford!

Got that? I’m as lost and as confused as a flatland tourister from Cleveland!

This is alarming because I’ve used that Stanford cut-through for years to get across the city to and from Scottsdale, to get to my hair stylist, to dodge traffic while coming back from Tempe, and to evade the eternal mess on Camelback Road.

Holy sh!t.

It begins to look a whole lot more alarming than “losing” your car keys or your glasses. It begins to look a whole lot like real senility.

I should not be confused in any way about something I’m so familiar with. Something’s wrong there.

{sigh} Reflecting on this predicament this afternoon, I wondered if I might be doing something to cause this — other than simply aging. If so, what might that “something” be?

Well, there are several possibilities, to tell the truth. For one, I hardly ever go out any more — that’s why the mileage on my car is so low. I hate driving in Phoenix’s wackshit traffic, and so avoid it as much as possible. That’s why I quit the Scottsdale Business Association: that drive to the Pavilions, way to Hell and gone across two freeways in the rush hour, was more than I cared to contemplate.

So we have some candidate causes here:

  1. Lassitude. I’ve stopped doing almost everything. I’m not even keeping up the garden.
  2. Lack of social contact. The church is the only place I see people anymore.
  3. Illness and injury. Neither of these can be helping the situation.
  4. Drinking. Possibly two or three glasses of beer, wine, or whiskey are 2 or 3 too many.
  5. Lack of interest in much. I don’t give a shit anymore.
  6. Desire to stay off the roads; increasing dislike of driving.
  7. Age.
  8. Possibly signs of senile dementia.

Could be any of these. Could be all of ’em, eh?

So the question is… Is there anything that can be done about this stuff?

Obviously, there’s nothing I can do about getting older. Nor, if I’m losing my marbles, can I do anything about that.

Maybe I can slow the process down a bit, though.

  1. Get off the duff! Get back to gardening (at least), get back to hiking in the mountain preserves. Pick up a goddamn pen and start writing again. Take the dog to different places to walk. Re-explore the Valley.
  2. Revive old friendships and relationships. Try to inveigle my way back into SBA or, failing that, rejoin the Chamber, whose avatars persist in nagging me to come back. Join one of the many groups at the church.
  3. Drink water, not wine or beer, with dinner.
  4. Get over it about the damn traffic! Stick the dog in the car and take her to other parks and hiking trails. Or just drive up the rim and hike in the sticks.
  5. Do some shopping. I haven’t seen the inside of My Sister’s Closet of Nordstrom’s Rack in two or three years.
  6. And…keep a record of these happenings, to see if they continue even if I manage to change the elements above.

Frankly, I don’t feel much hope that throwing myself around to bring a little more life back into my life is going to make much difference. Doubt if it’ll do much harm, though. And if I do have a record of this weird stuff, at least I’ll know whether it’s real. Or not.

 

An Aging-in-Place Solution?

Yesterday, while idling away some time by ogling real estate ads, I stumbled across an amazing factoid: An apartment in the very elegant highrise where three of my friends reside costs, astonishingly, no more than what I could net on sale of my house!

WTF? These are very nice apartments in a very stylish part of town. Friends’ place overlooks the Phoenix Country Club. The lightrail cruises right past on Central, inviting you to ride up to AJ’s (my favorite gourmet chow line) or down to the Heard Museum or the Phoenix Art Museum or the Civic Center or the East Valley.

The place looks spectacularly expensive, and in fact I recall a friend speculating that one couple we know must have spent an arm and a leg to move in there.

Maybe. Maybe not. One ad shows a two-bedroom palace identical in layout to our friends’ place for right about what my house is worth. These are very pleasant apartments with spectacular views in a choice urban locale.

As I gazed at the photos of this dwelling, it occurred to me that the place is larger, brighter, and far more liveable than the two-bedroom apartment my elderly friends retired to at the Beatitudes, a life-care community. And it ain’t costing its occupants $7,000 a month to live there!

Of course, neither does it provide nursing home insurance for two aged adults. But…but… Think about that. If you were to put 7 grand a month aside, in short order you would have more than enough to cover even a fairly lengthy stay in a nursing home.

The average cost for a two-person room in an Arizona nursing home is $171 a day; for a private room, $212. So, hmmmm….. $212 a day comes to a tab of $6572 for ONE month in a nursing home, for ONE person. That’s less than my friends at the life-care community are spending per month — but for two people. In other words, between the two of them, in 60 days they spend enough to put each of them up in a nursing home for a month.

Hm. The average stay in a nursing home is 835 days, we’re told (by a not altogether unbiased source…). That’s  about 27 months. Clearly, a hefty monthly set-aside will cover nothing like the amount of time you’ll be warehoused. That doesn’t include the care you would need at home; apparently many people receive several months of this kind of assistance. Fidelity estimates a couple will spend $245,000 on healthcare ABOVE AND BEYOND nursing care. Holy shit.

On the other hand, these figures are not the only ones out there. A 2009 study showed the median length of stay for those who did not die in the nursing home was 5 months.

The median length of stay was only 5 months (IQR 1-20). The majority of residents had short lengths of stay, 65% of decedents had lengths of stay of less than one year, and over 53% died within 6 months of admission.

At $6572/month for each of my two friends in the old-folkerie, a 27-month stay would cost just ONE of them  $177,444. Meanwhile, to live on the campus in a two-bedroom apartment, in the run-up (we might say) to the nursing-home stay, my friends are presumably paying $3500 apiece: we’re told the tab is 7 grand for the two of them. Each of them is effectively being charged $3500 a month to stay in a tiny two-bedroom apartment until such time as they need the nursing home (IF they need the nursing home).

Okay. $6572 for each person for nursing home care, right? The buy-in at this old-folkerie is $350,000±. If one of them keels over today, that $350,000 would cover 53.3 months of nursing-home care: twice as long as the exaggerated median stay cited by companies who want you to buy nursing-home insurance or buy into a life-care community (i.e., just about enough to cover a median stay for each of them, if you believe those figures). It’s ten times as long as the median stay reported by an unbiased research study. If they both keel over today, their buy-in would cover each of them for about 26 months.

But the buy-in isn’t all. Even after ponying up the entire sale price of their home just to get in the door, they’re still paying $7,000/month in rent on their cramped apartment: $3500 apiece from now until they croak over. And…for each month that they spend that $3,500 apiece, they pony up the cost of almost two months in the nursing home.

Fifty-three months of coverage for the buy-in price alone? Yes. That does add up to ten times the median nursing home stay, as calculated by research that is not dedicated to scaring the bedoodles out of old folks.  But okay, that 7 grand is for two people: only slightly more than the median cost of a month’s nursing home stay, per partner.

Hm.

So, if you were to take your $350,000 and park yourself in 1 Lexington Avenue, deep in the heart of Phoenix’s endlessly gentrifying North Central corridor, in comparison with what you would get for $350,000 at the old-folkerie, you would have…

  • A significantly larger and nicer apartment…
  • …in a vibrant part of the city that is NOT adjacent to the meth-ridden, crime-infested Conduit of Blight Boulevard, as is the case for the old-folkerie in question
  • A concierge parked in the lobby
  • The lightrail within steps of the front door
  • $7,000 a month in your pocket, which would buy a WHOLE lot of in-home care for the two of you, or, should the occasion arise, two months of nursing home care per one month of $7,000 set-aside
  • Entertainment, cultural events, restaurants, and a very fancy grocery store along that light-rail line
  • Freedom from surveillance by hired nannies
  • A private residential environment (albeit in an apartment building), as opposed to an institutional environment

The more I think about this, the more I think…wow! That’s the answer!

The one and only thing gives me pause about moving into one of those places right now: the dog.

I can’t imagine what I would do with Ruby. Schlepping her up and down a tower in an elevator several times a day so she can be marched around until she does her business does not seem even faintly practical. It would be out of the question if I happened to be as sick as I have been over the past three months, what with a case of bronchitis and then a fall that has spavined a hand and a leg. Unless you lived on the ground floor, you simply couldn’t have a dog…and there are no ground-floor apartments in that place.

If I moved in there now — which as a practical matter might be advisable — I’d have to find another home for Ruby. And I don’t wanna.

Ruby is about five years old now. The median life-span for corgis is 12.5 years, though some have been known to go as long as 16 or 18 years. Assuming she’s typical, she should live another seven years. In seven years, I’ll be 82.

That’s not an unreasonable age to move to an old-folkerie. However, this house is costing me significantly more, when you count in details such as property tax and homeowner’s insurance and the cost of the pool and the yard, than one of those apartments would cost, even with the $333/month property tax and the $716/month HOA fees and the $88/month homeowner’s insurance. I think.

But…

It looks a great deal as though the monthly costs there would be much higher than they are here, primarily because the property tax is much higher here and because I pay no HOA fees, exorbitant or otherwise. My homeowner’s insurance is significantly higher, but not THAT much higher.

By way of comparison, if you add the property tax, the HOA fee, and the homeowner’s insurance, you get a base cost per month of $1,137 to live in that place. That, of course, doesn’t include water, electric, and whatever they charge you to park in their garage. If you add up my present property tax, homeowner’s insurance, Gerardo’s bill, and the pool guy’s bill, you get $460 a month. [Of course, that doesn’t include the occasional but inevitable hits like roof repair, air-conditioning and plumbing repair, or the breath-taking water and power bills…but stlll…it’s nigh enough unto apples-to-apples.]

!!!

That’s a far cry from $1137 a month. And from the 7 grand a month we’re told our friends are paying over at the old-folkerie.

What do you get, compared to the Funny Farm, for that $1137/month?

  • Greater security
  • A concierge
  • Proximity to a credible (though not ideal) hospital
  • Public transit right out the front door
  • Cultural attractions, restaurants, and shopping within walking distance
  • Less space to have to take care of
  • A stunning view of the entire East Valley
  • A prestigious address
  • If you like to travel, a place where you can just lock the door and take off whenever you please
  • And probably lots fewer burglaries, cop helicopter fly-overs, and drug-addicted bums

What do you NOT get? Ahhh…there’s the rub! You don’t get…

  • Two Arizona sweets and a Myer lemon that are laden with fruit just now
  • A pool where you can skinny-dip every day of the spring, summer, and fall
  • Goodly distance between you and the closest neighbor
  • Ruby the Corgi
  • A shady neighborhood of million-dollar homes through which to walk the corgi
  • A neighborhood park
  • Young upwardly mobile neighbors moving in with their cute little kids
  • A Sprouts within walking distance (not that one would walk down Conduit of Blight Blvd to get there…but still…)
  • A Walmart Neighborhood Grocery (a bigger asset than we of the snooty upper middle class would like to admit) within a five-minute drive
  • Friendly neighbors in a politically active neighborhood association
  • Cops regularly watching the place from helicopters
  • A garage in which to park your car right outside your kitchen door

So it goes.

Just now, it looks to me like the pro’s of staying in a house that’s much larger than I need, located next to a dangerous meth slum, outweigh the pro’s of moving into a (very nice!) mid-town apartment that’s half the size of the Funny Farm. For less money but at the cost of having to stay alert to what’s going on around me, I get more space, a private pool and yard, great neighbors, and Ruby the Corgi.