Amenities and services make for a smooth move to an adult community

Trudy and Chuck Van Wiggeren enjoy meeting with visitors and talking about their lifestyle at Sedgebrook. (May 12, 2010)

When looking for senior living communities, there are two things to keep in mind: what amenities are important to you and how do you make the transition from your home?

Almost four years ago, Trudy and Chuck Van Wiggeren searched for independent living communities when they thought of moving from their Mission Viejo, Calif., home to the Midwest.

The reason for moving was that Chuck, 84, became ill from an unknown blood condition and recuperated. Concerned for their father, the couple's three adult children, who live in Illinois and Minnesota, wanted them to be closer to them.

"Years ago, we told our children what to do but we guided them through life," said Trudy, 83. "Now, there came a time when our children guided us as to what we needed to do."

What was also important to the couple was finding a new place that would foster their active lifestyle and be maintenance-free.

Before, the couple's life was filled with all types of activities -- taking trips abroad, as well as visits to their children, sailing and even flying their own small planes. Chuck took computer classes and Trudy volunteered for church projects.

An opportunity to see Sedgebrook in Lincolnshire came when the couple visited their daughter Judy in Palatine to attend their granddaughter's wedding. Sedgebrook is a five-year-old senior living community for residents 62 years and older owned by Erickson Retirement Communities.

"When my daughters and I walked into Sedgebrook, we stopped and looked at each other and says 'this place has energy.' That was it," says Trudy. Liking what they saw, the couple forged ahead with their move with prior planning. After signing paperwork, Chuck created a checklist of items they wanted to keep, hired their own movers and drove to Lincolnshire. They sold their house in a day.

Trudy also thought about what apartment size would work for them.

"I have always felt that when you get older, retire and move, you go into a smaller place so that you don't have worry," Trudy says. "We picked a mid-sized apartment. It's so easy to get around inside. We have two bedrooms and a bath and a half. We made one of the bedrooms a den for ourselves."

Chuck said another perk was indoor parking on their own floor which protects them from the elements of Illinois winters.

Settling in, it wasn't difficult to make new friends for the Van Wiggerens. Coming down for their first dinner, they received an invitation from a longtime resident to be at a table with other residents.

"That was the beginning of some very nice friendships here," Trudy says.

Chuck was impressed with the continuing care offered by the Renaissance Gardens, which offers assisted living, skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation and respite care on the community campus as well as the on-site doctors.

Many groups and activities to keep residents busy and productive. The Van Wiggerens are members of a Bible study group and of the resident advisory council, which acts as liaisons between residents and management promoting health, comfort and safety of residents. Trudy is a welcoming committee member and kicks up her heels at a line dancing class. Chuck visits the community's library on a weekly basis.

Through the Ambassadors group, the couple also answers questions for those thinking of moving to Sedgebrook.

"The biggest thing that I worry about is that people wait too long to move," Trudy says. "Something can happen in a minute or overnight. It's then going to be harder to get in."

Finding a friendly place

Bill Bettin was perfectly happy in his Glen Ellyn home until last year when he and his wife Doris moved into another Erickson senior living community: the four-year-old Monarch Landing in Naperville.