I can remember writing an article almost five years ago titled, “The Long-Term Care Cruise.” Wow, how time flies. The article was a comparison of living in a senior community to living on the high seas using a cruise ship as a permanent retirement abode.
My wife and I love to cruise, and we had just returned from a nice three-day getaway with our friends to the Bahamas. I recalled an article I had read a few years back which concluded that for roughly the same amount of money as one pays for assisted living, cruising gave you a much better quality of life.
So I did the research and wrote about it. The margin was narrow, but retirement living on land won out.
In 2004, geriatric doctors Lee Lindquist and Robert Golub studied the tradeoffs between a permanent cruise and an assisted-living facility, which serves seniors who need help with daily activities but do not need constant attention.
The authors placed a lot of value on the wonderful amenities on cruise ships. State rooms are usually smaller on a ship, especially the bathrooms, but common and entertainment areas typically are larger and more numerous. Cruise ships have a much-higher staff-to-guest ratio than senior living communities. All meals are provided at various times of your choice — with escorts, if needed. Also, laundry, hair salons, spas and other “white glove” services are common. Ergo, let’s go cruising!
And then we read about the recent Carnival Triumph nightmare at sea and say, “Land ho!” An emergency room nurse who was on board described the scene as a “disaster.” Another passenger remarked, “My mom and I are going to take pictures of our feet as soon as they touch the ground.”
Lindquist and Golub were right in one respect. Cruise ships, when not broken down, do offer a great lifestyle and interesting adventures. They seem to have cornered the market on fun, and there’s always something for everyone. The food is great, and the service is impeccable. The employees work hard, have fun with their guests and smile often. This is important. The key for senior living communities is to embrace these finer qualities of cruising and implement them into their own operations on land.
So what have we learned from all this? A couple things, actually. Over time, senior-living needs can be better met on land than sea. Inevitably, seniors are going to have more medical issues than cruise ships can handle. Onboard medical staff often is stretched thin under normal circumstances.
What happened on Triumph was not normal — but could it happen again? Of course it could. Should that stop you from partaking in what usually is a wonderful vacation experience? Absolutely not.
Just think twice before you sell the house and get on board permanently.
DeLong is the executive director for The Suites at Station Exchange. Email Rich at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.