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Forward Thinking: For a happy, secure future, weigh your senior living options carefully

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Senior living

If you or your parents have considered a move into a retirement community, the onset of COVID-19 may have put a pause to your planning. But in fact, the novel coronavirus may be just the nudge you need to turn consideration into action.

Brad Breeding, a national expert on senior living and author of “What’s the Deal with Retirement Communities,” quoted baseball great Yogi Berra when he opened a public presentation hosted by The Heritage at Brentwood earlier this year:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

In Williamson County, the 65-plus is the fastest growing demographic group. A profusion of senior living communities here and throughout Middle Tennessee have opened or are in development to meet a growing demand from locals and “trailing parents” alike.

The likelihood of a successful move for all involved comes long before paperwork is signed and a moving date is set. There are lots of options, and all have pros and cons.

“The most important thing anyone can do is to take the time to find the best fit for their lifestyle as well as their financial, physical, and emotional needs,” said Judy Good, the marketing director at the Heritage with over 25 years of experience in senior living communities. 

The choices range from fully independent communities for active adults to assisted living/memory care and skilled nursing (nursing home) care. Some communities offer two levels of care. Only LifeCare communities, such as the Heritage at Brentwood, provide all three on the same campus.

Given the coronavirus crisis, you might wonder why it’s now a good time to get serious about making a move. While social distancing orders have affected people of all ages, seniors — especially isolated ones — are at greatest risk of not being able to meet basic needs. Those living in retirement communities, whether independent, assisted or skilled nursing, have access to services unavailable to those still living in a private home.

Let’s use the Heritage at Brentwood, Williamson County’s only LifeCare community, as an example. Once stay-at-home restrictions went into effect, the Heritage quickly pivoted.

Instead of dining in one of its two restaurants, independent-living residents now have meal selections delivered directly to their apartments or villas.

A system for grocery delivery was put in place. The onsite Williamson Medical Center clinic remains open. Most importantly, if needed, an independent-living resident can move between their home and the attached five-star-rated Somerfield Health Center (SHC), which provides short- and long-term care, including assisted living, memory care and skilled care.

Brenta Davis, who moved into the Heritage from Memphis, has made that transition several times in the 13 years she’s called the Heritage home. Just last week, she returned to her apartment after spending a few weeks in SHC following a brief hospital stay.

“It was a godsend,” she shared. “They took care of my every need, and I didn’t even think about that virus. That was the safest place I could be.”

Even better, as a Heritage resident, her time in SHC “didn’t cost me anything with the exception of extra meals and any supplies needed.”

On her first night home, she was delighted to open her door to see Jon Tagatz, the Heritage’s executive director, delivering her dinner as a welcome-home gesture. 

The stay-at-home order does have its advantages, Mrs. Davis said: “Frankly, it’s been a nice break from having so much to do.”

The only major downside she has experienced is one shared with Americans nationwide — not being able to get her hair done.

“If the Heritage salon doesn’t reopen soon, I’m going to have to go back to straight phone calls with no video when I visit with my family,” she said.

If someone you know is ready to make a move, call the Heritage at 615-507-2686 to request a copy of Brad Breeding’s February presentation on “Understanding Your Retirement Living Options.” It covers rental, fee-for-service and buy-in LifeCare options as well as the pros and cons of staying in the family home.

And while in-person visits are restricted right now, many communities, including the Heritage, are offering virtual appointments among other services. Community websites are also a great place to begin or continue your research. Most have photos, videos, floor plans, testimonials and more to help you get a feel for a community and the lifestyle it offers.

The best advice Breeding offers is this: “Make a move before you have to make a move.”

Your future health and happiness may depend on it.


Susan Leathers is a semi-retired, Brentwood-based journalist with a keen interest in aging issues. Send suggestions for future columns to

This monthly column is sponsored by The Heritage at Brentwood, Williamson County’s only LifeCare community, offering 48 acres of opportunities all designed to enhance your life — with the assurance of a full continuum of care right on site. For more information, call 615-507-2686 or visit

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