By John LaFauci
I recently found myself sitting on a lounge chair alongside the pool on a cruise to America’s last untouched wilderness, Alaska. My pool boy had just brought me one of those frozen fruity drinks in the fancy plastic cup when my attention was drawn to the big screen TV over the pool bar. Another one of the constant reports surrounding the health care predicament in our country was airing at that time. It got me thinking that sooner than later, I would probably be facing the decision on how and where I would be spending my golden years and the cost of such a decision. I have become more aware of the rising cost of growing old over the past few years, as I’ve taken over most of my mom’s financial and medical affairs. She is in an assisted-living facility and has a lovely two-room apartment complete with laundry service, three gourmet meals a day, wine and beer on some days, multiple activities throughout the day, hairdresser and nail salon on site, and on occasion, field trips to interesting places in the area. The only drawback to this lovely setup is the cost. The last monthly check I wrote to the facility was for a whopping $6,500.
As my personal pool and drink boy on the ship brought me another frozen beverage, I suddenly had an epiphany and realized that this whole idea of cruising and assisted-living care could be combined when I need to downsize and be watched over a bit more. So the wheels started turning and I began to do the math.
A one-week cruise without airfare can be procured for about $599 on any of these new online websites. Using this figure as my basis for calculating, I figure that a four-week cruise will cost about $2400. With this figure, I will receive not three gourmet meals, but a constant cornucopia of food from the time I wake up until I bed down following the midnight buffet. Along with this I will get my own personal butler who will clean my room, wash my towels, leave me little chocolates on my bed at night, and treat me with special care. I’ll meet many new and interesting people from all over the world and not be forced to dine with the same group of seniors who, according to Mom, complain about everything.
But it doesn’t end with the food. The activities are endless. Morning exercise class with my own personal spin and yoga instructor, an occasional massage or facial (extra charge for that, but I’m already about $3,000 under budget so who cares), a heated pool and three hot tubs for my aching, senior bones to enjoy. After a small lunch, there is always the most-attended senior activity in the United States: bingo. Not just any bingo; bingo with big, big cash jackpots. The bingo cards are relatively cheap to buy and each game has a winning pot of between $100 and $300. If bingo turns out not to be my favorite game, then there is always blackjack. I bet I could even learn how to count cards in my spare time and make a killing at the tables.
At first, the land excursions would have to be put on hold. I would need to put some money aside for my final funeral arrangements so I don’t saddle my kids with that bill. Speaking of the kids and grandkids, there wouldn’t be too much of a fuss when it was announced that for school vacation the family was going to papa’s house. What better way to see the family on a regular basis. I am sure that I would have to foot the bill for the vacation but hell, I’m $3000 a month under budget.
As far as health care, the ship has a full hospital with an on-call nurse and doctor.
Supplies and clothing would not be much of an issue. There is a full-service laundry on the ship that does an excellent job with dry cleaning. Because I would need to get off the ship every Saturday or Sunday (depending on the cruise) I could go into town and get my toiletries, new clothes and any prescriptions that I might need to refill, then catch up on all the local news. That might be the only thing I would really miss—not being able to follow my Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins would hurt a bit. I will need to work on my typing speed to get maximum benefit from the ship’s $1-per-minute internet access. I bet the cruise line might even pay me to be a greeter (similar to what Walmart has).
So, it’s done. My plan going forward will be to live out my last years on a cruise ship and save $3000 a month from what my mom is currently paying. This idea could really take off. I wouldn’t be surprised if healthy seniors all over the United States began to look seriously into this living arrangement. I bet it could even help to lower the high cost of Medicare.
Well, I really need to go. My pool boy is coming by with another one of those fruity, frozen drinks that I love so much.