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Miss Kay's Dream: Stop Traveling, but Keep Your Keys by Alice Zyetz

 Escapees CARE, Inc.
Escapees CARE, Inc.
Welcome to CARE: Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees in Livingston, Texas

CARE facility
Escapees CARE, Inc.
The CARE facility is easily accessible for physically challenged residents

Alzheimer's Garden
Escapees CARE, Inc.

The garden for Alzheimer's residents provides a safe haven with beautiful surroundings

Escapees CARE, Inc.
"Santa is no dream; he's very real for these residents."
What happens to longtime RVers when it's time to give up the keys? Some veteran road-trippers find the idea of "house living" unacceptable - not to mention assisted living. Independent for so many years, they dream of a place where they can settle down, yet still share in the RV lifestyle. Alice Zyetz presents one solution.

What happens to longtime RVers when it's time to give up the keys?

Some folks relocate, buy a house, sell the RV and settle in. Others find a residential RV park and move into that community. Still others move near their children and grandchildren, often after a spouse has died. But then there are those hardy few who can no longer travel -- either because of temporary illness or permanent infirmity -- yet want to continue living in their rig and sharing in the RV lifestyle. What are they to do?

Kay Peterson has the answer.

Peterson, a cofounder of the Escapees RV Club, created a program in Texas that allows RVers to remain in their RVs in a protected environment that offers a range of support services, including licensed adult day care. The beauty of the program is that it provides a solution for full-timers who, by their choice of lifestyle, tend to be very independent people and would feel suffocated in a traditional assisted-living situation, far away from their rigs and other travelers.

The program, which is officially called CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees), is affectionately known in the RV community as "Miss Kay's Dream."

How does CARE work?

The CARE community, which now has 29 residents, is situated next to "Rainbow's End," the home park of the Escapees RV Club in Livingston, Texas, about 75 miles north of Houston. Membership is restricted to members of the club, and the cost is very manageable: $800 per month for a campsite, all meals, housekeeping and laundry service, local transportation, most electricity and some other services. If additional care is needed, local caregivers can be hired for a reasonable sum; the licensed adult day care, open to the public, is available Monday through Friday for a per-diem charge of $23 for Escapees members ($28 for the general public).

"The concept is priceless," says RVer Lynne Benjamin, who recently visited the community in Livingston. "People can stay in their own homes and still get care and help while in the midst of familiar surroundings and the camaraderie of fellow RVers we've come to see as our community."

The residents are never far from the energy of the traveling RVers and their stories. Every disaster becomes a great tale to share with others: "Did I tell you what happened when my black tank leaked all over the ground? … when my suspension broke on a Sunday on a little two-lane country road? … when my slide-out got stuck?" People laugh and shake their heads in understanding and then compete to tell their story, an RV version of the old radio program "Can You Top This?"

In the clubhouse there's always time to compare notes on the fabulous trips to the Maritimes, Alaska, the Natchez Trace, the Florida Keys. Who can forget the smell of the day's catch frying over the campfire, the taste of the fresh lobster in Maine, fresh corn in Iowa, fresh blackberries in Oregon? For full-time RVers, talking about past experiences on the road is almost as good as taking the original journeys.

How do volunteers help?

CARE has a paid staff, but the program also depends on the generosity of some traveling Escapees who volunteer their time at CARE for month-long stints. The volunteers receive a free place to park and one free meal a day in exchange for helping in the kitchen, driving to appointments, doing odd jobs and visiting with the residents.

The Escapees RV Club prides itself on "sharing and caring," and its members find many ways to show their concern for older and less-able fellow RVers. Jack and Jane Kenny, two of the many volunteers in Livingston, expressed their delight at the experience, saying they received more than they gave. Pat Kyne sent some of her beadwork to the gift shop, proceeds going to CARE. At the Escapees' large annual rallies, members donate money to CARE, and Escapees RV parks around the country donate money when they can. Camping World donates 2 percent of its receipts to CARE if members send them in. The members' generosity seems limitless.

Thank you, Miss Kay, for your dream of a place to go when the road has gotten too rough, but you're not quite ready to give up the RV lifestyle.

Alice Zyetz

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