February 27, 2016 — One of the best pieces of advice we have heard about retirement is to take the long view, rather than just focusing on the early years. The long view idea is to find a place to retire where you can live the rest of your life – regardless of your health or ability to do various activities – without having to move again. And one of the best ways to do this is to choose a Life Plan Community (sometimes Life Care), which are also referred to as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs).
Life Communities, of which there are about 2,000 in the U.S., combine the best of several worlds in one package. New residents typically live in a nice apartment or small home that isn’t much different from what you would see in an active adult or 55+ community. There are extensive community facilities, amenities, transportation, and social and cultural programs. The campuses are usually quite compact – often you can walk to everything without having to go outside (making them appealing even in a cold-weather climate). Many are non-profits, have a religious connection, or related to a university. Occasionally an active community or other type of development has a CCRC on campus or located nearby (Fearrington Village, for example, has Galloway Ridge on campus).
The beauty of the Life Plan concept is that as you age and/or your health changes, these communities have options to take care of you. They usually have 3 levels of care: independent living in your own unit, a rehab facility in a smaller unit, and nursing level care. Some have memory units, while in others those with dementia live in the nursing unit. If you fall or have an operation and need recuperation, you can continue to live in the community, although in a different unit. Then as you return to better health you can go back to your regular apartment (where your spouse, if you have one, can continue to live while you recuperate). At the end of life when you might need serious nursing care you can move to a unit where you can live and receive continuous assistance, but still be near your spouse and friends.
Typically most CCRCs have procedures to protect your health and security, such as on-staff nurses, physical therapists, and dietitians. Even in the independent living units there is normally a system to check to see that you are OK every day, and a panic button should you need help.
In most of these facilities there is a nice dining room(s) that feel more like a fancy restaurant or country club than dining hall. Normally you receive a continental breakfast and one meal a day as part of your plan, although you increase that by paying more. The independent units usually have a kitchenette so you can cook as many of your own meals as you prefer.
Most CCRCs require a hefty entrance fee (usually called a Life Care contract) and a physical, plus monthly charges that might range for $3000 to $7000, or more. Others have a fee for service contract. If you or your spouse have a serious health issue or signs of dementia you might be denied entrance, or have to pay more. Sometimes the entrance fee is refundable in whole or in part, sometimes not.
In an unusual twist, some baby boomers have actually moved into the same CCRC that their parents live in. That way they are together, it reduces the stress associated with caring for an aging parent, and the adult child can establishes their own life. See New York Times, “A Twist on Caring for a Parent“.
Due Diligence Required
Choosing a CCRC requires considerable due diligence. We have written about this extensively on our sister site, BestAssistedLiving.com. There are a number of essential issues to investigate before you buy. You should have a lawyer or financial advisor review any documents before you sign. Concerns to look at include potential refunds, what happens if you change your mind and move, the level of care you might expect, and what happens if… you become seriously ill or have advanced dementia… run out of money… the facility is sold to another company… fees, etc. Beyond financial aspects however, you should investigate the amenities, food service, professional services like nursing care, etc. to make sure you know what you are getting. Do the employees appear well-trained and motivated, or is there a lot of turnover because they are only paid minimum wage or other issue. It is best to visit multiple communities and talk with residents about their satisfaction. This is a significant decision and it requires careful investigation.
Thirty states have regulations on CCRCs with varying degrees of strictness (Florida’s are well advanced). In those that don’t, you might be in more of a wild west environment.
Pluses and Minuses
– The biggest plus is the confidence you will be taken care of without having to move again
– Multiple amenities including dining and transportation
– Good medical care
– A social network that is yours for the rest of your life
On the negative side:
– Can be very expensive
– For younger retirees you might feel out of place
– Might not be able to get in if you have serious health issues
Many to choose from
Topretirements is proud to have several fine Life Communities that support this site with advertising. Those include:
La Loma Village in Goodyear, AZ
Grandview Terrace in Sun City, AZ
North Hill in Needham, MA
Messiah Village near Harrisburg, PA
The Hill at Whitemarsh in Philadelphia
Rydal Park in Philadelphia
You can use Advanced Search to find more by state.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities are an ideal solution for retirees who want the security of finding a place to retire for the rest of their life. They require a substantial commitment, however, so you should carefully investigate before you choose.
Comments? Have you been thinking of a CCRC or Lifecare community for your retirement? Please share your thoughts, concerns, and experiences in the Comments section below.
Topretirements has 226 communities listed as CCRC or Lifecare on our site (although most undoubtedly do, we cannot certify all actually meet that criteria). You can use Advanced Search to find them by state or other criteria.
Understanding Residency Agreements (2 Part series)
New York Times – Everything-in-One Promise of a CCRC