Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs, can be a wonderful solution for older adults who are independent and active today, but who seek the peace of mind that comes with living in a community that is equipped to provide assisted living or healthcare services if and when needed. Ideally, choosing the right community means you will not have to move again no matter whether you are living independently or require long-term care services.

Here are some of the key characteristics that differentiate Continuing Care Retirement Communities from other types of retirement living providers:

  • Continuum of Care: In their truest form continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, contractually provide access to a continuum of care, including independent living, assisted living, and/or skilled nursing care– typically for a period of time greater than one-year, although most communities promise care for the life of the resident. Some providers may offer a continuum of care but do not contractually guarantee residents access to healthcare. There are a number of different types of CCRC contracts available that are offered by providers.
  • Entry Fees: Most CCRCs require an entry fee, which can range anywhere from under $50,000 to upwards of $1 million, although a growing number of providers are offering rental contracts. The entry fee will have some bearing on services and amenities available, as well as the cost paid for healthcare services if and when needed. Some communities offer an extended refund option, or a “return of capital” benefit, ensuring that some or the entire entry fee will be repaid if you move out of the community or in the event of death, no matter how long you reside in the community.
  • Intangibles: Virtually all retirement communities and care facilities have a financial incentive to keep residents healthy. Yet, because of the contractual guarantee to provide residents with access to healthcare CCRCs have an increased incentive to so. This is particularly true of those providers who offer all-inclusive lifecare contracts. A healthy overall resident population helps offset the increased cost of providing care for residents who do require advanced healthcare services. Health and wellness programs at CCRCs may include access to qualified fitness professionals, special-diet meal plans, aquatic and fitness centers, low-impact aerobics, and yoga classes, just to name a few. More CCRCs are now emphasizing the “whole person” concept, including emotional, spiritual, intellectual, vocational and social experiences.

How do you know if a CCRC is right for you

To help determine if a CCRC could be right for your unique situation here are a few introductory questions to consider:

  • Are you at a point in your life where you desire less home upkeep and would prefer to have various services and amenities available to you?
  • Are you currently able to live independently without assistance from family or others?
  • Do you like to plan ahead; to control, reduce or eliminate the uncertainty about future housing and healthcare costs?
  • If you should ever need assisted living or nursing care, do you want assurance that such services are contractually guaranteed by the community in which you live?
  • Would you prefer a social and active community environment that also affords you privacy and independence?
  • Would you like to lessen the burden on your adult children or other family members if you ever require assisted living or nursing care?
  • Are you in a position financially to possibly pay an entrance fee and monthly service fees?
  • Do you lack nearby family or other loved ones that might provide a support system in the event that you require care in the future?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then a continuing care retirement community may be an appropriate retirement living choice for you. Yet, there is more work to be done.

First and foremost it is important to find a community where you will be happy; where the culture and lifestyle best match your preferences. Ask to stay a night or two in a guest suite and talk to some of the current residents.

It is equally important to research the details; mainly taking time to be sure that the community is financial sound and that you understand the details of the residency contract, which can be overwhelming to a lay person. Gather information and seek guidance from sources that are knowledgeable about CCRCs and that take an objective approach.

Finally, keep in mind that one of the key reasons for choosing a CCRC is having guaranteed access to the full continuum of care. The flip side of this is that you are pre-determining where your care will be provided in the future. This means you should be completely confident in the quality of such care.

Plan Today for Tomorrow’s Needs

Whether you ultimately choose a CCRC or not, delaying important decisions about tomorrow’s needs may leave you and your loved ones facing difficult, and often costly, situations in the future. One of the more important and complex decisions you or your loved ones need to consider is where you will live and how your future care needs will be provided. Keep in mind that paying for care and access to care are separate issues. For instance, owning long-term care insurance will help pay for care but it does not address the other aspect of the issue – where and how your eventual care needs will be provided.