Housing • April 7th, 2020

Learn about continuing care retirement communities

Stephanie Faris

Key Takeaways
  • Continuing care retirement communities give older adults the option of enjoying independent living and nursing care without having to move as they get older.
  • CCRC costs can be higher, but all your expenses are included.
  • When choosing a CCRC, look at cost, amenities and services provided, location, and the lifestyle quality you’ll enjoy as a resident.

If you’ve ever researched senior retirement communities, you know that there are various stages. Active seniors go for independent living setups, where they can enjoy amenities like swimming pools and golf courses, while those who need healthcare services opt for assisted living. For more intensive care or rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility is also an option.

Chances are, your needs will change as you get older. Packing up and moving from one community to the next can be a pain, though. For that reason, many seniors now opt for something called a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). Here you get the services you need as you need them. You can spend the morning lounging by the pool and the afternoon in rehabilitative therapy. If you’re thinking about a CCRC, here’s what you need to know.

How Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) Work

Continuing care communities make up a small chunk of the overall senior housing market. That means you may have a tougher time finding one with availability than you would a facility that caters to a specific stage in an older adult’s life. To put it into perspective: there are about 30,000 assisted living facilities in the U.S., compared to only 2,000 CCRCs. That means if you’re interested in a CCRC, you’ll probably need to start looking early in case you need to get on a waiting list.

Once you’ve been accepted into a CCRC, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. According to Brookdale Senior Living, a company that operates hundreds of senior living communities nationwide, there are two types of CCRCs:

  • Rental CCRCs — One monthly fee covers all your living expenses, including meals and entertainment. This fee is usually slightly higher than the typical retirement home cost.
  • Life Care CCRCs — With this option, you’ll pay an up-front entry fee, averaging between $107,277 and $427,054, and a monthly maintenance fee of between $2,089 and $4,154. The monthly fee with a life care CCRC is usually lower than with a rental CCRC.

As with other types of senior living, CCRCs typically offer housekeeping and laundry services, as well as excursions to keep residents active. While this option may seem more expensive compared to apartment or condo living, when you consider all expenses are included, along with the additional amenities and events, it may be an expense that’s well worth it.

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How to find a CCRC

Ideally, you’d find out the best CRCC in the USA is located just around the corner from you. With so few locations available, though, you may not want to narrow your search to one geographic region. If you’re willing to expand to other cities or states, you’ll be able to research various locations and choose one with the best amenities, prices, and availability to meet your needs.

The best way to find a CCRC near you is to use the providers and facilities search tool located at Medicare.gov. You can choose up to three facilities to compare, side by side, looking at features like overall rating, health inspection rating, and number of certified beds. You can also get a list of CCRCs by U.S. Census Bureau region here.

What to look for when you visit

Once you’ve narrowed down your options and how much you’re able to pay toward the cost of retirement communities, it’s time to do some more in-depth research. If possible, visit each of the locations you’re seriously considering. There are some things you simply won’t be able to know for sure until you’ve seen a place in person.

Once you’ve scheduled your business, make a checklist of the following things to consider during your visit:

  • Location — Even though your meals will be provided, you’ll want to go to the movies or have some fun shopping. Choose a CCRC where those excursions won’t be too difficult.
  • Staff — Staff can do far more than make sure you have your daily needs met. They can also make a place feel like home.
  • Housing — There are different types of housing available in a CCRC—primarily single-family homes and apartments. Know up front what you prefer and look for the setup that works best for you.
  • Meals — Meal offerings vary from one location to the next. Compare the number and types of meals you’ll receive each day at one place versus another.
  • Healthcare Services — Once the time comes that you need more intensive healthcare, you’ll want to make sure you’ve chosen a CCRC that has a team of fully-qualified professionals to provide those services.
  • Residents — What are the other members of the community like? Does it seem like a group that will make you feel at home?
  • Social Activities — What games and other activities are provided to encourage members to interact? Check out the events calendar of each location before choosing.
  • Recreation - Does the location have a pool? A golf course? If you have a specific activity you enjoy, be sure to ask about it.
  • Personal Services — Many CCRCs provide laundry and housekeeping services, but you should also check on options like haircuts and on-site dental care.

Understanding a CCRC contract

Once you’ve chosen a CCRC community, you’ll be asked to sign a contract. Your contract should provide, in detail, the following information:

  • Cost
  • Services provided
  • Medical care provided
  • Available subsidies if you are later unable to pay

If you have any questions, make sure you clarify them before you sign the contract. Keep in mind that at some point, you may have to upgrade to assisted living or full-time nursing care and make sure the contract you sign today will work for you if that becomes necessary. We suggest going over the contract with a lawyer, if you’re able to.

Bottom Line

Once you understand what a CCRC is, you can determine whether it’s the right choice for you or your loved one. Compare costs to independent living options in the same area of town and make sure that the extra expense is worth it to avoid moving to a secondary location if you should someday need housing with healthcare provided. A Certified Financial Planner© can help you compare options to see how they fit into your available assets and existing plan.

Author

Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a writer for a credit card processing service and has written about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on Money Under 30, The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, E-commerce Insiders, and GoBankingRates.