Decide whether a CCRC is right for you
By Emma Rodbro, last updated August 8, 2022
CCRC stands for “continuing care retirement community,” also known as a Life Plan Community. A CCRC combines accommodations for independent living, assisted living, and 24/7 skilled nursing facility care into one property, providing seniors with the ability to age in place. They might also include memory care on site: the number and types of care offered differs from CCRC to CCRC.
According to LongTermCare.gov, joining a CCRC as an active adult makes it easier for aging adults to obtain long-term care services. It is possible and common to become a resident of a CCRC senior living community as an independent, active adult and then receive more personal care as you need it.
As your needs change, you have the option to move on to assisted living or to an on-site skilled nursing facility if you require a higher level of care. This continuum of care ensures that you remain a part of the same community even if you require personal care, something that many seniors find very important.
Most CCRCs have different buildings spread out in a small complex, similar to a gated community. These buildings will usually be a combination of shared facilities (pools, chapels/sanctuaries, dining rooms and other amenities), individual homes or apartment buildings, and larger buildings to house the memory care, skilled nursing, and assisted living units. The individual homes available to residents in the independent living section of the community might take the form of townhomes, cottages, or studio, one- or two-bedroom apartments.
Of course, a CCRC in an urban area might build up instead of out, and have different levels of care and amenities on different levels of a high rise.
CCRCs, like other types of senior living, might cater to particular groups of people. For example you might find Spanish-speaking CCRCs or Jewish CCRCs that offer kosher meals. CCRCs might provide transportation and housekeeping services, even to those residents still enjoying the independent side of the complex (though as we explain below, that might cost extra). Activities from exercise classes to speed dating and movie nights can include everyone from different parts of the community.
CCRCs often make it simple for couples or family members to stay close to each other even if one needs more care than the other. For example, a husband who needs memory care can be just steps away from his wife who lives in the independent or assisted living section of the community.
With home care, services can vary based on unique needs. These may include medication monitoring, help with self-care, meal delivery, housekeeping, transportation, companionship, and minor health care services. However, once more advanced medical care is needed, other options may need to be considered.
Both CCRCs and home care make it possible for seniors to enjoy aging in place. The cost per hour for home care can range between $14 - $40 per hour: multiply this by how much help you might need every day and compare it to the CCRC costs we outline in the next section.
A continuing care retirement community is the most expensive long-term-care option available. Living in a CCRC requires an entrance fee and monthly charges for residents. Entrance CCRC fees range between $100,000 and $1 million, while monthly charges generally range between $3,000 and $5,000.
CCRC entrance fees prepay for care and provide facilities the money they need to operate. Monthly fees vary based upon different factors, including the type of housing you choose, whether your rent or buy, the type of service contract the community uses, and your health.
Additional fees may be charged for other services, such as meal services, transportation, housekeeping, and social activities. Several different types of contracts are used for CCRC residents. It’s always important to review the CCRC contract carefully and get legal advice before signing.
In most cases, residents fund the move from their home to a CCRC by selling their home and through the use of investments and retirement accounts. Applicants are generally required to prove that they have the means to meet entrance fees and monthly fees before they move into the community. In most cases, Medicaid and Medicare cannot be used to fund life in a CCRC. However, Medicare, and in some cases Medicaid, may be used to help fund the cost of specific services according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Because CCRCs offer various levels of care in a single community, it’s possible for these communities to meet your needs over time, even as they change. Three of the common levels of care offered in a CCRC include:
Many residents find that they don’t want to leave their established home within a CCRC when their care needs change. Instead of residents moving to a different area of campus for memory care or for assisted living, many senior residents choose to go with private in-home care.
As many CCRCs begin to recognize this trend among aging adults, they are offering residents the choice to enter at different levels of care instead of only allowing residents to enter first as part of the independent living community. For this reason, it’s essential to find out what every CCRC requires for entry.
Since CCRCs are designed for active seniors, they generally provide a variety of recreational and social opportunities. These activities and events vary, but they can include book clubs, continuing education classes, movies, sports, fitness clubs, holiday celebrations, and more. Check the social calendar at communities you’re considering to find out what types of activities are offered to determine whether you find their style of retirement living appealing.
CCRCs that cater to particular groups might have community-wide holiday celebrations and adhere to, for example, Hanukkah or Lunar New Year traditions. You might be able to find a CCRC that focuses on the arts and hosts or provides transportation to art galleries, live concerts, or film festivals.
CCRCs might reflect the culture of the city or community around them, whether that means foodie tours, outdoor adventures, or wine tastings. If you’re looking for a CCRC in the town or area you’ve lived in for a long time, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find peers who are interested in the hobbies you’ve always enjoyed.
CCRCs are the most expensive type of senior living community in part because they provide activities for both very active seniors and those who aren’t so active anymore. Not only do they provide the care you need as you age, but they facilitate socialization and encourage seniors to stay engaged with each other, their hobbies, and the world around them.
Generally, there might not be any “signs.” To make the most of a CCRC and your investment in it, you should make the move while you’re still healthy and active and can enjoy the social life that independent living can offer. Perhaps you know that you’re ready to let go of home maintenance like lawn care and snow removal. Maybe you’re already aware of hereditary or diagnosed medical conditions that might make everyday life a little bit harder for you as you age. If you’re thinking of the future and want to minimize changes that will come down the line, it might be time to consider a CCRC.
If you value security and you want to have peace of mind knowing that your changing medical needs will be met now and in the future, then a CCRC may be the right move for you. This option is a great choice for active adults that want to enjoy having a sense of community, nearby friends, and plenty of activities to enjoy.
The earlier you begin considering a CCRC the better. These communities are designed for seniors who are healthy and active enough to live independent, full lives. Most CCRCs offer premium recreational activities and amenities tailored to the desires of active seniors. Since these communities make it possible to move seamlessly from one kind of care to the next, it’s a flexible, comprehensive type of senior care that is a perfect option for seniors who want to enjoy their golden years without worrying about big moves or home and grounds maintenance in the future.