The Best Ways To Transition Into A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

Are You considering a continuing care retirement community (CCRC)?  Knowing how to find continuing care is the first step. Knowing how to pay for continuing care is of at least equal importance. We recommend you start planning early, so if the thought of relocating to a CCRC has even crossed your mind, now might be the time to do some further investigation.

You must have a lot of questions already and are thinking of more. Hopefully, we'll be able to answer at least some of them here--especially those about the transition from your current home and lifestyle.

What Is a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)?

A CCRC is the "Cadillac" of retirement living. It is comprehensive of all the life stages a senior might still go through, as well as the conditions for which that person might end up needing care.

They combine the facilities and amenities of independent living communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, allowing the resident to make smooth transitions as different levels of care are needed.

Housing ranges from various sizes of apartments and small houses for independent or assisted living to well-furnished hospital-style rooms for those needing more continuous care.

This is particularly advantageous for married couples who wish to remain together, or at least near each other, even though one might have a very different health status than the other.

A CCRC will have at least one dining facility (often more) and, depending on size and population, other amenities such as a swimming pool, an exercise room, walking paths, tennis courts, a library, a convenience store, transportation to appointments, and so on.

What Will a CCRC Cost?

A CCRC is quite expensive, definitely beyond the reach of many people. AARP tells us that entrance fees can start at $100,000 and go as high as $1 million, and monthly charges can range from $3,000 to $5,000, but may increase depending on individual needs.

According to AARP, CCRCs have three basic types of contracts:

  • Life Care or Extended Contract: The most expensive option, but is extremely comprehensive in what it covers
  • Modified Contract: Provides a set of services for a defined length of time. When it expires, other services can be acquired at higher monthly fees.
  • Fee-for-Service Contract: The initial enrollment fee may be lower, but assisted living and skilled nursing will be paid at market rates.

What Do I Need to Do to Plan a Transition?

The financial publication Kiplinger calls attention to nuances of the contracts that nervous prospects might not have thought to ask about. For example, they explain that, "in general, the higher the entrance fee and monthly fees, the more of your health care costs your fees cover. Many communities offer a partial—or even full—refund of the entrance fee if you leave or after you die."

Many wonder what is the best age to move into a CCRC. According to Aging in Place Technology Watch, "the median age of move-in to CCRCs is climbing – noted as of 2016 to be age 81 – and the residents’ average age is now 85." There is no “best age,” though.

The message from CCRCs themselves seems to be in favor of a much younger move-in age than this, though. They feel that people in their eighties might miss out on many of the available activities and other benefits. So take note 60- and 70-somethings!

Planning financially for moving to a CCRC is a very complex process. "Because a CCRC contract involves a long-term commitment and significant financial resources, the decision should be carefully researched and planned."

Furthermore, prospective residents should never make a change until they are absolutely convinced that this is what they want, not only for the short term, but also for years to come.

How Will I Transition from My Current Home?

Kiplinger offers a very lucid step-by-step guide to planning the move out of your existing home--especially the selling process (an area in which their staff has a great deal of expertise).

Many CCRCs have transitional assistance services and feature these on their websites. They vary a bit from place to place and tend not to be very detailed. After all, everyone's needs--and anxieties--are different.

Researcher Tetyana P. Shippee found that, "Relocation — into and between facilities — is one of the most stressful events older adults face, particularly because of threats to their autonomy." This is why many delay moving and, in many cases, regret that delay.

What Will Life in the CCRC Be Like?

The internal transitions are a factor inside a CCRC that outsiders generally are not aware of or do not understand.

AgingCare.com says that "A major selling point of CCRC living is that prospective residents can settle into an accommodating environment and maintain their normal independent routines for as long as they are able to do so."

Indeed, social activities and events tend to be abundant for residents of independent living facilities. These include everything from community governance activities to exercise programs to field trips. It is unusual to see anyone dining alone at dinnertime.

This is why people tend to regret their delays in moving into the communities, as mentioned by Shippee. For the younger and healthier seniors, there is a lot to enjoy and far fewer responsibilities (home and property maintenance, for example) than in the home they left to move to the CCRC.

For many residents, though, this changes once a chronic illness or serious injury befalls them. It is commonly known among senior care residents and employees that hardly anyone wants to accept aging and the diminished physical and/or mental capacity that accompanies it.

It gets lonely as people around your age are healthier than you, are sicker, or have passed away.

Making the Decision

When it comes to CCRCs, your finances might make the decision for you. As we've discussed, these places generally are quite expensive--even though the fees do cover many expenses non-residents have to handle separately.

However, there are alternatives to living at a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), and these need to be considered as well. For discussion of these, go to AARP's very comprehensive Family Caregiving page.

None of us ever feels prepared for old age, but the earlier we start thinking about and planning for our options, the better.

We encourage you to seek advice and guidance from your family, as well as a financial planner and other professionals. And if you're looking for possible communities to explore, go to FindContinuing Care.com.