The Key to Feeling at Home at Your Continuing Care Retirement Community

◉ This article will go over what a typical Independent Living home is like at CCRCs. You will learn what you may or may not be able to do with the customization and personalization of your new living space. You will also learn some tips for negotiating with your CCRC for some extras.

Independent Living Home Styles At CCRCs

You will find a range of home types at CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community also known as a LifePlan community) campuses for independent living.  Condominium or apartment style is popular as you and your neighbors are next door to one another inside a large master building.  (There is one CCRC in New Hampshire that has all condos and all common areas inside a huge 300,000 square foot building.)  

Duplex homes and stand-free homes are also common but can come at a premium.  Such homes afford you the ability to have a small yard where you can do planting and relax outside, perhaps on your deck.  Technically, as the CCRC owns all the land, you don't have your own personal yard, but in practice people living in home-style units tend to stay in their own practical yards unless invited to another yard for a visit.

Pre-Existing High End Details In Your Unit

When you select your independent living unit at a CCRC it is typical for a certain budget to be allocated to you for basic customizations such as paint colors and a basic carpet type.  It is possible, however, that the person who was living in the unit before you paid for extra luxury customizations.  If this is the case there is no reason to lose these details.  Ask for hard wood floors or custom tile to stay in your new unit if they are already there from a prior resident.

Major Construction On Your Independent Living Home

We know of some CCRCs that will allow you to truly customize your stand alone independent living home, by building on an sun room or additional wing!  As you are improving the property of a non-profit facility (the CCRC) such an addition may be tax deductible even though you will be using the addition as part of your independent living home.  Check with your tax advisor if you plan to go to this level of customization.

Customizations Of Your Unit Before You Move In

Before you move into your new CCRC unit it is common for the community to spend a fair amount of money cleaning, painting, and customizing your unit for you.  Making decisions on the type of kitchen cabinets, tile or carpet, paint colors, etc. may be expected of you.  Some upgrades can be done for a fee and other choices are within the standard unit overhaul budget.  CCRCs will also take this time as an opportunity to upgrade any out of date hardware items like heating and hot water units.  During this time you have an opportunity to ask for some low-cost free-bees such as a possible ceiling fan or a particular type of door hardware you really like.  Ceiling fans, in particular, are low cost and relatively easy for the CCRC maintenance department to install for you.

Consider Both Inside And Outside Space At Your CCRC

When you tour individual living spaces at a CCRC consider how you will use outside-the-home environments.  One couple picked their home because it was on the corner lot and had a large grassy area in the back.  They used this space for outside seating with a table and chairs.  Distance to the cafeteria or other common areas may also impact where you pick your independent living home.

Can You Negotiate With A CCRC?

Can you negotiate with a CCRC?  Sure!  We know of one couple who asked for a free kitchen upgrade in order to sign on the dotted line right there and then.  From the CCRC's perspective a few thousand dollars for a kitchen upgrade was worth it to fill up a unit and have a signed contract in hand.  As the CCRCs maintenance department does most of the unit refurbishment the kitchen upgrade was done in-house and at a discount for the CCRC.

Negotiating For Small Extras With Your CCRC

Don't be afraid to negotiate some small items when you are in the contract stage of working with a CCRC.  The CCRC knows that an empty unit brings in no dollars and they are anxious to make good on their investment in working with you by having you move in.  We know of one family that was able to negotiate a kitchen upgrade at no cost and another obtained a small discount on some services.  When it comes down to it, if the CCRC can get you to sign on the dotted line, they might very well be willing to give a small bonus to you to make it happen.

Large Independent Living Homes Sometimes Fund A Big Bill

If you live at a Type A facility you will pay the same rate no matter if you live in independent, assisted, or nursing care.  But like every CCRC the bigger the independent living home you pick the higher the entrance and monthly fee will be.  Thus if you think about it, you will be subsidizing the assisted and nursing care of all the other residents at your Type A facility.  While you will live like a king in your large Type A independent living home, when you switch to assisted or nursing care there typically is only one size of room and everyone tends to get about the same space to live in.  You will still be paying that higher monthly fee due to your large independent living home that you may no longer occupy.

Another way to think of this is to compare it to property taxes funding schools.  If you have a large fancy home in a town your property tax will be higher compared to a small modest home.  Your taxes will be funding the school for the town even if you have no children.  The family in the modest home, will gain an advantage from your taxes especially if they have many children attending local public school.

Aging In Place Design At CCRCs

The concept of "Aging in Place" is something CCRCs have embraced in their design.  Many CCRCs have units with no stairs so that single floor living takes place both in the house and in common buildings throughout the campus.  You can also request that your door handles are straight handles instead of knobs so that current or future arthritic grip issues are not a problem for you.  Doors are wide in units to facilitate walkers and wheelchairs.  If stairs do exist in common buildings expect an elevator to be at hand.  

Even though stairs are rare at CCRCs you may still need to deal with them during a possible physical fitness test.  We know of one CCRC that asks you to walk up a small set of stairs to test mobility even though their campus is stair free.

This article discussed Independent Living at CCRCs and what they are like. Although it may be pricey to live at a CCRC, your living space in Independent Living is yours, both inside and outside. You will have some freedom to customize your space to make it personal and comfortable for you.