Is An Independent Living Retirement Community Right For Me?
by Sarah Mouser, CFP®, CTS™, CES™
For many decades, retirement communities have offered older adults, typically age 62 and older, an innovative and independent lifestyle solution that differs from other housing and care options. Often referred to as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), these types of residences can be a wonderful solution for older adults who are independent and active today, but seek the peace of mind that comes with living in a community that can provide assisted living or health care services if/when it is needed in the future.
CCRCs offer a tiered approach to aging, featuring a combination of independent living apartments, assisted living units and skilled nursing care rooms. When assistance with everyday activities becomes necessary, residents can transition to other areas within the community that offer extended care to meet their needs. The demand for CCRCs has increased dramatically as the number of people aging into retirement continues to rise. As such, CCRCs have evolved and diversified dramatically over the past several decades, offering enticing service packages and entrance-fee options. They also provide residents with 24-hour security, social and recreational activities, attractive dining options, housekeeping, transportation, and wellness and fitness programs.
But how do you know if a CCRC is right for you? Here are a few introductory questions to ask yourself that can help you decide:
- Do you want to downsize your homeowner responsibilities to reduce concerns such as maintenance and repairs?
- Would you prefer a social and active community environment that offers a variety of amenities and services, yet also affords you privacy and independence?
- Do you want to plan ahead to control, reduce or eliminate the uncertainty about future housing and health care costs?
- Do you want assurance that assisted living or nursing care services will be provided by the community in which you live?
- Do you want to reduce the chance that your adult children or other family members will be responsible for providing and coordinating assisted living or nursing care if you need it?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, then a CCRC may be a retirement living option for you to explore. In most cases, I recommend making the move while you are still young and healthy enough to enjoy the benefits of these dynamic communities.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider moving sooner rather than later:
- Involvement One of the main benefits of living in a CCRC is having easy access to a vast array of the services, amenities, and activities available to you. Many of these perks take place within the walls of the community, but CCRCs are increasingly providing ways for residents to stay involved in the broader community through service projects, adult education classes, and more. Moving earlier allows you to more fully enjoy and benefit from these extra-curricular activities.
- Relationships Residents of CCRCs often say that one of the best things about the community in which they live is the friendships they have formed with other residents. These relationships can be particularly helpful as part of your support network if healthcare needs arise in the future.
- Wellness CCRCs strive to help residents stay healthy and live independently as long as possible. Comprehensive health and wellness programs 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. Additionally, more CCRCs today are emphasizing a ‘whole-person’ concept, including emotional, spiritual, intellectual and vocational experiences.
- Window of Opportunity Continuing care contracts generally require residents to live independently without an immediate need for assisted living or healthcare services. Therefore, many CCRCs will perform a health evaluation on prospective residents as part of the application process. Those who do not meet the community’s health criteria can be declined for entry and miss the opportunity to benefit from what a CCRC offers, including access to a full continuum of care.
- Ease of Transition The process of downsizing and moving can seem like a daunting task and may stir up a range of emotions. One of the main reasons why people delay moving to a retirement community is having to deal with all the “stuff” that has accumulated over the years. Consider reaching out to a financial advisor who can connect you with the right professionals to help with a majority of the physical work that comes with downsizing including personal organization, estate sale guidance and moving and unpacking services.
My advice is to start early! Don’t wait until you are ready to move to start this process. Those who have made the transition to a CCRC have often felt liberated and believed that making the move was easier while they were in good health; helping them to enjoy a new chapter in life. In addition, as popularity grows for these communities, waitlists can be long. More desirable units could have wait times of up to a few years so it’s important not to wait!
When determining if a CCRC is right for you, there is no perfect answer because everyone’s situation will be different. A financial advisor who specializes in retirement transition planning has the resources and subject matter expertise to help you make an informed decision about this and other retirement issues. They should be able to advise you every step of the way and facilitate this important financial transaction seamlessly.