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 levelof 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.
If you are urgently looking for a CCRC, start here
What do Continuing Care Retirement Communities typically look like?
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 livingunits. 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.
How does a CCRC compare to home care?
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.
How much does a CCRC cost?
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.
Read more: Understanding the Costs of CCRCs
How to pay for a CCRC
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.
What types of care are provided by CCRCs?
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:
- Independent Living – Most residents begin their stay at a CCRC when they are still independent, active adults. Residents have freedom and apartment-style accommodations with a variety of residential services available to make life easier.
- Assisted Living – Many CCRCs offer assisted living services, which may include memory care if needed, as a step between independent living and skilled nursing care. Residents enjoy having the assistance they need with activities of daily living without 24/7 nursing.
- Skilled Nursing Facility – Both short-term and long-term skilled nursing care may be offered at a CCRC, including round-the-clock nursing services or rehabilitative care. In some cases, a move to this type of care may only be temporary.
Read more: What are Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)?
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.
What are some services and amenities provided by CCRCs?
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.
What are some signs that it’s time to consider moving to a CCRC?
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.
If you think a continuing care retirement community is a good option for you or your loved one, begin comparing communities
How do I choose a CCRC?
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.
Read more: Evaluating a CCRC
Continuing Care Retirement Community FAQs
Are there age requirements for a CCRC?
In most cases, CCRCs require residents to be a minimum of 55 years old, which is the age limit noted in the Fair Housing Act. However, it’s possible for certain communities to have even more stringent age requirements for residents, so it’s always important to check.
Will I own my own home at a CCRC?
Whether you purchase or rent your residence will vary depending on the specific CCRC you choose. Some communities do allow you to actually purchase your residence in the community while others may offer you the ability to have equity in the residence you choose. If you are renting, remember that the monthly payment you pay not only covers the amount of your rent, but fees for services, amenities, and maintenance. Before making your move, check carefully to determine whether you will own your new home outright, have equity in it, or simply be renting the residence.
Who determines when it’s time to transition to another level of care?
This can vary based upon a CCRC’s policies and the contract you’ve signed. However, the decision to transition to another level of caregiving is usually a joint decision made with the help of family members and a team of professionals, which may include a social worker, nurse, and physician. If you’re not satisfied with the decision, an appeal process is usually available to make sure you get the best care for your needs.
Are CCRCs Safe?
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, property crimes are higher for elderly adults, and among seniors reporting violent crimes, 59% report that they were victimized near or at their homes. This makes safety a huge concern for aging adults, particularly since criminals often target seniors who live alone. Most CCRCs are gated communities that offer 24-7 security personnel on-site to ensure that residents are safe and secure, another benefit of CCRCs that offers peace of mind for active adults.
If you're worried that this type of community receives less oversight than assisted living or skillednursing facilities, check the list of CARF-accredited CCRCs. CARF International, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, is an independent nonprofit accreditor of health and human services.
Will I need a car while living in a CCRC?
Many CCRCs provide ample room for you to bring along your own vehicle, although this is a question you’ll want to ask before you choose a community. Even if you don’t have a vehicle, many communities will provide transportation to residents and public transportation may also be an option. Check with the communities you’re considering to see if they provide transportation and if you’ll be required to pay an extra fee for this service. You may also want to ask about parking arrangements if you want to bring your vehicle to the community.
Are pets allowed in a CCRC?
Pets can be very therapeutic for seniors, and many CCRCs are happy to welcome them into the community. However, some communities may have restrictions on pet size, breed, and type, so ask about their policy if you want to bring your pet along with you. You may be required to pay additional deposits or fees, as well.
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Emma Rodbro is Head of Growth Operations at Seniorly and holds an MA in Social Work with a concentration on aging
Learn more about Emma and our other authors' qualifications
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What is the best age to enter a CCRC? ›
However, a growing number of people are choosing to move to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) sooner - anytime after age 55, in fact. That's because they're ready to stop worrying about things like chores and home maintenance and start doing the things they love while they're active and healthy.What are the disadvantages of a CCRC? ›
- Fewer social connections. CCRCs tend to offer fewer events and activities, so seniors don't have as many opportunities to make friends.
- High costs. CCRCs are significantly more expensive than any other senior living options. ...
- Isolation. ...
- Less caregiver support.
Many older adults are attracted to the lifestyle a CCRC can provide. Providing high-quality activities for residents is often a top priority for Continuing Care Retirement Communities.What are the three basic types of contracts for CCRCs? ›
- Type-A (Lifecare) A Type-A contract requires the highest monthly fee for residents living independently and could also have a higher entry fee. ...
- Type-B (Modified) ...
- Type-C (Fee-for-Service) ...
- Rental. ...