Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Life Plan Communities

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), or Life Plan Community, is a community that offers several different senior living options or care levels all on one campus. It provides a peace-of-mind guarantee of care to residents for the rest of their lives.

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What Are Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Life Plan Communities?

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) allows residents to move in while they are active and healthy, yet have services and care nearby for when their needs change as they age. The community provides several tiers of senior living options or care levels all on one campus, with the guarantee of care for the rest of a resident’s life; providing peace of mind to the resident and their family.

Though some communities have more skilled care options than others, most typically offer the following levels of care:

  • Independent Living
  • Assisted Living
  • Rehabilitation Care
  • Memory Care
  • Long term Care

If someone moves into an independent living apartment in a CCRC, for example, but then eventually needs help with tasks like bathing and medication administration, they can then transition into assisted living within that same community.

This tiered approach allows residents to remain on the same campus – close to a spouse or friends from the community – even if more care is required in the future. It provides peace of mind to the residents and their families alike.

Just note that many of these communities, however, are changing their names to Life Plan Communities; their structure remains the same, but the new name gives a fresher and more inclusive association.

What Does a CCRC or Life Plan Community Look Like?

A typical Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Life Plan Community campus is divided into separate areas based on lifestyle and care level. Each area may include a separate building, or multiple buildings, depending on the layout of the community. In larger cities, an entire CCRC may be housed within a single multi-story building. In more suburban and rural areas, the campus may be sprawling and set up with shuttle services or golf carts for easy transportation.

Often, the independent living portion of the campus features small cottages or apartments for residents. In the areas that offer more care, like assisted living, residents receive a single or shared bedroom with a bathroom. 

Living spaces are designed for ease of access, with features like handicap accessibility and emergency alert systems built right in. In addition, regardless of the type of unit, maintenance and upkeep are generally handled by staff members.

What Is It Like to Live in a CCRC or Life Plan Community?

Senior woman and granddaughter having fun eating ice cream sundae in cafe.

The experience at a  Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Life Plan Community greatly depends on the lifestyle choices and level of care each resident seeks. Most residents begin at independent living, which has little or no restrictions on how they spend their time. They can continue to pursue their own hobbies and interests, host visitors, and come and go as they please. Some communities will offer flexible dining options allowing the independent living or cottage residents to purchase less meals than those in assisted living.

As care gets more extensive, residents are more closely monitored and receive daily assistance. In many cases, residents receive care on-site; however, if a service – like skilled nursing care – is not available, most CCRCs reserve the right to provide care off-site. Further, if a resident requires only short-term skilled nursing care due to an illness or injury, they can generally move back to their independent living unit once they get better.

In addition to medical care and wellness, CCRCs work to provide a consistent range of on-site activities and social opportunities. 

Lifestyle

Most campuses incorporate a variety of large dining rooms and common areas for residents to interact with each other. Some campuses even partner with nearby universities to offer ongoing education classes, or travel programs. There are generally daily activities targeted towards health of body and mind, including:

  • Arts and craft
  • Classes and learning opportunities
  • Games
  • Movie nights
  • Religious services
  • Live entertainment

Services

Services at CCRCs also vary depending on care level and lifestyle choices. All levels generally receive basic services such as:

  • Housekeeping and laundry (some offer flexible schedules)
  • Maintenance
  • Security
  • Meals (some offer flexible dining plans)
  • Utilities
  • Transportation

With higher levels of care, residents get further assistance with tasks like bathing, medication reminders and administration, and even medical care. 

Cost of a Continuing Care Retirement Community or Life Plan Community

CCRCs generally charge a one-time entrance fee, in addition to monthly fees. Some communities also charge additional fees for extra amenities, including:

  • Pet deposits
  • Parking or garages
  • Storage
  • Wellness programs
  • Utilities, internet, and TV

Other factors that could affect CCRC fees include:

  • Type, size, and location of unit
  • Additional services and amenities not included in the contract
  • Whether accommodations are shared or private
  • A resident’s current health status, as level of care needs change, fees may increase

CCRCs are in high demand because of the flexibility and the guarantee offered to residents. They are generally one of the more expensive senior living options. Unlike other options, CCRCs usually include a contract between you and the community, which guarantees care for the rest of the resident’s life in return for a financial investment.

Long term care insurance, Medicare and Medicaid may help cover some of the costs as care needs increase.

Questions to Ask When Researching CCRCs or Life Plan Communities

Social

  • What activities and social experiences are available? 
  • What additional amenities and services are offered for extra fees?
  • Are weekly religious services offered?
  • How many dining options are available, and how does the meal plan work?

Environmental

  • Ask to dine one evening in their dining room, is it an experience you enjoy?
  • If you are considering moving in, could you attend a social experience while you consider it?
  • What services are offered?
  • What type of security is provided?
  • How close is the community to a medical center or hospital?

Financial

  • Do you require an entrance fee? What does it cover?
  • How will my monthly rate change if I require additional care?
  • Is there a refund schedule of my entrance fee for my estate or heirs?

Is a CCRC or Life Plan Community Right for Me?

Consider these statements below to determine if any of them describe you, or your loved one:

  • I am in good health*, but want to plan for down the road
  • I worry about an accident happening at home without having help nearby
  • I like my independence, but would love to have friends within walking distance
  • I want to move to make life easier 
  • I want to maintain my comfortable lifestyle
  • I’m comfortable with an upfront fee to invest in my peace of mind
  • It would be refreshing to dine with others on a consistent basis
  • I would like to have hobbies and social gatherings within walking distances

If most or all of the above statements apply to you, then a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Life Plan Community may be a good option. You could also consider the following living options:

*Some CCRCs have availability in their more supportive care levels including Assisted Living and Memory Care. This can be especially helpful for spouses with differing needs. Another option for couples with variant needs would be to bring in a Companion Care or Home Health Care company to supplement their care needs.

Still not sure? Take our Care Assessment to see what care level may be best.


Ready to start the search? Find CCRC options in your area:

Life must be a constant education.

– Gustave Flaubert