Retirement Communities

8/30/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

There are so many types of senior living communities available to retirees these days. Two of the most common ones are CCRCs (continuing care retirement communities) and senior apartments. While they share many similarities, we look at the difference between senior apartments and CCRCs.

Baby boomers are retiring in droves, prompting more and more retirement communities to open each year. Among the various options for these communities are senior apartments, also called rental retirement communities, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs).

While there are differences that distinguish the two, both are quite similar in other ways. For instance, residents of either type are often living independently, and many are still very active.

Yet, there are significant differences, primarily in healthcare, services, amenities, and cost. Here is a look at these two retirement communities, including how they differ and what each offers.

What are senior apartments?

Senior living apartments are within complexes specifically designed for older adults. They are typically defined by age restrictions (for instance, 55 years and older), and they often include amenities such as a clubhouse, swimming pool, housekeeping services, spas, fitness centers, and more.

As seniors reach a point where living in a house or traditional apartment has become increasingly challenging, they turn to the convenience of senior apartment living. When traditional housing with stairs, high cabinets, and household duties become impractical and even dangerous, senior living apartments offer alternatives that make independent living easier.

What is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC)?

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are retirement communities with accommodations for independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care. Seniors can continue to live in a CCRC, even as the level of care they require changes. By offering various types of care in one location, older adults can age in place instead of moving away each time they need more assistance.

While the type of housing depends on the community, living spaces typically include houses, cottages, townhouses, duplexes, and apartments. Most CCRCs offer a common dining room, swimming pool, activity centers, fitness centers, and social events.

What is the primary difference between senior apartments and CCRCs?

As previously noted, senior apartments and CCRCs differ in four areas: healthcare, services, amenities, and cost. Here’s a look at each one:


Healthcare is the primary feature that distinguishes CCRCs from senior apartment living. CCRCs are contractually obligated to provide housing and access to a full range of healthcare services. They have separate living accommodations within the community licensed to offer services to those residents who eventually require assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing care.

On the other hand, senior apartments are not licensed as assisted living providers but might offer supportive care through an outside home-care services agency. In some cases, senior apartments may have separate units available for those requiring these services, but an outside agency will still provide the services.

Amenities and services

Both CCRCs and senior apartments provide some amenities and services, with some offering more than others. Common amenities at both CCRCs and apartments could include dining rooms and cafes, a community clubhouse, fitness center, swimming pool, event rooms, housekeeping services, interior, and exterior maintenance, scheduled transportation, and more.

While there are exceptions, most people believe that CCRCs offer enhanced amenities and services such as gourmet chefs, community gardens, personal trainers, salons, barbershops, theaters, and spas. Of course, not every CCRC offers all of these amenities and services, and you might find some of them within the senior apartment complex.


CCRCs tend to be more expensive than senior apartments and are typically marketed toward seniors with higher income and net worth. Most CCRCs require an entry fee along with their monthly service fee.

However, to make an “apples-to-apples” comparison of the two communities, it’s helpful to understand a few details.

First, look at what is included in the monthly payment and what is an extra cost. The advertised monthly rate might not have some services or amenities you would use, so you would increase your monthly outlay by paying for them separately.

Also, don’t confine your cost analysis to independent living. Think about the possibility that you might need assisted living or nursing care in the future. Many CCRC residents could see little or no monthly increase for these services.

Since senior apartments do not offer these levels of care, a resident would have to move to a care facility that does provide them. In addition to the stress and inconvenience of moving, payments for skilled nursing can be as high as $12,000 per month in some areas.

When you compare costs, think about the total lifetime cost and not just today’s price. Then again, if you choose the costlier CCRC, you might never require the advanced care services included in the higher rates. If so, it would have been less expensive to live in a senior apartment.

Unfortunately, none of us has access to a crystal ball!

Making the decisions

The difference between senior apartments and CCRCs can vary depending on the location, and even the specific community. It’s important to explore each option to decide which decision is best for you or your loved one!

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff