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Exploring your senior housing options

When it comes time to decide where you want to spend the rest of your retirement, it’s important you find a retirement community that’ll fit your lifestyle and budget. But navigating all your senior living options can be very challenging. To help you more easily understand your choices, here’s an overview of the types of senior living options typically available in your area.

Active Adult Communities

These are also referred to as first-generation retirement communities. A typical resident would be a recently retired couple looking for an active, carefree retirement. While an active adult community may look like an ordinary residential neighborhood, there are typically age requirements allowing only people over age 55. Often the homes are designed for aging in place with condo-type maintenance. On-site health care is usually not available, causing many residents to move again.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs offer seniors a long-term contract or residency agreement and convenient access to personal health care services. In exchange, the resident will pay a one-time entrance fee and regular monthly payments. These fees vary by community and the type of contract offered (nonrefundable, fully refundable or a declining refund) and the level of services and amenities provided.

Residency at a continuing care retirement community is typically established based upon minimum requirements for age, financial assets and income level, along with physical health. A community typically includes apartments or townhomes/cottages or both. This setting provides seniors with security and companionship in the form of planned social activities and no-hassle home maintenance. Residents typically don’t require assistance, but do enjoy services such as housekeeping and a dining program.

Typically included are an on-site health center, and increasingly, a separate assisted living option. This allows seniors to move effortlessly from one level to another as their needs change.

The entry fee options and/or nursing care benefits of CCRCs usually fall into one of three basic programs:

  • Lifecare or Extensive CCRC Contract: These communities provide housing, residential services and amenities along with unlimited long-term skilled nursing care and/or assisted living without a substantial increase to the monthly fee.
  • Modified or Continuing Care: This type of contract covers a specified amount of long-term care such as a percentage discount off the current market rate in the health center or assisted living area, or a number of ‘free days’ during a set period of time without a substantial increase in the monthly fee.
  • Fee-for-Service: This option provides financial flexibility since health care/nursing care benefits are not covered in either the entry fee or the monthly fee. A typical resident is one who prefers to pay for health care as needed versus having health care costs bundled with entrance fees or monthly service fees.
  • Rental Communities: These are not always considered CCRCs. They may offer some continuum of care such as an assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility. A rental community does not require an upfront entrance fee. Most offer some selection of services such as dining and housekeeping.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living is designed for seniors who need assistance with their daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, cooking, shopping, medication reminders and housekeeping. Most communities strive to preserve independence and dignity while assisting residents.

Assisted living communities with 15 or fewer residents are often called group homes or family-style assisted living. Some have specialties such as Alzheimer’s or diabetic care that provide specialized nursing care in a home-like setting. Larger communities with 15 or more residents are often integrated with independent living communities and/or skilled nursing care facilities.

Skilled Nursing Care

Nursing care is designed for individuals who need supervision and care on a regular basis but who do not require hospitalization. Skilled nursing provides ongoing health care, rehabilitative care and restorative care under the supervision of a physician in a private or semi-private room.

To find one of the senior living options above be sure to use our Find a Community tool.