What Is A CCRC?

CCRCsEvaluating a Community

group of seniors at a continuing care retirement community

Most people want to stay in their home for as long as possible. It’s where they feel comfortable, surrounded by memories that create a strong emotional connection. Home is also a symbol of their independence. But then, time passes, and good friends and neighbors move away. You’re left on your own with a leaky roof and a cranky furnace. Your joints hurt just climbing the stairs, let alone after an hour or two of yardwork. And to be honest, your vision isn’t so great either. What if you couldn’t drive a few years from now? Maybe it’s time you thought about moving to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) — before something serious happens like a fall down the stairs or a stroke.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

A CCRC, also known as a continuing care retirement community or Life Plan Community, is a great option for older adults who want to live in one place as they grow older. These communities provide progressive levels of care on a single campus, allowing residents to move from one level of living to the next as their health needs change. Typically, a CCRC will offer four levels of living: independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing (which can also include rehabilitation therapies and long-term care).

Residents start out living independently in an apartment, duplex, or single-family home, and later transition to assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing if needed. Instead of letting a health crisis at home force a move into an assisted living facility that may not be suitable, residents of a CCRC know where they’ll get the care they may need, who will provide it, and how much it will cost. Simply having a plan in place for the what-ifs gives residents and their family members added peace of mind.

The Benefits of a CCRC

This isn’t your grandparents’ retirement home. A modern Life Plan Community or CCRC is geared around residents’ interests. There are fitness centers and indoor pools that are the equal of any health club. Woodworking shops, art studios, well-stocked libraries, movie theaters, game rooms and gardening spaces are just some of the amenities you’re likely to find. Of course, dining is a big deal with residents, so these communities rival restaurant fare with farm-to-table dishes, great service, and both fine and casual dining venues.

Life at a CCRC is also a lot of fun. Isolation is a serious concern for older adults who live alone at home. At a CCRC, there’s always something fun to do with people who share your interests. There are classes and clubs to join and learn from, opportunities to volunteer or serve on committees, morning walks with your four-legged friends, and chauffeured trips to check out local attractions.

Your daily life can be as busy or as laid-back as you like. The advantage of a CCRC for residents is they can spend their time doing the things they enjoy the most. The community takes care of all maintenance, offers a meal plan that suits their needs, and does everything in their power to help residents thrive.

In a study of more than 5,100 residents from 80 Life Plan Communities, researchers evaluated the health and well-being of residents at Life Plan Communities compared with older adults who live in the community at large. Residents of Life Plan Communities were found to:

  • Be more satisfied with life
  • Have a greater sense of control over their lives
  • Have more social contacts and connections
  • Exercise more regularly, maintain a healthier diet and sleep better
  • Participate more in lifelong learning

Financial Components of a CCRC

There are two financial components with most CCRCs:

  • The entrance fee. An upfront, one-time fee that can range from a few thousand dollars to over $1 million. The average entrance fee for a CCRC is $329,000. Many people use the equity in their home to fund the entrance fee. A portion of the entrance fee may be refundable, depending on the type of contract a CCRC offers.
  • The monthly service fee. A monthly service fee covers the services and amenities associated with living at the community. The amount you pay depends on the size of your residence, how many people live there, and the range of services and amenities available to you.

When you compare the monthly costs of living at home — including items such as mortgage/rent, property tax, home insurance, food, utilities, housekeeping, lawn and garden services, gym membership, entertainment/activities, scheduled transportation, home security, and home maintenance — to the monthly cost of independent living at a CCRC, you may be pleasantly surprised at how affordable a CCRC really is.

Types of CCRC Contracts

How you pay for the services of a CCRC and how much risk you’re willing to accept depends on the type of contract you sign. Here are the main contract types you may encounter:

  • Type A, Life Care: This type of contract promises to care for residents for the rest of their lives without significantly increasing their monthly fees. If the need arises for a higher level of care, the resident may transfer to the appropriate level of care at a predetermined, substantially discounted monthly rate for as long as care is needed.
  • Type B, Modified Plan: This type of contract usually requires a lower monthly fee than Type A, and possibly a lower entrance fee. However, if you move to a higher level of care, such as assisted living or skilled nursing, you’ll be responsible for some of the cost. Typically, this type of contract provides either 1) a limited number of free days of health services with additional care at per diem market rates, or 2) an ongoing minimally discounted rate for health services.
  • Type C, Fee-for-Service: A fee-for-service contract typically requires the lowest monthly fees and possibly the lowest entrance fees compared to Types A and B. However, if higher levels of care are required, such as assisted living or skilled nursing, your monthly fee will increase to reflect the market rate.
  • Rental: Rental contracts require no entrance fee or perhaps a nominal community fee. However, the monthly service fee may be higher than you’d pay in a comparable entrance fee community. If at some point you require a higher level of care, such as assisted living or skilled nursing, you’ll pay the full market rate.

You should always have a lawyer review the contract before signing. For more about contract types, read our blog post: Senior Living Contracts Explained.

Find a CCRC Near You

There are nearly 2,000 continuing care retirement communities across the country to choose from. To find one near you, use our Find a Community tool. You can also download this CCRC visit checklist to help you compare communities as you visit them. It’s best to start your research early. Some communities have waiting lists, so you’ll want to put your name on the waitlist of at least a couple of communities you like. Then look forward to a fun, fulfilling and secure future.