Continuing care retirement communities: Another version of aging in place

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: The Pointe at Kilpatrick via Flickr

Photo: The Pointe at Kilpatrick via Flickr

On a recent visit to south Florida, I met a quite extraordinary 90-year-old named Jules. He’s a former high-level business executive, who still practices law and sells real estate as a second-act career. Jules lives in a Type A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) that feels more like a luxury hotel than a place for “old people.”

The former Connecticut resident described how much he loves the independent living facility, which is very similar to a luxury high rise. There’s a full service dining room — jackets required for men — that features healthy daily gourmet dinner specials like baked salmon. Linen tablecloths and wood paneling makes it feel like an upscale restaurant.  There’s also a well-stocked communal library, common living room and card/game room off the lobby.

Jules’ building is divided into “quads.”  There are only three units per floor in each quad. This creates a cozier, less institutional feel, he told me.

He proudly showed off his rather spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, with a full kitchen and small balcony. On a nice day you can see the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean. The second bedroom doubles as his office. “If I didn’t work, I’d go nuts,” he said. He still drives and has no issues traveling to meet with clients.

We got into a deep conversation about politics, policy and health care. He has strong opinions on many issues, especially after caring for an ill wife for many years. Jules told me how appreciative he was of the many health care services available “right on campus” — his description of the CCRC complex.

As this article in the Washington Blade explains, there different types of CCRCs. Type A has higher entrance and monthly fees and includes assisted living and pre-paid skilled nursing, whether or not these services are used.  Long-term nursing care, and a memory unit for those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are located in a second building in the complex.

“We have a real community here,” Jules explained. He meets friends (including a new lady friend) for dinner in the dining room regularly, comes and goes as he pleases, takes advantage of activities like lectures, card games and the exercise room. “You have to exercise,” he said. “It helps keep your body and your mind healthy.” Jules is a prime example of conscious aging — both physically and cognitively.

These amenities don’t come cheap. According to AARP, CCRCs are the most expensive long-term living option. They require an upfront entrance fee that can top $100,000. Monthly resident charges start at several thousand dollars and can rise as health needs change. A report from the American Institute for Economic Research says there may be some tax advantages to CCRCs, but cautions that those considering this housing option should understand that monthly fees may rise periodically.

For those who are relatively healthy, like Jules, CCRCs provide peace of mind. “Knowing I can stay in my home even if I need some more help is a good feeling,” he said. “Even if I need rehab, I can get it right on campus and then come back home.”

For more about CCRCs, check out this USA Today article on the pros and cons of this living arrangement or this feature from Investment News on what questions to ask before signing any contracts.

As for Jules, we have a dinner date the next time I visit.

Here are some potential story ideas for journalists:

  • Are CCRCs a popular option in your community? How do different types (A, B, C) compare?
  • Talk to residents. Are services aligned with costs?
  • What are some alternatives for those who cannot afford the steep entrance or monthly fees?
  • How is your city/community handling long term care needs for older residents? Are they:
    • building more assisted housing?
    • Leaving it up to community/nonprofit groups?
    • Servicing naturally occurring retirement communities?
    • Changing regulations to allow more group homes?

1 thought on “Continuing care retirement communities: Another version of aging in place

  1. Eileen Beal

    While this kind of option is available, due to it’s cost it’s not a real/viable/achievable option for 95% of older Americans.

    Promoting it as an option for all simply raises expectations — in both older adults and those who will be responsible for caring for them when they are no longer able to do so on their own — about late-in-life care that will NEVER be the reality for the vast majority of Americans.

    E. Beal

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