CCRC vs. Assisted Living Communities: The Real Difference

by Stacey Riley Walters on Aug. 20, 2020

Estate Civil & Human Rights  Elder Law 

Summary: Whether we are talking about CCRCs or rental retirement communities, some offer more in the way of amenities and services than others. Naturally, newer communities will typically offer the latest and greatest in terms of amenities, but even well-established places fight to keep up and often renovate and add new services plus amenities to keep pace.

According to Pew Research Center, approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 almost every day, and about that same number will reach retirement age every day for the next decade. That’s a lot of retirees, and likely one of the reasons the retirement living industry is booming! Among the choices for retirement communities, two of the most popular options are continuing care retirement communities (also known as CCRCs or “life plan communities”) and independent living communities (also known as rental retirement communities). But what is the difference between the two?   

 

CCRCs actually include independent living communities within them as well. So, both types have residents that are still living independently and possibly still quite actively in some cases. However, there are some key differences, primarily in four main areas: services and amenities, healthcare, cost, and intangibles.

 

Amenities and services

 

Whether we are talking about CCRCs or rental retirement communities, some offer more in the way of amenities and services than others. Naturally, newer communities will typically offer the latest and greatest in terms of amenities, but even well-established places fight to keep up and often renovate and add new services plus amenities to keep pace. Residential living services, however, are not necessarily tied to the age of the community and greatly differ from one community to the next, largely dependent on cost.

 

Some of the typical amenities and services found at both CCRCs and independent living communities include a community clubhouse, lounge areas, event spaces, dining rooms and bistros, fitness center and group fitness classes, swimming pool, planned social events, housekeeping services, interior and exterior upkeep and maintenance, scheduled transportation and Wi-Fi.

 

While there are exceptions, it is generally thought that CCRCs offer a higher level of amenities and services than stand-alone independent living communities. At CCRCs, you may find a choice of much larger residential living units, including stand-alone cottages and villas as well as more communal spaces, such as cultural arts centers and galleries. CCRCs go above retirement communities and offer personal trainers, gourmet chefs, community gardens, spas, salons and barber shops, theatres, memberships at local clubs, in order to provide convenience while continuing independence.  

 

Healthcare and other care-related services

 

The key feature of a continuing care retirement community that distinguishes it from stand-alone independent living communities is a contractual obligation to provide housing as well as access to a full spectrum of care services, including skilled nursing, just like in a nursing home.  However, at independent living communities, the most common arrangement is to offer supportive care services to residents in their own apartment, which are contracted through an independent, outside home-care services agency. Overall, independent living communities are not equipped to provide services for residents who develop needs for higher acuity assisted living or skilled nursing care, which means those residents usually have to leave and go to a long term care facility like a nursing home.

 

Cost

 

CCRCs often market to seniors with higher incomes, although some are certainly more economical.  But the majority of CCRCs require an large lump sum entry fee, in addition to a monthly service fee. These entry fees are typically used for capital improvements, paying down debt, and sometimes to offset the cost of healthcare services received by residents, not just for the new entering resident.

 

But to try to do an apples-to-apples comparison with independent living communities, it is necessary to some key things. First, you should understand what is included in your monthly fee plus what is not, as the fee may not include services or amenities that you might like to utilize.

 

Second, you should compare a scenario where you eventually require advanced assisted living or even around-the-clock nursing care.  Depending on the type of residency contract, some CCRC residents may see little or no monthly increase for these services, while that will not be the case with assisted living.

These costs can be draining, with ranges as high as $12,000 or more per month for skilled nursing. The point here is that you should consider total lifetime cost and not just the cost today. On the flip side, if these types of care services are never required, then independent living would almost surely prove to be the less costly option, but none of us can predict the future.

 

Intangibles

 

Lastly, consider the value you place on the intangibles like peace of mind living someplace that makes available the types of services they may eventually require.  This is a huge stress relief for children and family members who may otherwise shoulder a heavy caregiver burden. Planning for the cost of care is one thing, but having access to care is also important to many seniors. So, the question is really: How much it is worth to you to have a plan in place for the future?

 

At Thomas Walters, PLLC, we strive to equip you with the knowledge required to make the right decision for you and your family.  Call our offices for a free consultation at (888) 787-1913 or to register to attend an upcoming educational seminar.  For more information visit our website at www.twestateplanning.law.

 

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