The CCRC:  Senior Living


This little alphabetical label stands for Continuing Care Retirement Community.  We have visited CCRC’s in North Carolina and California, as well as the two in Topeka:  Brewster Place and Aldersgate Village. We have received marketing stuff from dozens of them.  So, what is one of these?

Before going farther, we should note they are trying to phase out the term CCRC.  Seems focus groups see the CC, think Care and visual an old time nursing home.  The new suggested term is Life Plan Community (LPC) to emphasize the purposeful nature of the place and suggest residents have choices.  The letter naming people want to spin it positively and think LPC sounds better than CCRC.  But I’m sticking with the old term here. 

A CCRC offers Independent Living.  There are lots of places doing just that, and this idea was invented in Arizona and Florida decades ago.  In the typical CCRC they have apartments of various sizes, plus often freestanding homes which they might call villas, or cottages, or townhomes or something else.       
In a CCRC think of this as maintenance-free living.  Come and go as you normally would while the staff mows the lawn, moves the snow, does the housecleaning, fixes the plumbing and appliances if they need it, and so on. For independent living folk, some CCRCs include meals, often one meal a day, in the fee.  Some might include cable tv or flat laundry service, so read those brochures closely on what’s included.

The second part of the CC is Assisted Living.  Again, lots of places do just this function.  Perhaps it is a mobility issue or some other thing that requires at least some medical supervision.   Usually these are apartments of various sizes. 
The third part of a CCRC is Skilled Care Nursing, which is when 24/7 monitoring is needed.  This can be medical issues or is often dementia care.  Once again, there are places that do only this.

The thing we like about the CCRC concept is that once accepted, all future medical needs are assured.  Many residents move from independent to assisted to skilled care as they age.  We’ve seen people scramble around after one partner has a stroke or something else, and emergencies are not a good time to be searching for retirement services.   All those decisions are made by moving into a CCRC.   About 70% of seniors will need at least short-term skilled care at some time (think hip replacements, etc) and others will need it long term (strokes, dementia). 

CCRCs have activity directors (we call them cruise directors).  There are exercise facilities, often indoor pools, and groups go to cultural events, museums and out to various dining places on day trips.  Attendance at these is optional; no one pressures you to go.  Perhaps a more modern way to think of them as people offering concierge services.

What does it cost?  This varies widely.  But most CCRCs have two fees.  There is an entrance fee, which nationally averages around $220,000...  That fee will be less in a one bedroom apartment than a 3000 square foot villa at a CCRC.  Often it’s a case of selling one’s home and giving perhaps a good portion of that to the CCRC.  This fee assures lifetime medical care, pays for the premises and upkeep and all those things.  One is not establishing equity but many CCRCs now have ways to assure those who wish to leave assets to kids or others can do so (for a larger entry fee).  Also if one partner dies, the survivor stays in the residence as long as they need it. 

What we look close at is the second fee, which comes monthly.  We’ve seen these as low as $2000 and as high as $5000 a month.  It depends often on the size of one’s CCRC residence, and whether or not any meals are built into the fee.  We’ve found some CCRC’s raise those fees annually by as much as 5% or more; we always ask for that history of raises.  A 6% increase every year will double one’s fees in 12 years. 

Fees also tend to be higher in places with strong geographic appeal.  There are CCRC’s on islands off South Carolina and in the hills of coastal California.  Those will cost you more - often a lot more - than one of the places in Topeka.  Some CCRCs tempt affluent seniors with gourmet dining rooms…again, more money.

CCRC’s are licensed and closely monitored by the state, so ask about those things. 

The average age of new residents is around 78-80.  Many people still hold the stereotypes and myths of the old nursing home, and delay a CCRC decision until they just can’t function at home any more.  These CCRCs are non-floating cruise ships.  They have hairdressers, massage people, movies, computer consultants, and security people that patrol the grounds 24/7.  Many have hook ups with local universities and also have people come in to do books discussions and present musical stuff or lectures on many topics.

We’ve talked to loads of CCRC residents and almost to a person they wish they had moved in sooner.  No rocking chairs on the porch at the modern CCRC.   It is, as is said, way better than they thought it would be.

Our plan is to be at Brewster Place in time to be very mobile and enjoying life. 


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