When a “silver citizen” decides to move from the family home, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are worth considering. Offering a variety of services within one community, CCRCs guarantee lifetime housing, social activities and increased levels of care as needs change.

Yard work, painting and the many maintenance chores that are required of homeowners may no longer be enjoyable or safe for seniors to perform as they advance through the seasons of life. Baby Boomers, especially, are trending towards opting for living in a maintenance-free, stress-free community, wanting the gift of leisure time.

What CCRCs Are

Part independent living, part assisted living and part skilled nursing, CCRCs offer a tiered approach to the aging process, accommodating residents’ changing lifestyle needs. Upon entering the community, healthy adults can reside independently in single-family homes, apartments or condominiums. When assistance with every day activities becomes necessary, they can move into assisted living suites or nursing care facilities. These communities give older adults the option to live in one location for the duration of their life, with much of their future care already figured out. This can provide a great level of comfort to both seniors and their families, taking much of the stress out of the caregiving relationship.

Where to Begin

Visit all potential CCRCs before making any decisions. During your first visit schedule a guided tour by a staff member allowing ample time to tour the grounds. Also, build in some time during the appointment to go over your list of questions. Return for a second unscheduled visit spending some time talking with current residents and staff. A good time for a second visit may be to attend a program or event at the community, or to sample a meal in one of the dining venues.

When you have narrowed down your list to your top 2 or 3 choices, ask for a weekend or week-long stay at the community to ensure that it is the right choice.. Seven things to consider when deciding whether a CCRC will fit your lifestyle and preferences:

Bingo vs. Competitive Tennis on Thursdays?

Check out the activities programs. Are there sign-ups for the golf and bowling leagues and tennis teams; what hours is the swimming pool open? Are there offcampus outings planned? What is the calendar of seasonal and holiday events. Or, does the regular schedule reflect bingo, ice cream socials, bridge and euchre tourneys, or reminiscence groups? Activity levels and average resident ages differ from community to community.

A Place Where You will Find Friends with Similar Interests?

Just because someone qualifies by age to enter a CCRC does not mean that it will be a good fit. Communities have different focuses. Some are “artist colonies ” appealing to people who enjoy and are proficient in the fine arts. Others focus on music and literature. There are communities for nature lovers and golfers. Some communities are centered around an occupation like retired teachers and professors, or mail carriers. Each community has a special culture all its own.

Looking for Love?

Some folks decide to move to a CCRC when they become spouse-less through death or divorce and do not like flying solo. It is also a time when widows or widowers may feel very insecure about their future especially regarding care as they age. CCRCs do provide opportunities to create a new social network as a single and provide care for all of the seasons of life, but cannot guarantee that cupid will strike.

Will You Grow Old or Stay Young?

It is common knowledge throughout the medical community that active people are happier and healthier. Seek a retirement community that keeps you engaged and may even challenge you to learn new things. A good option would be a community near a college that invites seniors to audit classes. Being near or affiliated with a college, also offers low-cost opportunities to attend programs, concerts and sports events. Find out if the community has an organized wellness program and offers personal training.

Kids and Grandkids Welcome? How About Pets

Ask questions about family visits. What are the rules if your children and grandchildren want to visit for a weekend or stay for a week. What campus facilities are children and guest welcome to use while visiting? What kind of guest accommodations are available on the CCRC campus for friends and relatives and what is the cost?

Also, ask if the community welcomes Snoopy and Kitty and what rules regulate pets. Having to find a new home for your “best friend” may be a deal breaker.

Is The Bottom Line Really the Bottom?

Because most seniors are on fixed income, it is easy to know what is coming in. It is equally as important to know….and project….what will be going out. Learn exactly what services are included in the monthly or quarterly fees and what will be added expenses. Are there fees for classes or social events? Are costs like association dues added? As more services are needed, are new financial reviews required before moving to another level of care? The devil is commonly in the details.

Planning for Today, But Ignoring Tomorrow?

Project how you will age in place at the community. What will happen when it is no longer safe to drive? How will grocery shopping, doing errands and getting to appointments be managed? Can meals be included? What are the options for mobility and getting around the campus? Is the campus fully wheelchair accessible? What health care facilities are on the campus and what is the emergency response system?

Aging successfully and making the most of retirement years can be a challenge. Adopting a simplified lifestyle can help “silver citizens” retain freedom and autonomy. Choosing which avenue to take to maintain quality of life through the seasons of life requires planning and foresight. Continuing Care Retirement Communities can provide the social networking, stimulation, entertainment and security seniors seek.