If you’re considering making a move to a senior living community, it can be initially difficult to wade through your options. Especially if you’re healthy and aren’t anticipating many medical issues in your future, the possibilities are even greater. Many healthy adults 55 and older end up choosing between purchasing a home in an independent living community or a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). While both community types offer great benefits for seniors, such as social activities, maintenance services and amenities, the long-term impact on residents’ lifestyles can be vastly different.
To help you understand the differences between buying into a CCRC and purchasing a home in an independent living or retirement community, we’ve gathered a list of important benefits and limitations to consider for each type of community. However, before we dive into their various qualities, let’s define each type for clarity’s sake:
Independent Living – Independent living (also called retirement living) is for people of retirement age who can live independently but desire the social opportunities and carefree lifestyle that a community provides. These communities provide living accommodations, amenities, services and programs that cater to the 55+ population and promote active senior lifestyles and opportunities.
Continuing Care Retirement Community – A CCRC is a senior living community that offers a range of care levels and services, from independent living, assisted living and rehabilitation to skilled nursing or memory care. These services are provided on a single campus, often with different buildings or neighborhoods dedicated to each care type.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR DECIDING BETWEEN CCRCS AND INDEPENDENT LIVING
As mentioned earlier, both CCRCs and independent living communities will give seniors great opportunities for active, social lifestyles. Neighbors are often around the same age and probably have similar priorities, having chosen a maintenance-free lifestyle that allows them time to pursue the activities they enjoy. Where the differences begin to emerge for these two types of communities is in the kinds of services they provide and the costs that go along with them.
Consider the following differences as you decide between a continuing care retirement community and independent living:
- Services Available – At a community that solely offers independent living, medical services are rarely offered. While this kind of community may have a health center on campus, the services offered are likely limited and unavailable 24/7. Independent living services typically include housekeeping and maintenance, programming and possibly dining if full kitchens aren’t included inside the home.
At a continuing care retirement community, residents can expect a full continuum of healthcare services. In addition to independent living options, these communities also include assisted living services or personal care support, as well as more advanced levels of care, such as memory care, skilled nursing care or rehabilitative services. For seniors who expect they may need these services down the road – or just want the peace of mind knowing they’re available if needed – a CCRC is the way to go.
- Cost – It’s hardly surprising that an increase in available services is reflected by an increase in cost. Buying into a CCRC will likely cost seniors more (at least upfront) than a standard independent living community. This is because your initial move-in fee acts as prepayment for the promise of future care needs. This number is likely to be quite high, but it covers all the care services you may use in the future. Independent living communities often have smaller (or no) move-in fees, but they also do not offer healthcare services. In a sense, buying into a continuing care retirement community is an investment in your future health.
- Tax Benefits – Because you begin paying for healthcare services ahead of time at a CCRC, a portion of those costs are eligible for significant tax benefits. On average, many seniors can deduct 30 – 40% of their CCRC move-in fee from their taxable income. This helps to make the high price of moving in a bit more manageable. Additionally, deductions can be made from monthly fees. Independent living communities do not have this benefit due to the fact that they do not provide medical services.
- Moving – The stress and hassles involved in making a major move are enough to make most of us want to stay put in our current place of residence. For many who make the move to a senior living community, they hope that is the last move they’ll need to make. CCRC’s give seniors the added benefit of remaining in one place throughout their retirement years, even if they require new or changing care services. Residents and their families have more peace of mind knowing that their needs can be met at the community they know and love. While some medical support is available through home care services, independent living communities cannot offer such a full range of care services.
- Considerations for Couples – If you’re making the move to a senior living community with a partner or spouse, your combined health needs could make a difference in your living situations. If one spouse needs a higher level of care than the other, and they currently reside in an independent living community, more major decisions will have to be made regarding whether to live in separate communities (some assisted living communities do not accommodate for healthy partners) or begin paying for at-home care services.
A major benefit of CCRCs is their ability to cater to the health needs of both partners in the same community. Often, basic personal care support can be provided by medical professionals inside the home on a CCRC campus. If not, services are available elsewhere on site. Couples do not have to worry about their future health needs separating them from the retirement lifestyle they planned together.
Choosing where to spend your retirement years – as well as where you invest in your future – is a big decision. We hope this list has helped you consider a few major differences between two popular choices for your future home. If you could use more guidance as you decide between a CCRC and independent living, don’t hesitate to contact us at 55Living.
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