Communities designed with the future in mind -- -- OrlandoSentinel.comCommunities designed with the future in mind
Continuing care retirement communities have all the usual features, plus the amenities seniors may need as they age.
Howard Gleckman | Kiplinger Personal Finance
May 11, 2008
When lawyer Harry Weil retired in January 2000, he and his wife, Nancy, decided to settle in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to be near her sister. Before selling their Pittsburgh home, they visited Maryland to look at the site of a future retirement community.
Based on the developer's plans, they reserved an apartment at what was to become Riderwood Village. In September of that year, they moved in.
But Riderwood is not a typical retirement community, though it has all of the amenities you would usually find at one, such as a fitness center, a pool and activities. Instead, this high-end campus with nearly 2,000 housing units is a continuing care retirement community, or CCRC. In addition to independent-living units, Riderwood, like most CCRCs, provides its residents with ready access to on-site assisted living and nursing care, should they ever need it.
Harry, now 73, and Nancy, 70, paid a large upfront entry fee, with the promise that the money would be returned after they died. "I liked the idea of making a significant deposit that I would get back and pass on to my children," Harry says.
Riderwood is part of a growing trend in retirement housing. Also known as life-care communities, CCRCs are rising in popularity, especially in wealthier parts of the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, the number of such developments has increased to 4,200 in 2004, up from 2,200 in 1998.
Choosing a CCRC is not simple, however. There are financial, legal and medical issues to consider. "In theory, CCRCs are a great solution," says Nancy Fiedelman, president of the Aynsley Group, a McLean, Va., geriatric-care consulting firm. But, she adds, "People must take the time and energy to really understand what the community is."
At most CCRCs, you pay an entrance fee, which is partially or fully refundable to you or your estate when you move or die. In addition, you'll pay a monthly fee for independent living. Some communities offer a life-care contract, where your basic fees are higher, but you won't be charged more if you move into an assisted-living or nursing unit. Most, however, add big charges for that extra care.
At Riderwood, for example, the entrance deposit for a deluxe corner, two-bedroom unit with a sunroom is $446,000, with a monthly fee of $1,897 (plus another $594 a month for an extra person). Housekeeping services cost $27 an hour. If you need nursing-home care, you'll pay $247 a day.
Nursing and assisted-living fees charged by a CCRC are usually comparable to prices you would pay at a free-standing facility. So what do you get for the entrance fee? Support and the peace of mind that you'll get care as you become more frail. Many developments conduct routine social service or medical assessments as you age. Some have doctors on staff. You can also stay close to a spouse who needs nursing care.
Many CCRCs are operated by churches or other nonprofits, while some are run by for-profit companies. Riderwood, in Silver Spring, Md., was developed by Erickson Retirement Communities, a firm that runs 18 CCRCs in 10 states.
If you like the CCRC concept, you'll need to plan well in advance. Waiting lists of three to five years are not unusual. Once you settle on a location or two, you can find CCRCs by checking with the local Area Agency on Aging.
A nonprofit organization called the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (www.carf.org) certifies a few hundred communities, but accreditation is voluntary. Many nonprofit CCRCs are members of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (aahsa.org).