Where do you want to live after you’ve reached your retirement age? We make plans when we’re young of what we’ll do, where we’ll live, or who will be there with us. How many people plan for after that time? Where is the best place to live during retirement and how do I find retirement communities near me?
There are so many housing choices for seniors that it can be confusing. Retirement communities are often called by several different names: Age-Restricted retirement communities, Active adult retirement communities, Independent living retirement communities, Assisted Living retirement communities, Continuing care retirement communities. These are all different types of retirement communities and it’s important to know the differences between them to pick the retirement living option that’s best for you.
The term retirement community covers a wide array of senior housing options. They are almost always an age-restricted community. Age-restricted communities are available as 55 Plus Communities or 62 Plus Communities. The Housing for Older Persons Act allows the designation of these age-restricted communities, provided they abide by guidelines and exceptions.
55 Plus Communities have guidelines that stipulate at least one member of the household is at least 55 years of age. There is an exception for the community that at least 80% of the residents are a minimum of 55 years of age. This allows some flexibility for 55 Plus Communities for new residents.
62 Plus Communities are more stringent about age and there are no exceptions allowed. All residents are required to be at least 62 years of age.
Minors less than 18 years are restricted from being a permanent resident in either of these age-restricted retirement communities.
Aside from the age restriction for residency, retirement communities are physically like regular neighborhoods. They might be made up of stand-alone homes, condos, mobile homes, or buildings containing senior apartments.
Homes within a retirement community were built with the aging senior in mind. Homes are designed to be maintenance free to avoid time consuming and burdensome work doing repairs. No more requirement to mow the lawn, shovel snow, or clean out the gutters.
The retirement community is designed to meet a senior’s needs. It can be costly to retrofit an existing home if mobility decreases. Doorways and aisleways are built to be wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers, even if these are not currently needed. Some units might be customized for wheelchair users, such as lower countertops as well as low sinks and toilets.
Retirement communities are normally gated or somehow restrict access. Many professionals believe senior citizens are easy prey to scams and theft. The first step in physical and financial protection of our senior population is to restrict access of solicitation.
Retirement communities usually have a central club house which acts as a hub for the community by housing the fitness center, central meeting area, and maybe a central dining area providing food service. The services provided will depend on the community.
Many retirement communities have a list of luxury amenities that rival that of a 5-star resort. These include state-of-the-art fitness center, swimming pool, walking path, and personal enrichment activities. Golf courses and tennis courts are frequently available at higher-end retirement communities.
Types of Retirement Communities
Senior housing can be confusing with the choices that are available. To find the best retirement communities for you, there are several types of retirement communities that you should know about:
Active Adult Communities offer the maintenance free lifestyle that many active seniors desire. Residents are still mobile and active enough that they want to use their free time to pursue their interests and hobbies, or continue working.
Active adult communities are a great first step for aging adults who are doing an initial downsize. Residents are often excited to be rid of the chores required to maintain the large family home. Some active adult communities are more flexible about the age-restriction of 55 years because it’s very common that younger residents intend to make this their long-term home for retirement.
Buying into an active adult community has become a trend as a second home option. An active adult retirement community can provide a vacation destination due to its resort-like feel.
Independent living communities and active adult communities are often referred to each other interchangeably due to their similarities, but there is a slight difference.
Independent living communities are true retirement communities aimed at seniors and will be age-restricted to either 55 plus or 62 plus. Their main benefit is to be centered around providing a maintenance free lifestyle for seniors.
Independent living retirement communities are primarily designed for active seniors, but they might also provide additional services if desired. These might include meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. They might not be designed to efficiently supply round the clock or daily assistance of dressing, grooming, or bathing.
An aging senior is more likely to have access to needed daily assistive services in an independent living retirement community than in an active adult retirement community.
Assisted living retirement communities focus on providing daily assistance to residents. These services usually include providing meals, laundry, cleaning, dressing, grooming and more. These services might be available at some level at an independent living retirement community, but providing these daily assistive services is the primary purpose of an assisted living retirement community. When needed daily living assistance, it will be best to look for assisted living communities nearby so that you get all of the services you need on a daily basis.
Because some daily assistance might be medical in nature, some services might be billable through Medicare. Accepting Medicare automatically requires a retirement community to meet federal guidelines and regulations.
Assisted living retirement communities are required to have caregivers on site 24 hours per day.
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) are growing in popularity. This is a hybrid retirement community combining the different types of senior living lifestyles into one retirement community. Before looking for a continuing care retirement community near you, you should know what these communities are and what to expect.
These retirement communities are designed to meeting the needs of the senior citizen and providing a maintenance-free lifestyle. The primary benefit is that seniors can age in place. Most seniors want to stay in their homes as they age. By moving to a continuing care retirement community, residents are not required to move if their health begins to decline. Residents can request additional daily services while staying in their current home.
The initial level of service in these retirement communities would be like an independent living retirement community. Residents are likely to be mobile and active and want to take advantage of their free-time.
Usually, health gradually begins to decline in our senior years and eventually, seniors might require more daily assistance. Rather than relocating to an assisted living community, a nursing home nearby, or other types of dedicated senior homes near you, a resident of a continuing care retirement community can add common assisted living services, such as daily help with eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, and mobility help, all without moving from their home.
The rehabilitation services of a continuing care retirement community can also be beneficial if a resident experiences a short-term need similar to what they would get a convalescent home, like for a treatable illness or short-term injury.
Though continuing care retirement communities are governed by state-level laws, they strive to be recognized as a senior housing solution. Many seek accreditation by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA, now known as LeadingAge). This independent agency has established standards for comparing continuing care retirement communities based on financial stability and quality of life of the residents. Consequently, LeadingAge has created a database of participating retirement communities for use as a directory.
Retirement communities provide a lot of value for a senior, but that value does have a monthly cost.
Retirement communities are priced based on location, just like any real estate, and type of structure, such as home or apartment, as well as based on amenities provided, and additional services that are available.
Retirement communities can start as low as $1,500 per month and can extend to $10,000 per month at all-inclusive, luxury retirement communities. However, the average independent living retirement community costs around $2,000 per month.
Retirement communities tend to be higher priced in the northeast, above $3,400 per month, while the least expensive states are below $1,900 per month: Minnesota, South Dakota, Utah, Illinois, and Mississippi.
These per month costs do not include a possible one-time entrance fee to become a resident of the retirement community. These might start at $40,000 for an average retirement community or go as high as $1M or more for a luxury retirement community. This will depend on the location and available services.
Continuing care retirement communities are not included in the average retirement pricing calculations. They provide a long-term solution and value proposition to residents that can’t be equally compared to regular retirement communities. Continuing care retirement communities range from $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
Entrance fees are also higher for Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC). These special retirement communities allow residents to adapt their services as they age in place so there is more justification for a higher upfront fee. An entrance fee for a continuing care retirement community can start at $100,000 and top $1 million dollars. This upfront fee is often able to be partially refunded to the resident or family if the resident ceases to live within the retirement community.
The average American mortgage payment is just under $1,100 per month. Any type of retirement community housing will be an increase to expenses and will require a rethinking of the budget, especially if any typed of assisted living services are needed in the community that you will reside in, considering the higher assisted living costs.
Medicare pays for medical expenses, but it does not pay for room and board which are housing expenses. Assisted living and nursing homes itemize their charges for medical services for Medicare billing. Active adult or independent living retirement communities are unlikely to provide services paid by Medicare.
Many seniors find that the first logical step in the process of moving to a retirement community is to downsize from their family home. This home is often 2,600 sq. ft or more. This large amount of space worked well when kids were running around the house, but empty nest couples often find that the unused space is wasted.
The family home is often free of a mortgage or very close to $0 balance on a mortgage. The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 allows US home owners to sell a primary residence free of capital gains up to $250,000 for a single taxpayer or $500,000 for married couples. This is an example of using your home as an investment and many seniors use their family home to fund their move to a retirement community.
Aside from using the family home equity, the primary method of paying for a retirement community is personal savings. Seniors and families must plan for retirement and the costs that comes with it. Some people joke that they plan on working forever. Plans have a way of changing, whether we want them to or not. You might not have control over your circumstances in the future.
Retirement planning can’t be stressed enough, even as early as in your 20s. Retirement is a great milestone in our lives, but it also marks a time where we reap what we have sown. A well-executed plan could mean the difference between an average retirement community and a luxury retirement community.
Plan young. Consider what you currently need and what you think you’ll need in the future. Are there illnesses or ailments in the family that could become evident later in life that you should plan for? Develop a plan to meet your needs and then execute the plan so you can enjoy your retirement to the fullest.
Retirement communities are designed for the senior citizen. Their purpose is to meet the current needs of their residents.
Retirement communities provide a maintenance-free lifestyle, which is a very popular benefit amongst seniors. No longer having to mow, shovel snow, or worry about a broken hot water heater can remove quite a bit of stress from a resident.
Retirement communities are neighborhoods of peers. These neighbors are within your age group. They are probably going through similar life events. Knowing this can give a senior confidence in facing changes when they know they are not alone in facing a problem.
Many professionals worry about cognitive decline in seniors. Cognitive or mental decline starts years earlier, but often doesn’t become evident until senior years when daily work or family routines become less regimented. Personal enrichment programs offered by quality retirement communities are aimed at stimulating the brain and slowing this decline.
It’s easy for seniors to become isolated and socially withdrawn, especially if they have limited mobility or unable to drive. Retirement communities can avoid isolation by providing social activities for residents. There is little effort required in attending a social activity within a retirement community.
Most retirement communities, regardless of the type, aim at providing comfort and peace of mind to residents and their families. Retirement communities are available in a variety of types and offer a variety of solutions to meet every senior’s needs. You can make better decisions when you are aware of these different types of retirement communities.