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Exploring Different Types of Retirement Communities

by Deniz Ellard

With many options available, choosing the best retirement communities depends on your needs and budget. Start by considering the type of care you’ll receive and evaluating your future healthcare needs.

Age-restricted communities may be called retirement homes, senior apartments, or congregate care housing. They include homes, condos, and townhomes that are rented or bought on a lifetime basis.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) like Westminster St. Augustine offer a full continuum of senior living and healthcare in a single, integrated location. Often called “life plan communities,” CCRCs typically include independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care in a single community.

Seniors who choose a CCRC move in while they’re still healthy and able to live independently. They enter into a contract with the CCRC that guarantees them housing and medical care throughout their lifetime. Seniors can access housekeeping, meals, and social activities in exchange for this upfront fee.

CCRCs can be expensive, and many require residents to pay monthly fees that can increase annually due to inflation. Considering the cost and the commitment, seniors must research before moving into one of these communities. Seniors should also ensure the CCRC they’re considering has a reputation for financial stability and sustainability. If not, there could be a risk that they might lose some or all of their entrance fee.

Independent Living Communities

Independent living communities, sometimes called retirement homes or 55+ or 62+ housing, offer apartment-style living in buildings designed with seniors in mind. They also provide access to various onsite amenities and services, such as recreation programs, transportation services, and meals served in communal dining rooms.

Depending on the community, these services may be included in the monthly rent or offered for an additional fee. Also, some independent living communities have a full-time staff member who plans and leads activities for residents.

When choosing an independent living community, visit it and talk with current residents about the experience. If you or your loved one has mobility limitations, check whether the buildings and common areas are accessible for wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment. Also, look for laundry facilities and if the community has a theater or games room. And, if meal plans are part of the offering, consider the quality of the food and what other options, like a restaurant, are available.

Senior Apartments

Senior apartments are designed specifically for adults over 50 and are often much cheaper than regular market-rate apartments. Some communities also offer a range of amenities for seniors, and HUD may even subsidize some for low-income seniors.

Senior apartment living can be an excellent option for seniors looking to leave maintenance issues behind and enjoy a community lifestyle without worrying about yard work or home repairs. Many communities feature gated entrances and security systems to help keep residents safe.

If you’re considering moving into a senior apartment, ask about other community services, which can be important for future transitions or care needs. For example, some communities also offer assisted living, memory care, or hospice care to help you stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. This is also an excellent time to consider whether you’ll be able to afford the monthly cost of your new apartment and your income.

Senior Housing

As the retirement community industry has evolved, new options for senior housing have emerged. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) combine independent living, assisted living, and nursing home facilities on one campus. This allows seniors to remain in the same facility as their care needs change. Seniors who choose a CCRC typically pay an upfront and monthly service fee.

Other seniors may prefer senior apartments that offer housekeeping and meal preparation services, transportation to shopping and activities, and access to onsite beauty or barber shops. They also tend to be closer to doctors’ offices and medical care.

Some seniors may prefer the privacy of senior cohousing, which combines the freedom of homeownership with the sense of belonging to a neighborhood. These communities are typically centered on pools, ponds, gardens, or parks and are populated by neighbors of similar ages. In addition, many are pet-friendly. Some are intergenerational, allowing younger people to live with their parents or grandparents.

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