Most everyone has made a purchase of some type that they later regretted. Maybe it was an impractical pair of shoes, a puppy that destroyed your living room sofa, or even a vehicle that didn’t live up to your expectations. Such buyer’s remorse can leave you kicking yourself for your impulsiveness or for making an uninformed choice.

I received an email last week that caused me to think about buyer’s remorse when it comes to making a decision about senior living. In this email, a couple in their seventies asked me if I had ever known someone to choose a CCRC and then have regrets. The wife explained that they’ve looked at rental communities that offer access to some long-term care services as well as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities) that provide a full continuum of care services to their residents.

This couple had planned to make a choice about a community and move in while they were both still healthy, but a recent visit to one of the communities on their list has them second-guessing their plan.

On this visit, they peeked inside the on-site movie theater and saw residents watching a movie at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. This couple describes themselves as active with their daily life and “not ready to spend the afternoon watching movies or doing arts and crafts or playing cards, etc.”

I’ve heard similar accounts from other people who are considering a move to a CCRC—they’ve seen something on a tour that turned them off to the concept of moving to a senior living community.  In fact, in a previous blog post, The Great CCRC Conundrum: One Reality of First Impressions, I discuss some of these exact issues.

Of course, the residents seen by the couple in the theater may have moved to that CCRC years ago, when they were younger and a little more active. On the other hand, I think about my own parents, for instance. They are in their early seventies and are as social and active as ever. Yet, they really enjoy a movie matinee from time to time—so do I for that matter—and my mom is an avid bridge player. She’s been playing bridge with different groups of friends as far back as I can remember.

Nonetheless, I can understand how situations like the one described in the email might cause one to wonder if it’s the right move to choose a CCRC.

>> Related: Are Preconceptions About Senior Living Communities Holding You Back?

If you do change your mind about a CCRC

The answer to the key question proposed from the would-be CCRC residents is, yes, I have heard of people who have moved into a retirement community and regretted it, for various reasons—and even moved out. I can say with confidence that these situations comprise only a small minority of people who choose to move to a CCRC, but it certainly has happened.

The contract terms related to refunds if a resident (or even a person on the wait list) has a change of heart will vary. Almost all CCRCs have a minimal wait list deposit, another deposit equaling 10 percent of the entry fee (often an 8 percent “Acceptance Deposit” and a 2 percent “Acceptance Fee”) when a person decides they are ready to move in, and then payment of the remainder of the entry fee when they officially take up residence. Beyond a certain number of days of occupancy (often 90 days), any applicable refund all depends on the provisions of the resident’s specific contract.

The language of a contract may read something like:

“The Residence and Services Agreement shall be signed not later than 90 days after the applicant is accepted for admission to the reserved residence. The remainder of the applicable entry fee shall be paid at the time that the Agreement is signed. The date that the agreement is signed also constitutes the Date of Financial Responsibility for subsequent monthly service fees, and for commencing the 30-day Rescission Period.”

[Note: The “Rescission Period” is the time following signing the agreement when the prospective resident has the right to terminate the contract.]

Again, as far as specific refund terms go, that will depend on your individual CCRC and the contract you have in place, but here are some common ways refunds are handled if the prospect or resident changes their mind about living in the community:

  • Cancellation from the waiting list: The deposit made to add your name to the waiting list may be refunded, often less an administrative fee.
  • Cancellation during the admission process (for a reason other than a change in health status): The waiting list deposit and other portions of the entry fee already paid, including the 8 percent “acceptance deposit” may be refundable, however the 2 percent “acceptance fee” will likely be forfeited.
  • Cancellation during the contract rescission period: The prospect may be able to get a full refund of the entry fees they have already paid, but the acceptance fee will probably be forfeited.
  • Cancellation during the trial period: Again, this will often be the first 90 days of occupancy. During this period, the new resident may be permitted to terminate their contract and receive a refund of their entry fee, minus the acceptance fee.
  • Cancellation after the rescission and trial periods: The portion of the entry fee that is refundable will typically decline at a certain percentage (often 2 percent) per month for a certain period of residency (often 50 months). Therefore, during the early months of residency you would still get most of your entry fee back if you decided it wasn’t the right move. Alternatively, most CCRCs offer refundable entry fee contracts. These contracts provide that you’ll get some portion of the entry fee back, no matter how much time has passed, if you move out, or even in the event of death. (Be sure you understand the contract stipulations for receiving the refund.)

>> Related: Explanation of Refundable Entry Fees

Preventing CCRC buyer’s remorse

It is completely understandable that when making a large investment, such as the one that accompanies the decision to move to a CCRC, you want to be certain that you are making the right choice. You want to ensure that you’ll continue to live a vibrant lifestyle and not have buyer’s remorse.

That’s why I encourage prospective residents to not only do their homework, such as using our free online community search tool to learn about various CCRCs, but to spend as much time as possible on the campuses of their top contenders. Talk to current residents to learn about their first-hand experience living there. If you already have your eyes on a particular apartment or villa, be sure to go by at different times of the day. Eat in the dining facilities (ALL of them, if there is more than one to choose from). If available, take advantage of a social membership and use the on-site amenities. The more exposure you can get to the day-to-day reality of living in the community, the better-informed your buying decision will be.

myLifeSite offers numerous tools to help you learn about CCRCs and decide if it’s the right senior living option for you. Check out our Resources section, which includes free videos, commentaries, and other research we’ve gathered on CCRCs across the country.

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