Retirement communities are not all created equal, yet one characteristic that they have in common is a minimum age requirement; typically age fifty-five or sixty-two. Although discrimination in housing is prohibited in the United States, there is an exception for age, as provided in the Housing for Older Person’s Act of 1995.

Popular types of retirement communities include, but are not limited to, Active Adult Living, Independent Living / Independent Plus, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), sometimes referred to as Full-Service Retirement Communities.

When researching and comparing options one of the most important things to consider is which phase(s) along the continuum of care the community serves. The continuum of care begins with independent living and progresses to assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing care. Some communities, such as active adult communities, allow for homeownership and cater only to those who live independent and often active lives. Assisted living and health care services are not available in Active Adult Living communities, other than what the resident personally coordinates with outside providers.

Independent living communities are rental-based and serve those who are either fully or mostly independent. Outside contractors are brought in by the community to provide limited, part-time assisted living services to residents when required.

Contrary to popular belief assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities (“nursing homes”) are not considered retirement communities. Although they mostly serve an older population these facilities generally do not have an age restriction. Residents of such facilities are not able to live independently and all care services are provided directly by the community.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs, are the only type of retirement community whereby services span the entire continuum of care. Residents of CCRCs must be able to live independently upon entry into the community, but assisted living and skilled nursing services are contractually guaranteed to be provided if and when requires. Payment plans among CCRCs can vary drastically from one community to another and many require an entry-fee.

If you or a loved one is contemplating a retirement community it is important to first identify which services you would like to have available as it pertains to assisted living or healthcare needs that may eventually be required. Also be sure fully you understand the payment plan and the potential cost of available care services.

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