By Steve Doster
Over the years, it seems that more and more people have opted to move out of their homes and into a retirement community. There is an outdated stereotype that retirement communities are meant for the old and sick. Today, retirement communities are full of independent, healthy and active retirees.
A retirement community is for people who want to enjoy their retirement without the added burden of doing household chores, paying property taxes, and sometimes even cooking, all while celebrating their newfound freedom to engage in activities of their choice.
A retirement community typically offers several levels of care: independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care.
Independent living includes apartments, cottages or villas with full or half kitchens. A person in independent living is usually one who needs little or no assistance with their day-to-day living activities. Residents can cook, drive, and often bring their own cars onsite. They can participate in the full social and activities calendar offered by the community, and they also have access to a home maintenance service which includes housekeeping, home repairs, and landscaping. Residents in independent living have an active life and continue to live that life inside and outside the community.
Assisted living is meant for people who do not necessarily require ongoing medical assistance but require assistance with activities of daily living. These activities can include bathing, grooming, dressing, or medication management. Several retirement communities offer assisted living help inside the comfort of your own onsite residence, while some communities require residents to move into a private or shared room. Residents can enjoy their meals in several onsite restaurants, participate in community social activities, and continue to live their life to the fullest knowing that their day-to-day needs are being cared for.
Skilled nursing includes 24-hour nursing care and emergency response systems by qualified nurses. In order to have access to nursing care, one must move into a private or semi-private room in the onsite nursing facility. Individuals receive around-the-clock care in addition to help with activities of daily living, medication management, and hospice care if required. Physical, occupational and speech therapy may also be provided. Several places also offer short-term rehabilitation services to recoup after a surgery.
Memory care provides a safe and home-like environment for a person with dementia, Alzheimer’s or any other memory impairing condition. Most communities offer a secure residence where individuals can live in their own apartment with around-the-clock care. They have access to meals in a family kitchen and other activities through a customized care plan meant to preserve their independence.
A retirement community can have anywhere from one to all four levels of care. A facility with all four levels of care is called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). This progressive model is ideal for someone who moves in and expects to live there for the rest of their life. A CCRC typically expects a client to start at the independent living level and then move into upper levels of care as needed. The communities have strict health qualification standards and may in certain cases not accept a client based on pre-existing conditions. Because they are all-encompassing, these facilities can often be very expensive.
Other communities may offer one or two of these levels of care and are open to taking an individual at any level of health. However, this will require a client to move into a separate community if additional levels of care are required. Although they will often receive assistance to select a new community, the onus ultimately lies on family members or friends to decide.
There are several reasons people move into a retirement community, from health to financial to social. For some, they may want to offload the housekeeping and maintenance to someone else, while maintaining their independence. Residents may like having the option to cook in a kitchen but would prefer to eat freshly prepared meals in a restaurant. Others may not be able to make their monthly mortgage payments and pay the ever-increasing property taxes each year. Throw in HOA fees and living at your home could actually be more expensive than a retirement community. For some, paying a once-per-month, all-inclusive rental fee may be advantageous.
Contact our firm if you would like our complimentary retirement community guide outlining the costs and payment plans of several retirement communities in San Diego. We created this report to help clients and families save time understanding the complexities of making an important decision like this.
Take the time to learn about the latest innovations at retirement communities. They are thriving communities for seniors at all stages of health (just like any other population). Moving to a retirement community can eliminate the feeling of isolation in your home by providing a social circle and a feeling of bonding, all while keeping your independence intact.
—Steve Doster, CFP is the financial planning manager at Rowling & Associates – a fee-only wealth management firm in Mission Valley helping individuals create a worry-free financial life. Rowling & Associates helps people with their taxes, investments, and retirement planning. Read more articles at rowling.com/blog.