Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

The graying of America has been, and continues to be, one of the most significant demographic trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. In the last two decades alone, the 65-plus population grew twice as fast as the rest of the population. Currently, one-third of the total U.S. population is under 21, one-third is in the work force, and one-third is over the age of 65. Every day of the year, 5,000 people in this country celebrate their 65th birthday! By the year 2050, one of three people living in the U.S. is expected to be over 55 years of age, and one out of four will be over 65. Nowhere is that trend more evident than in Pittsburgh!

Increasingly, senior housing and health care providers are becoming more aware of these trends and, coupled with the changes in public health care policies, are beginning to see a profound impact on their traditional delivery systems. As such, many providers are strategically expanding their continuum of senior housing and services to better position themselves for the future, and to meet the needs of an ever-growing senior population.

One such retirement option that's gaining prominence is the Continuing Care Retirement Community or CCRC. A CCRC is part housing complex, part activity center and part health care system. The theory goes that if you've seen one CCRC, then you've seen only "one" CCRC! Each individual community evolves its own operating structure and overall community personality to meet the needs of its residents.

What differentiates a CCRC from other forms of retirement options is that a CCRC is a continuum of housing, support services and health care that's centrally planned, located and administered. It provides "life care," if you will. It incorporates the full range of housing alternatives from independent housing, to assisted living, to skilled nursing care - all available on a single coordinated campus. The emphasis is placed upon the quality of services offered and the quality of life for each individual resident, generally, for the rest of one's lifetime.

Traditionally, not-for-profits have dominated the CCRC industry, accounting for almost 90 percent of the communities that have been built. Most early "homes for the aged" operated as charities and received donations of funds, food and clothing. In some cases, residents had the financial resources to pay for care. These early communities often called themselves "life care" communities, and while some CCRCs still use the same term today, "life care" now generally indicates that the community provides a significant amount of health care for the entry and monthly fees paid - something most residents want and need.

According to Joseph Howell, noted Washington, D.C.-based housing and health care consultant, "CCRCs have and will continue to be the o But older persons choose to move to a life care community for two very different reasons: the total package of benefits and services offered, and the security and peace of mind that such a community can provide for the rest of an individual's lifetime.

Residents most often move into such a community when they're healthy and still very independent and active in their community. CCRCs not only permit this independence, but encourage residents to continue developing the talents and interests that have personified their lives.

By promoting independence and a healthy lifestyle, and offering residents relief from the burden of day-to-day chores, a CCRC can also provide a predicable way to obtain and pay for future needs, especially one's health care needs. For many, it represents the best of both worlds - "life care" in the truest sense. The lifestyle in a well-conceived, well-run CCRC can bring a peace of mind that allows residents to thoroughly enjoy their retirement years in the most positive and productive manner!

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