Choosing a senior living community is not as complicated as it may seem, as long as you do your homework and make a plan. This process can also be surprisingly fun as it’s all about making decisions that suit your desires and your needs. This guide provides you with essential terminology and explains the various retirement living options available today. We’ll also help you determine where to start and the steps that will help you find a home that suits all your needs.
Retirement Living Options: The Big Picture
When considering your retirement living options, there are three overarching choices:
- Aging In Place (staying in your own home)
- Single Service Rental Retirement Communities (also called “free-standing” communities)
- Comprehensive, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (also called “blended” communities or Life Plan Communities)
Aging In Place: Know The Risks
Aging in place is defined as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The keyword in this definition, and the word that hides the complexities of aging in place is “ability.”
Aging in one’s own home provides seniors with many benefits, particularly the comfort of what’s familiar. A neighborhood support system, nearby friends and family, and established routines all help us feel safe in our home. Emotional ties to one’s home and the wealth of memories made there can make the thought of moving quite frightening.
But, as needs change, there are some clear disadvantages to staying in one’s home. Here are some of the most common risks to be aware of:
- The burden of homeownership: As we age, the physical challenges of cooking, housekeeping, and frequent maintenance projects can become overwhelming. Bringing in outside help can provide relief, but the costs can be daunting, particularly if maintenance projects have been delayed or overlooked.
- Isolation and loneliness: Many seniors lose the ability to drive as they age, requiring them to rely on others. Not wanting to be a burden creates a greater likelihood of isolation which can lead to loneliness.
- Slips and falls: Falls are one of the major causes of injuries among seniors. Slips and falls occur because of poor bone health, low metabolism, and decreased brain health. The greatest danger when a fall occurs is the inability of a senior to get immediate help, or even reach a phone if they live alone.
- Lack of skilled care: Being a family caregiver is often an involuntary role that adult children take on out of necessity. But it is not an ideal solution. Hiring professional caregivers to come into the home on a regular basis can alleviate much of this burden, but the costs add up quickly.
Single Service Rental Communities: Pay for What You Need
Single service retirement communities offer monthly rental options. These communities fill a need for seniors that want short-term, relatively affordable retirement housing.
The biggest downside of single-service retirement communities is that if your health needs exceed what is provided, you’ll need to find a different community that can meet those needs. Finding your next single service retirement community can be challenging if desired communities are full or have a long waiting list. The impact of moving several times is tiring and costly. Learn more about the different types of rental communities and the associated costs below:
- Rental independent living communities do not provide nursing or medical care, therefore they are not regulated or licensed by the state in which they operate. Monthly rental fees are 100% private pay or “out-of-pocket.” As rental ILCs do not offer assistance with daily activities or healthcare, it can often be a short-term move for many seniors.
- Rental assisted living communities provide assistance with “Activities of Daily Living” (ADLs) which include bathing, dressing, and grooming. ALCs charge a one-time entrance fee or community fee. The monthly fee is higher than in independent living communities because ALCs are staffed with licensed caregivers who provide medication and low to moderate levels of health care. ALCs are state-licensed and are inspected regularly.
- Rental memory care communities are dedicated to providing a secure, physically safe, and emotionally and socially supportive environment to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. MCCs provide very low resident-to-caregiver ratios, which makes their monthly cost higher than in Assisted Living.
- Skilled nursing communities provide short and long-term rehabilitation and medical care. The overarching commitment of SNCs is to help residents return to home or to their retirement community. Most, SNCs accept Medicaid payment. Even if residents pay out-of-pocket or with long-term care insurance, due to the high cost, some may eventually “spend down” their assets while living in skilled nursing. Therefore, it’s important to know if the SNC you chose will accept Medicaid.
Life Plan Retirement Communities: All You Need And Want, In One Place
Life Plan retirement communities (also called CCRCs, or continuing care retirement communities) are comprehensive, full-service, lifestyle-oriented retirement communities. They are dedicated to providing residents with security and choice by offering a continuum of care and a commitment to active living and wellness.
What is a Continuum of Care?
A continuum of care simply means that all levels of health care one could need are offered by one community. By providing a continuum of care, seniors have the assurance of knowing that their health care needs will be met no matter how their needs change as the years go on.
While most residents move into a Life Plan Community at the independent living level, they have priority access to higher levels of care – in-home assistance, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, or rehabilitation care – in the future, should they need them.
How Do Life Plan Communities Offer Financial Security?
Another reason that Life Plan Communities have become synonymous with security is that many strive to provide a home and assistance for residents even if the senior is unable to meet their financial commitment to the community. In reality, the chances of a resident requiring financial assistance from a Life Plan community or a CCRC are relatively low, because most require financial qualification before moving in.
Many people fund the entrance fee with the sale of their existing homes. Furthermore, many Life Plan communities offer a partial or fully refundable entry fee, meaning it can be returned to you or your estate. Read more about the specifics in our blog post, Understanding the Cost of Senior Living.
Location: Choosing WHERE You Want to Live
When evaluating retirement options, one of the most important considerations is location. While some seniors choose to stay in their home state or city, many decide to move to a destination retirement community. With its mild climate, accessible location, and dynamic sports, cultural, and dining scenes, Charlotte, NC easily sits at the top of lists of best places to consider for your retirement.
Boasting a rich history and a thriving economy, Charlotte is the cultural, economic, and transportation center of the surrounding metro area. Top universities, banks, and medical centers combined with a lower than average cost of living, and reasonable housing and real estate prices make Charlotte hard to beat and a good investment.
A mild climate, four distinct seasons, and the gently rolling hills of central North Carolina are undoubtedly some of the reasons that Charlotte boasts six Life Plan or Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the metro area, including Generations at Shalom Park.
If your retirement plans include watching sports, you might be surprised to know that Charlotte is home to nine professional and semi-professional sports teams, including the NFL’s Charlotte Panthers, and the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. And if you love NASCAR, well then you will truly be at home in Charlotte!
If you prefer to do the sporting yourself, Charlotte is blessed with an ever-expanding unique web of parks and green spaces. Over 30 miles of greenways have been developed over the past several years, and almost 150 miles are still being planned. The greenway system is quickly becoming the country’s finest and proudly welcomes people of all ages to walk, run, bike, hike, and more.
For those whose ideal retirement experience includes dining out as often as possible, Charlotte’s reputation as a gourmet destination will make their mouths water. Charlotte is home to the famed Johnson & Wales University, known for its award-winning culinary programs. Students and graduates from the university are often employed by local restaurants, making Queen City’s cuisine hard to beat.
Staying Healthy: What Does Wellness Really Mean?
For many people, retirement opens up time and opportunities to get moving, keep moving, or try new ways to get fit and have fun. But staying healthy isn’t just about eating well and getting exercise. Life Plan communities are dedicated to incorporating the seven key dimensions of wellness into all aspects of the community.
Because comprehensive wellness is a driving force in Life Plan communities when you visit them online and in-person you will notice that every one of the dimensions of wellness is incorporated into the community’s design, management, and operations.
From extensive fitness centers with one-on-one guidance to continuing education classes taught by local educators, to multiple dining options and beautifully landscaped campuses that welcome walking and exploring, Life Plan communities truly offer a cornucopia of life-enhancing pursuits.
Planning Your Move: It’s More Than Just Downsizing
Making a smooth transition into senior living requires patience and planning. If you have chosen your retirement home or are still narrowing down your choices, here are some tips on making the move as easy as possible.
- Be gentle with yourself. The transition from a home you’ve known for many years to a new senior living community can be emotionally challenging. It’s important to remember that all feelings are perfectly normal. One of the best ways to process these feelings is to talk them over with those you love and trust. Sharing your fears and concerns will go a long way to reducing worry and apprehension.
- Take another tour. Visiting your chosen retirement community once or twice may very well not be enough for most people. Taking another tour will allow you to meet other residents, and become more familiar with the layout of the community.
- Attend activities and events. One aspect of senior living that many new residents look forward to is enjoying a whole new array of activities and special events. It’s never too late in life to discover something you love.
- Plan for visitors. There is no doubt that you will be meeting new friends and neighbors quickly. But it’s important to have some familiar faces join you for lunch or dinner within your first week. Set up a few dates before you move in.
- Make a plan for downsizing. Let’s face it – no one likes to move. But planning ahead with plenty of time can help you get through downsizing and moving with ease.
To learn more about the unmatched offerings at Generations at Shalom Park, visit us online at https://generationsatshalompark.com/. Generations is affiliated with Aldersgate Life Plan Services, a renowned senior living provider in the Charlotte region.
Set to open in 2024, Generations at Shalom Park will be a culturally Jewish Life Plan Community that inspires, comforts, and rejuvenates while embracing and honoring residents of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages. Call 704-532-5400 today to learn more about us, and about becoming a Charter Member.