With nearly 2,000 communities across the country, there’s one to suit every budget and lifestyle.


Though there are almost 16,000 traditional nursing homes in the U.S., an increasing number of retirees are choosing to age in place within continuing care communities. A recent New York Times article looked at why these places are attracting so many seniors (“The Everything-in-One Promise of a Continuing Care Community,” February 2016).


Often located in warmer, retiree-friendly parts of the country, continuing care communities provide apartments or cottages for seniors who in many cases would like to age at home but don’t want to become a burden to family in later life. Typically, residents trade homeownership for the security of lifelong healthcare and other services. The social benefits of living alongside like-minded seniors are also a big draw for healthy, engaged retirees.


If you or your parents want to enjoy your final years more fully, a continuing care community could be the perfect solution. Before ordering those glossy brochures, consider these key points:


  • Very few contracts involve the actual purchase of a housing unit; residents are usually buying the lifetime right to live in the community and to benefit from the services and care offered.
  • If you prefer to avoid that initial lump sum, look for facilities offering the “fee for service” model. A rental deposit is often required.
  • 80 percent are operated by nonprofit groups; most communities provide some kind of “benevolence care” for residents that run out of money.
  • Look beyond the attractive brochures and do your homework. Seek answers to important questions, such as the grace period for getting a full refund. Request information about cost increases and financial records dating back at least five years. Get your financial advisor or lawyer to advise you, if necessary.
  • Visit facilities; ask residents and staff about the food and level of care provided. Get a feel for the place. Is it well maintained? Can you imagine living there?

Don’t just rely on anecdotal information; there are online resources to help guide your decision, such as CARF International, an organization that accredits providers.