Retirement Housing: Choices for Later in Life

Written by: John Milford. Posted: July 22, 2013. 


When it comes to retirement housing types, there are many choices. Here is an overview.

As with most consumer items, 'it pays to shop'. Safety, affordability, and sustainability are the keys to making the right choice.


Living at home

1. Houses can be modified with ramps for better access, reachable cabinets, enhanced lighting and other elements of universal design which are appearing today. In addition, a home can be made more affordable by arranging to share with one or more other independent seniors who share the cost of living with a homeowner. When indicated, help at home can be arranged for safety and support. Increasingly it is being realized that the apt application of technology to this end is more sustainable than labor due to the ever increasing need as the first of seventy million ‘Boomers’ are starting to join the 65+ club.


The Village

2. The Village movement is a non-profit network of elders over 60 who are realistic about the transitions that come with getting older and are committed to remaining in their homes and neighborhoods and helping each other when there’s a need. The Village arranges for volunteer or vendor services, and ongoing connection to friends in the neighborhood. Long Term care insurance can help pay for help at home or nursing care. Over ten years ago, neighbors in Boston’s Beacon Hillneighborhood met together to discuss aging in place. Realizing that, in general, the indigent would be taken care of by government subsidy and that the wealthy can provide for themselves, they were concerned about their middle class futures. Hence, they formed the prototype of what is now over 95 villages with 120 more in formation.


Senior Cohousing

3. Senior CoHousing is increasing in popularity due to equity conservation and integrated design elements to make the living environment more accessible and convenient for seniors. In addition, certain communal design features from assisted living such as meal preparation and dining space and activities space are included.


Active Adult Community

4. Active Adult Community (over 55) typically offers upscale housing, often with hotel services and amenities, but can be deceptively attractive.  When you come to needing medical and wellness services, be sure to have the resources (cash or long term care insurance) in store to afford your own health care providers when you need them.


Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

5. CCRCs are diverse in their offerings, contract types, and personality but they typically include apartments or cottages for independent living, assisted living services, and a dedicated facility for skilled nursing care, all on one campus.  They may or may not include specialized services for dementia care, although the increasing need for memory support care makes this a popular option. Social and recreational activities, options for dining, health and wellness programs, transportation, housekeeping, maintenance, and security services are provided by trained and credentialed staff whose personal dedication is most frequently cited as a reason for resident satisfaction.  Residents are able to remain in the CCRC as their care needs change, and Life Care CCRCs charge nothing additional for higher levels of care.  They can receive differing levels of staff support and move through the continuum of care: from independent living, to assisted living, to skilled nursing, as needed.  Remaining in their community allows the resident to be cared for in an environment they know and trust; it allows for continuity in relationships with friends and neighborhoods, and can help preserve the closeness of husband and wife who may be at different care levels.

Continuing care - with multiple levels of care - is a business model backed up by statutes and regulations which require that a person needing a greater degree of care relocate to the licensed section of the building equipped to provide that care. Some health conditions are prohibited in independent living and sometimes in assisted living, necessitating a move to a nursing center within the project. There is no magic. With the assurance of care comes the intrusion of regulation.


Learn More

The author has written a longer article on the topic of Retirement Living Options, which comes complete with detailed tables comparing both features and costs of different retirement housing alternatives.







Reader Comments: "Retirement Housing: Choices for Later in Life"


from pete (member) at September 23, 2021

Five years ago, when I started research on staying in our large home vs. a retirement community, I lost my appetite quickly about my wife & I staying in our home. I lost interest because:

1. I found local programs to take us to doctors & get nursing help at home as needed, but none of them would take care of our property (plumber, A/C & heat, painter, roofer, landscaping, trash pick up, grocery delivery, pest control, etc.). If I was not capable of finding good help to maintain our property, who would help my wife?

2. Our home was not handicap compliant and it was going to take a lot of money to make it good for the long haul - stair lift, ramps, grab bars, pull cords, etc.

3. My wife & I were getting essentially isolated in the neighborhood. We were not out & about as usual & our younger neighbors were all at work or taking their children somewhere. We had no local community to keep us active. All the neighbors were much younger than us.

4. To get proper exercise we needed expensive trainers to come to our house to privately train us on our exercise equipment at home. Not fun like a group.

Since staying at home made no sense for us, my next research was on retirement communities. I found two kinds. 

One was very much like a rental program. No money down just move in and rent. The rent covered some food, all utilities, unit maintenance, etc. When it was time for a nursing home, we would move out to any nursing home we could find (not easy or fun). So we would have community, exercise, independent living care (like Senior Helpers and others) but there was a strong possibility of another move for one or both of us. If my wife needed the nursing home, how could I visit her every day and pay for the rental plus her nursing home? We both only wanted one more move and then no more. We wanted to have full care at the retirement community we chose and none of the rental places had full care. Some had a form of assisted living but not full spectrum care. Having the nursing home in the community is a big deal - state inspections, doctors, 24 hour care, etc. If one of us needed a nursing home, all we wanted to do was walk down the hall to have it in easy reach. Did not exist here.

The second retirement community option was to put down a big chunk of money (called a transfer fee) and then medically qualify to get into the place. We did that. In our community, after we both vacate our apartment then 90% of our transfer fee is refunded to us or our beneficiaries. Our monthly fee does not change if either one of us or both of us moves into the assisted living section here or the nursing home. We can be in the nursing home for a condition like a broken hip and then just move back into our apartment when we are fit to be in an independent status once again. No moving or trying to find a nursing home somewhere else in town. It is all here in the nursing home (if we needed it) & we could eat together, visit every day without dressing to go outside, etc. We love where we are with a chef, more activities than we can do (we had a blast today at a drumming circle). We have a banker come 4 days a week, a salon, a pool, Tai Chi, Yoga, Wi bowling, a physical therapy department, X-Rays in our apartment, nurse to draw blood, a clinic with a PA, art, full time IT support for all of our electronic devices, and more than I can list here. All this and on many days I never wander outside.

So we are done. This is home till the end of the road for us. The two years we have been here have been terrific. They have managed to keep Corona under control or out of here and we were the first 300+ people to get our vaccinations. Next month they will give all of us who want it a regular flu shot. No need to go anywhere to get it. We are surrounded by people our age with interests like ours and the residents all have a rich life history to share. Certainly would not all be the case if we were still in our big empty house with no community.


Pete K.




from faengelm (member) at September 24, 2021

Hi Pete,

Thank you for the very informative report.

Can you provide some details on the "full time IT support" ?

Does this include customizations of things such as personalized automation for lighting, cameras, music, video calling, medication and other reminders, tracking, and falling alert or is it just a break-fix type of service? 



from Pete K. (unverified) at September 26, 2021

Our full time IT person teaches courses and is available for house calls for any tech help. He has no limits on the support he can offer and is very open to new challenges.

He also teaches short courses & I just finished three of them. One was on the iPhone (also covered Android when asked questions)and iPad. The next one was on TouchTone Community Apps which is used by our facility for many items including: ordering meals or making dining reservations, resident info, activities, resident handbook, placing work orders, etc. The third one was on the various Infinity Comcast remotes.

He has been to our apartment twice to help me with iMac issues and cell phone signal strength issues. He helped my wife with iTunes. During the visit as I chatted with him, he said the bulk of what residents ask for is help with computers, cell phones and smart TVs which is why he offers those specific courses.

We have a fall detection program that one can subscribe to. My apartment has 6 emergency pull cords and I have to push a button on one of them every day to let the system know there is a person active in our unit. I have the SOS fall enabled on my iWatch. Senior Helpers is on site and can help with medications, baths, trips, etc.

We have met many people here and so far I have not met one who has shown an interest in having automation for lighting, video calling, medication, etc. I have helped a few learn to use Zoom as I host a monthly Zoom meeting for our building only.

Almost any question or help needed can be acquired by calling the receptionist at the front desk of the facility who is very well informed on how to get proper help. We have one of our TV channels (920) that constantly puts out info on the facility, services, etc. which is used primarily by those who do not use computers or cell phones.

Hope this info helps,

Pete K.


from faengelm (member) at September 27, 2021

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the detailed information. It sounds like you have great IT support.

I wonder if the lack of interest in lighting and HVAC automation, as well as video calling and medication tracking, is due to residents not being aware of its benefits?


from pete (member) at September 27, 2021

Unfortunately, all you can have is my opinion on your questions about the 335 person retirement community I live in so here goes.

We are all home for the better part of every day in our apartments & I have the two thermostats in our apartment set on AUTO and 72 degrees so no need to fool with the HVAC. I also have a remote control ceiling fan in the bedroom which can make the room feel cooler if desired. Our monthly bill covers all of the utilities as well as all the great services, a large food allowance, etc.

Many of the residents here have children in the area and also grandchildren and great grandchildren and there is a lot of family visiting here and at family homes. The young family members all seem to help the residents with tech problems or offerings. They also suggest new apps to residents. This constant family visiting probably negates - for most - needing video calling or family Zoom calls. If they want to cell phone face time, our IT tech can help with that as well as the grandkids.

The building I live in has 95 residents in it and I get around 25 (26%) attending my monthly Zoom meeting for the building which includes a fun focus question. The building is only 2.5 years old so all of us living in it are newcomers to this retirement community and most of us are younger than the rest of the community where many have been here for over 12 years. Our building is the only one that has a Zoom meeting. About a third of the residents in my building have no tech interest in learning or using Zoom. About a third could Zoom but choose not to and the final third log on and enjoy the Zoom meetings. In the rest of the community there seems to be virtually no interest at all in Zoom meetings for the other buildings. Seems the older residents have far less interest in tech in general than we newcomers. My wife & I have an average age of 80.

Just my two cents on tech here. Cheers Pete K.

Discuss, Comment, Ask Questions


Key words: 
Village movement, Aging in place, Senior co-housing, Active adult community, CCRC

Last Updated: May 05, 2021.

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