Retirement Housing: Choices for Later in Life

By:  John Milford   |  Posted: July 22, 2013   |  Updated: April 17, 2023


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.






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