Retirement Communities

By Chelle Cordero

November 20, 2009 5 min read

As more and more people are living longer, considerations of new housing arrangements often come up. For some people, remaining in the homes that they shared with their spouses and raised their children in may be preferred; for others, physical limitations, climate, neighborhoods and the economy may guide them in a different direction. Fortunately, there are many more options than the stereotyped "old age home" for those golden retirement years. Choosing the perfect retirement community relies mostly on the individual needs of the senior in question.

If you are caring for an elderly relative who needs more help than you can give or if you yourself are finding it difficult to manage in your current home, you might want to take a look at your options. Moving out of a home one has lived in for years can be traumatic, but research and discussions that involve the senior in question can help to make it a bit more painless. Retirement communities are usually age-restricted and provide social programming, group activities and, when needed, specialized care to help maintain levels of independence. Most communities provide for either single or coupled arrangements. There are communities located in established neighborhoods that allow the elderly to remain close to their friends and families.

Colleen M. Wilson, public relations manager at ACTS Retirement-Life Communities' southern region in Boca Raton, Fla., says: "There is a wide variance in senior living communities. The hottest trend right now is CCRCs, better known as continuing care retirement communities, for those age 62 and up. They offer independent residences with concierge services to die for, but when one spouse develops health issues, assisted living and skilled care are located on the same campus." ACTS is the largest nonprofit owner, operator and developer of CCRCs in the United States; founded in 1972, ACTS offers 19 retirement communities in six states (Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida).

Internet-based Senior Resource ( offers several directories and explanations that are helpful when looking into housing situations for older family members. Retirement communities are oriented toward "younger thinking" seniors and generally offer a variety of physical and social activities. Depending on the amount of help a senior needs, there are communities that offer both complete independence and assisted living care. From seniors-only apartment buildings to modular housing, for permanent residents or "snowbirds," many communities offer the carefree style of non-home ownership, increased security, accessible home care, medical facilities and the emotional support of peers.

Senior independent living communities, also called active adult communities, provide social activities and independence. They have standard safety features to make it easier for residents to get around and are places where people can share similar interests. Facilities such as the Esplanade at Palisades, in New York, offer nicely appointed apartments that are ideal for couples or individuals who still want to -- and can -- live on their own. Activities and meals are provided, and help, if needed, is always nearby. The Esplanade at Chestnut Ridge is a New York state-licensed assisted living center, and it offers more acute care; it offers a homelike environment, daily routines and on-site medical services while allowing for a high level of independence.

"The Consumer's Guide to Retirement Living" (provided by ACTS) is a free guide that can be downloaded from the Internet at The following tips are among those offered: Check the background of the community, e.g., when it was established and who owns, operates and manages it. Consider future health needs; is health care available? What levels of care are provided? How much will it cost? Get details about fees, what they include and the average past fee increases. Meet with residents, and tour the community. Consider closely the costs associated with staying in your current residence (maintenance, utilities, property taxes, insurance, etc.) versus those associated with moving. Find out what kind of social, cultural and educational activities are available. Consider location, and find out whether there is a waiting list.

Enjoying an active lifestyle with peace of mind, Mary H. of ACTS' Lima Estates, in Pennsylvania, says: "I no longer worry about where I will go or what will happen to me as I age. Now I know I'm safe and secure."

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