Our 2019 myLifeSite Consumer Survey uncovered a lot of interesting information about prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or life plan communities). One of the questions that I thought was particularly revealing was about people’s reasons for delaying a move to a CCRC.
Respondents were provided a list of eight possible reasons for putting off their move and were asked to choose up to three that best represent their feelings about this topic. Among the top responses were things you’d expect like not wanting to deal with the hassle of downsizing and moving (34 percent), and concerns about the long-term affordability of living in a CCRC (42 percent).
But the most common response was, “I don’t feel like I’m old enough for a retirement community,” with over 46 percent of survey participants selecting this as a reason they are delaying their CCRC move.
Now, it’s worth considering the age breakdown of the survey participants when analyzing the responses to this question. Among those who were 80 and under, this was the most commonly selected response with 47 percent saying they didn’t think they were old enough for a CCRC. For those who were 81 and older, 19 percent put this among their reasons for putting off a CCRC move.
Choosing the right time
For many seniors who are currently residing in their own home but like the idea of living in a setting where healthcare services are available if needed down the road, a CCRC is the perfect solution. In addition to the many amenities and conveniences they enjoy, CCRC residents can easily transition from living entirely independently to getting any needed assisted living services to receiving 24-hour skilled nursing care in the on-site healthcare center. But as our consumer survey revealed, many who are into their 80s still don’t think they are old enough to actually make the move to a CCRC.
So that begs the questions: When is the right time to move to a CCRC? What is the ideal age?
Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question because everyone’s situation will be different. People age at different rates, and different lifestyles impact the aging process. I can tell you that the average age of new CCRC residents is anywhere from late 70s to early 80s, but an average is just that. There are many factors other than age that come into play in this choice, and there are people who are younger or older when they decide it’s the right time for their move.
I certainly understand the concerns that people have about moving too soon, but for those who feel they aren’t old enough for a CCRC, I would caution that waiting too long to make a move to a CCRC can mean missing out on some of the very reasons people are attracted to these communities in the first place.
The advantages of making your move
If you think a CCRC is right for you, but you feel like you aren’t old enough to move to one yet, here are five reasons why you may want to consider moving sooner rather than later:
- Involvement: One of the top benefits of living in a CCRC is having convenient access to a huge array of activities, amenities, and services. Many of these perks take place on-site in the community, but more and more CCRCs are offering ways for residents to stay involved in their broader community as well, via intergenerational programs, volunteer service projects, continuing education classes, and more. Moving when you are younger allows you to enjoy and benefit from these events and activities.
- Wellness: While CCRCs do offer residents a continuum of care services if and when they are needed, it is their goal to help residents stay healthy and living independently for as long as possible. That’s why they provide comprehensive health and wellness programs, which may include access to fitness trainers, low-impact aerobics and yoga classes, fitness and aquatic centers, and special diet meal plans, just to list a few examples. In addition to these amenities, more and more CCRCs are focusing on a “whole-person” concept, which includes emotional, spiritual, and mental and social wellness, including programs like those mentioned above.
- Relationships: I often hear CCRC residents say that one of the greatest things about making the move to their community has been the friendships they’ve formed with other residents. This network of close, supportive friends can be especially beneficial should healthcare issues arise in the future. Those who wait too long to make their CCRC move may miss out on the opportunity to develop these meaningful relationships.
- Qualifying: Continuing care contracts typically stipulate that new residents must be able to live independently when they first move into the community, and many CCRCs require a health evaluation of prospective residents as a part of their application process. Applicants who do not meet the community’s new resident health standards can be declined, thus missing out on the numerous benefits offered by a CCRC, including access to a full continuum of care services.
- Smoother transition: Moving does tend to get increasingly difficult as we age—both physically and mentally. Those who are younger (relatively speaking), able-bodied, and in good health generally are able to handle the transition more easily. On the other hand, those who are older and frailer when they make a move may be more likely to experience relocation stress syndrome (RSS), a condition characterized by symptoms like anxiety, confusion, and loneliness.
Timing is everything
When is the right time to move to a CCRC? There are many considerations that must go into your individual answer to this question. But generally speaking, I would say that once you have determined that a CCRC is the right senior living option for you, it is smart to make the move while you still in good health and have the physical and emotional stamina to make a change and enjoy the benefits.