Different Types of Retirement Communities in the US

Not everyone has the same preferences when choosing a home. In the case of retirees, they’re even more particular about what they want since comfort and convenience is everything to their age group. Retirement communities are generally healthier for seniors, but picking the wrong type of residence may prove otherwise.

The common types of retirement communities in the United States are assisted living, congregational, continuing care, co-housing, active senior living, and subsidized housing. They differ by living arrangements and budget.

Let’s get into the specifics in the next section.

Different Types of Retirement Communities

What’s a Retirement Community?

A retirement community is simply a housing complex or residential area meant for seniors. It is better than a mere retirement or nursing home in terms of independence and recreation. Retirees have the freedom to do whatever is best for them as long as they’re capable.

However, since seniors have different needs, retirement communities branch out into different types of residence. Some communities have better medical facilities while others prioritize activities. Meanwhile, there are options for low-income residents.

To understand the whole idea of varying retirement communities, go ahead and learn more about each type:

Assisted Living Communities

Independence is still a priority in assisted living communities. However, that type of community offers different degrees of assistance related to medical treatments and daily routines. Whether you just need a bit of support or more attention, assisted living will adjust to your needs.

Assisted living communities come in many forms. They can offer single-occupancy rooms situated in a building where seniors can mingle. For a bigger space, they can also provide apartments. Even shared lodging is acceptable if you want to save money.

Since benefits vary from one assisted living community to another, you should take a closer look at the services being offered by the entire residence. We suggest focusing on these arrangements:

  • Meal preparations
  • Treatment monitoring
  • Treatment, diagnosis, or screening services
  • 24/7 emergency care
  • Assistance in bathing, dressing, and other personal stuff
  • Laundry
  • Housekeeping
  • Regular activities

Meanwhile, these are the factors you should consider before choosing an assisted living community:

  • License
  • Insurance
  • Rules for visitors
  • Contract (agreement, termination, refund)
  • Extra services for temporary needs like nursing care
  • Costs of services
  • Mode of payment
  • Payment assistance from existing programs (i.e., government subsidy)
  • Guidelines on payment, billing, and credit
  • Staff (uniform, demeanor, training, turnover, alertness, initiatives, the scope of responsibilities)
  • Comments from the residents, volunteers, and visitors about the community
  • Personality and health of the residents
  • Quality of the community’s structures, facilities, flooring, and lighting
  • Simplicity of the floor plan
  • Accommodation of walkers and wheelchairs
  • Availability of elevators and handrails
  • Cleanliness
  • Temperature
  • Units (type, size, occupancy, security, bathroom, kitchen, furnishings, availability of telephone and TV)
  • Pet policies

Congregational Senior Housing

The disadvantage of retirement communities with excellent medical support is the higher cost of residence and stricter policies. That’s why congregate housing is an ideal community for healthy, independent seniors.

Don’t worry about too much independence to the point of solitary living; a standard congregate housing still offers activities and shared dining to keep the residents entertained.

What can you expect from congregate housing? These are the usual requirements, accommodations, amenities, services, and payment modes set by congregational living:

  • Age: 55+, 62+, or 65+
  • Resident capable of bathing, dressing, and feeding independently
  • Resident capable of moving around with or without a wheelchair
  • Resident capable of using the toilet without assistance
  • Resident capable of sitting down and standing up on his own
  • Accommodations: separate units or rooms, private apartment, or shared apartment (two or three bedrooms)
  • Unit features: kitchen, telephone, TV, air conditioner, thermostat, smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinklers
  • Amenities: dining room, laundry room, guest rooms, library, computer, pool, recreational center, parking spot
  • Services: staff working 24/7, housekeeping, one meal per day (diabetic, low salt, and vegetarian dishes available)
  • Payment modes: one-time purchase, rent, or government subsidy

Just like assisted living communities, congregate housing options differ when it comes to certain aspects, too. Make sure to observe the following when you visit the area:

  • How peaceful the community is
  • Quality of the recreational area
  • Quality of lighting
  • Availability of outdoor spaces like gardens, yards, and barbecue areas
  • Availability of storage rooms
  • Size of the apartments
  • Presence of pets
  • Security
  • Proximity to nearby hospitals, clinics, restaurants, grocery stores, parks, and public transportation

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

This type of retirement community can be a combination of congregate housing and assisted living with some aspects of a nursing home. Most of its new residents are healthy, giving them the freedom to live independently.

However, just in case those residents will become ill in the future, the community is ready to provide all the services they need. They can be transferred to a nursing home or assisted living facility within the area. No more moving from one community to another.

As a plus, in CCRCs, individual rooms and apartments aren’t the only available accommodations. Some of these communities have condominiums and houses.

Of course, there’s a downside. CCRCs can be unbelievably expensive. Their minimum charge for the entrance fee alone can reach $100,000. The cost is for future care services and contribution to facility operation and maintenance.

Not only that, there are costly monthly charges. The price range usually starts from $3,000 up to $5,000 with a possible increase when the resident needs more services. The amount given is based on the resident’s current health condition, housing type, present services, and contract.

Speaking of contract, CCRCs offer three types:

  • Fee-for-Service = lower entrance fee but possibly more expensive when each assisted living and nursing home service expense is summed up
  • Modified = cheap at first because of limited services for a specific duration but gets more costly when you avail extra after the expiration date
  • Extended or life care = most expensive but with unlimited services

Since CCRCs are high-priced, you need to prepare a foolproof long-term plan for your finances. You must also pick a trustworthy community that can last for an additional 10 to 15 years.

Senior Co-housing

Just because you choose a co-housing community doesn’t mean you have to give up your full privacy. You will still have a private home. The only areas you’re going to share are the communal kitchens, gardens, and recreational spots.

The best thing about senior co-housing is the regular schedule of activities. Residents will have so much fun together in move nights, potluck dinners, and other parties. It will be like a college dormitory for seniors.

The endless social gatherings can help a retiree maintain strong emotional health. A happier disposition can reduce the risks of dementia, stroke, and heart disease.

Another benefit of senior co-housing is the cheaper cost of living. Properties in that community are smaller, and some expenses can be shared like meals and maintenance equipment.

However, co-housing is not for everybody. If you’re uncomfortable with sharing and constant socializing, this community is obviously wrong for you. You don’t want to cause unnecessary conflict with people who just want to have a good time.

Co-housing will also require you to monitor your health all the time. Detecting an illness in its early stages will help you move in a community with better medical facilities before you experience problems in your mobility and mental state.

Active Senior Living Communities or Leisure/Lifestyle Oriented Communities (LORCs)

Retirement isn’t just about peace and relaxation. Sometimes, that’s the only time for you to do what you always wanted to do because of your busy career in the past. Luckily for you, LORCs exist for active seniors.

Honestly, you can still maintain a healthy lifestyle in your present home. However, it will be more convenient for you to live in a senior community.

LORCs have smaller properties, regular housekeeping services, and a more secure area. These are the benefits you want if you’re a frequent traveler.

Besides, you can mingle with other active seniors in LORCs. You will have fitness buddies who can make your daily hikes or runs more exciting. They may even travel with you anywhere.

To give you an idea about the exciting or stimulating lifestyle LORCs offer, check out this list of activities you can do as a resident:

  • City tours
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Skiing
  • Dancing (line, square, ballroom, etc.)
  • Golfing
  • Volunteering
  • Book clubs
  • Arts and crafts (woodworking, painting, photography, writing, etc.)

The ultimate downside of LORCs is the absence of full medical services within the area. If you’re particular about your future as a senior, consider other types of communities with reliable medical facilities.

Subsidized Housing or Affordable Low-Income Senior Housing

Thanks to subsidized housing, low-income seniors will finally have the chance to live in a retirement community. To be more specific, the U.S. has beneficial programs sponsored by the Housing and Urban Development to fund the expenses of qualified retirees as homeowners or renters.

Based on the qualifications of the senior, he may get the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program or the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

The Section 202 program highlights these benefits:

  • Single-room apartment with private bathroom, kitchen, and support installations like grab bars and ramps
  • Housekeeping
  • Counseling
  • Transportation especially to clinics and hospitals
  • Meal delivery

Sounds amazing, right? However, you are required to be at least 62 years old with low income. The average annual income of Section 202 residents is only $10,018.

On the other hand, LIHTC requires the resident to be at least 55 years old. Although the standard income it accepts is only 60% of the area’s median, some cases are okay with 61-80%.

Because of the higher income LIHTC residents have compared to the Section 202 seniors, the program typically provides unfurnished apartments with one or two bedrooms.


Kris Peter

A positive individual enjoying the journey, and always searching for adventure. I created Sunlight Living to help my parents (and eventually myself) prepare for retirement. About Kris

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