What’s the Difference Between a Life Plan Community and CCRC?

Baby boomers have changed the rules when it comes to working and living, and now they are reinventing retirement. This active and energetic generation embraces independence, growth and opportunity. To reflect the needs, desires and values of today’s older adults, many supportive living environments are changing their names from continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) to Life Plan communities.

It goes beyond just a name change, though. The move from CCRC to Life Plan community is the result of a larger shift in the overall industry. Many CCRCs, some of which still consider themselves to be CCRCs today, have shifted focus from ongoing care and support to optimizing the quality of life for each resident by addressing his or her emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual and spiritual needs.

While CCRCs and Life Plan communities are similar in many ways, Life Plan communities expand the definition of living communities for older adults.

What Are CCRCs?

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) defines continuing care retirement communities as “age-restricted properties that offer at least independent living and nursing care, and may include a full continuum of care including assisted living, memory care, and other supportive services to residents all on one campus.”

In other words, CCRCs offer a range of living services that an older adult might need over time. These communities typically make independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services available to all residents, all on one campus. One of the primary benefits of CCRCs is that residents can stay in the community, where they know everyone and everyone knows them, even when their care needs change over time.

CCRCs started as a means to shelter and care for older adults in Europe more than a century ago. There were only seven CCRCs in the United States by the 1900s, according to the Medicine Encyclopedia, but these communities gained in popularity throughout the 20th century. By the year 2001, there were nearly 2,000 CCRCs in the nation.

Some of the original CCRCs evolved from nursing homes, according to the American Seniors Housing Association. Today you will find that many communities were built specifically to serve as continuing care retirement communities; therefore, they had a larger proportion of independent living units and amenities for residents to enjoy at any stage of care.

When CCRCs first came onto the scene decades ago, “continuing care retirement community” was the perfect term to encompass the overall mission and lifestyle in this revolutionary, new type of retirement living. The term is straightforward and clearly defines what a person can expect when they enter a CCRC.  First and foremost, the focus is on providing continuing care. That is, if an independent living resident at a CCRC should ever need extra attention, the community has nursing services available to support them.

In a CCRC, healthy adults move into homes, apartments or condominiums, where they reside independently with a community of their peers. If they eventually need assistance with everyday activities, they can move into an assisted living area or nursing care area within the same community. This structure makes CCRCs an attractive living option for older adults who want to live in one location for the rest of their lives and for older couples who require different levels of care but want to live together.

While communities vary, CCRCs typically offer a handful of amenities along with continuing care. These amenities often included dining, housekeeping and laundry, flexible transportation and security services. The clean and comfortable communities are usually near shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues, so that residents can leave campus and travel short distances to enjoy the finer things in life.

This tiered approach to the aging process accommodated the changing needs of residents many years ago, and it is no less apt today. In fact, retirement communities are ever evolving to benefit the aging adult. That’s why many communities are shifting from the more-literal term “continuing care retirement community” to “Life Plan community.” Instead of being care-focused, the term Life Plan community is meant to reflect what contemporary communities now offer to older adults.

National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care has now updated their definition to include both CCRCs and Life Plan communities, reflecting the new focus of adult living communities.

Life Plan Community – A New Name for a New Generation of Older Adults

Today’s older adults are more active and engaged than ever before, and they expect their living environments be vibrant and energetic as well.

The name “Life Plan community” reflects the desire for a community that allows older adults to live life to its fullest alongside  others who are in the same life stage but who do not require additional care. It also encompasses what CCRCs actually offer today, which includes:

  • A lifestyle plan and option for the next stage of a person’s life
  • An active life that presents many opportunities for personal growth, the development of new skills and accessibility to entertainment
  • Various levels of care on campus that residents may use as needed

Life takes planning. Living life to its fullest requires having the right plan for whatever the next stage of life has to offer. This makes the name “Life Plan community” a perfect fit.

Life Plan communities are similar to CCRCs in many ways. Both promote independent living, and they both offer more than one level of care on campus. Both are conveniently located near or have fine dining, fitness centers, beauty and barbershops, entertainment and libraries on campus. Music, art, dance, history, lectures and movies are some of the many activities conveniently planned and offered in both.

Life Plan communities are sometimes considered to be different from CCRCs for several reasons. Just like the name infers, Life Plan communities shift away from the care-focused mentality of continuing care retirement communities and emphasize an active lifestyle among residents in ways that improve health and quality of life. These communities may include amenities not necessarily found in all traditional CCRCs, such as extensive libraries, fitness centers designed by certified exercise physiologists and chef-prepared cuisine served in one of many dining venues such as elegant dining rooms. Life Plan communities also create opportunities for older adults to get involved, with both the local community on campus and in the community at large.

The intent of the name change is to reflect what has already been happening in adult living communities for years now and to make today’s communities more welcoming and accessible to active adults who do not need nursing care. The name change should also encourage older adults to find a community home where they feel welcomed and comfortable, no matter what services they need.

When Did CCRCs Become Life Plan Communities?

The name change from CCRC to Life Plan community is the result of a joint initiative created by LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays (and a number of marketing consulting firms).

The purpose of the initiative, known as NameStorm Task Force / CCRC NameStorm, was to come up with a new name to describe the wider variety of services now provided to older adults living in community settings. The members of the initiative spoke with a number of key audiences about CCRC’s existing name and found that “continuing care retirement communities” does not adequately describe the innovative and vibrant style of today’s communities. At the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Boston in November of 2015, the NameStorm Task Force announced its recommendation that communities start using the term “Life Plan community.”

The name “Life Plan communities” focuses more on the health and well-being of the individual resident while still prioritizing quality care. The title also highlights the many positive qualities of community living, which makes these communities more attractive to future residents. Life Plan communities feature comfortable living, pleasant maintenance-free housing, superior security and a wide variety of amenities unavailable in other communities for younger residents.

Today’s Life Plan Communities Are Popular Among Older Adults

Life Plan communities are popular among the people who live there, according to the results of a survey by Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. Researchers surveyed 5,148 residents from 80 Life Plan communities across the country. The scientists then compared the responses to demographically similar older adults living in the community at large. An overwhelming 69% of respondents said that moving to a Life Plan community “somewhat or greatly improved” their social wellness. Residents of the Life Plan communities also said they engaged in significantly healthier behaviors – and not just more exercise – than did their counterparts.

Furthermore, the residents of Life Plan communities had greater physical, emotional, intellectual, social and vocational wellness than did those living outside of these communities.

Are you interested in elevated living at a California community with a continuum of care? Explore the wonders and possibilities of independent living in the Pacific Grove area at our Forest Hill retirement community. Call or contact us to schedule a tour today.

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