How to Shop for a Continuing Care Retirement Community

A continuing care retirement community will handle all your needs for the rest of your life -- at a hefty price. Here's how to shop for one.

(Image credit: NATALIA WEEDY)

Ralph and Jean Davison of Greensboro, N.C., knew that someday they would sell their 4,500-square-foot home and acre of land and move to a continuing care retirement community. But someday came sooner than they expected. In 2015, Ralph, now 71, and Jean, 65, learned that Well Spring, a nearby CCRC, was adding 23 new villas. The Davisons put down an initial $1,000 deposit on a 2,500-square-foot, one-story home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage—exactly what they wanted. A year later, they moved into their new home and, along with it, the community that will see them from independent living all the way to skilled nursing care, should they ever need it.

There are nearly 2,000 CCRCs nationwide, many with waiting lists. To buy into one, you usually must be at least 62 and healthy enough to live independently. You live in a house or apartment and go to a community dining room for as many meals as you choose. The CCRC provides entertainment, fitness centers and wellness programs, plus excursions to museums, theaters and stores. If your health declines, you can move on to assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing until the end of your life.

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Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.