Redefining the Experience of Aging

A New Generation of Retirees Finds Independence in Unexpected Places

RiverWoods residents taking a break from a game of pickleballThe Silver Tsunami

When wasThe Silver Tsunami When was the last time you considered “60” as old? Today’s 60- and 70-year-olds are running marathons, starting second careers, and generally bashing the traditional idea of “aging.” Yes, it’s finally happening —our youth-focused culture is acknowledging that there is a lot of life in what many call “the third chapter,” or retirement.

Part of the reason for this trend is the “silver tsunami” that is closer every year. By 2030, we will have more 65-year-olds than any other time in U.S. history. In addition to the sheer magnitude of people, this group has a longer life expectancy than any prior generation —and will live longer with more complex diseases, thanks to improved medical care. This means their medical costs will be greater.

Not only that, but this group of retirees has greater expectations of their retirement than any prior generation. After all, boomers have redefined every other social institution they experienced; from marrying later, having children later, moving more often, etc.

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Today’s retirees are significantly more active than any previous generation. They are physically and mentally more active, and they want to travel more, start new projects, and find new purpose in life. Unlike their grandparents, this group can’t count on their children living around the corner. Most adult children are more far-flung than ever, sometimes living across the country. No longer is there the reliable daughter across town—today she may be heading up a company in California. So the traditional 1950s family support model that served for the previous generation is becoming defunct.

Given that people are living longer, and seeking more from their retirement years, and given that social dynamics have changed, how can someone stay independent, and still ensure their health care is covered?

Independence with Benefits

There is one solution that has been quietly operating for the past 100 years in the U.S., whose structure and practices are uniquely positioned for this generation. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) could be described as “retirement communities with benefits.” There are 1,900 across the country, but just a handful in New England, and they are often misunderstood.

CCRCs, which are also called Life Plan Communities, provide three levels of care: independent, assisted living, and skilled nursing. The critical differentiator is that people enter the community when they are independent, and can live safely on their own. They enjoy active, independent lives, free of the worries and time consuming work of home maintenance.

Life As You Like It

With the addition of housekeeping services, inside and outside maintenance, transportation, a meal program, fitness activities, and 24-hour emergency call service, residents have more time to enjoy life, meet friends, and pursue new interests. They create fast friendships, and enjoy the benefits of community living. Meanwhile, they have the assurance that if and when their health needs change, they can transition within the community.

Although CCRCs look like beautiful retirement communities, complete with gyms, pools, libraries and arts rooms, moving there is not a real estate decision. CCRCs are an insurance product, and they are governed by each state’s regulatory body. Therefore, a percentage of a resident’s entrance fee and monthly service fee are considered a tax deduction as a prepaid medical expense—a real advantage for many.

Most CCRCs in New England are not-for-profit, and offer a Benevolence Clause, which states that if a resident has outlived their assets (and has not intentionally impoverished themselves) they will not be asked to leave due to lack of funds. The pricing varies by organization, but on the whole, the larger apartment or cottage you prefer, the more costly the entrance fee and monthly service fee.

Within CCRCs there are contract differences. Some are Type A, which are all-inclusive plans, meaning that as you move from one level of care to the next your monthly fee does not increase (except for two additional meals per day). Type B or modified contracts offer targeted insurance, typically providing a portion of your health care fee at a discount off of market price, when you need health care. Type C contracts provide independent living at a lower rate, and then offer health care at full market rate.

The solution that CCRCs offer to the next generation of retirees is clear—peace of mind for you and your family, a home where you can be as independent as you like, where you can build a community of friends, secure in the knowledge that if anything changes in your health down the road, you have . ###

The article above appeared in Yankee Magazine's Retirement Special Section in the September/October issue: Click here to view the two page spread as it appeared in the magazine