Senior Communities Are Calling – Is It Time To Answer


I have known people – more than a few – who have said they will never move to a senior community – too many old people there. The observation is not necessarily true these days. There are younger people in senior communities. Or we may have revised our opinion regarding what is “old.” If your age group is in the early 50’s you are probably thought of as a “kid.” I have a few clients over age 100, and very many who are planning in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Not planning for senior communities yet but still our clients for planning purposes are much younger couples in their 20’s and 30’s who are considering plans for their young families. The cut off date for 55+ communities is, of course, age 55 and up.

When you reach a certain level of frustration with your house that needs repairs or feel you no longer need so many bedrooms or that much grass to cut, it can be tempting to think of the big move to a senior community as freedom from responsibilities you no longer want to carry. Should you pick up and go or make modifications where you are? Here are some considerations.

What is the cost either way? There are different types of senior communities. For some you pay on a monthly basis with no commitment. Others have a “buy in.” Sometimes you move because your health is a concern or that of your spouse. Consider your monthly income and also their monthly charges. How do they balance out? But wait. Remember you also have costs at home that may be included if you are in a senior community. One example is property taxes – not due in most communities since often you do not own your unit. Consider the cost of maintenance, yard work and so at home. Also take into account how much you have in savings and what you would net on the sale of your home. You should include a cushion to handle other expenses such as desired travel and so on. Senior communities also generally include some meals in their charges although there may be limits and probably transportation as well as other amenities. Some of these charges are included in the monthly fee and some are add-ons. Pay attention.

A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) generally requires a large up front payment, which often is satisfied from the sale of your house, but offers the ability to move from independent living (often an apartment but sometimes a house or cottage), to assisted living if needed, and then to skilled nursing for the most comprehensive care all while staying on the same campus. This is sometimes very helpful when one spouse is less well than the other and allows both spouses to stay close by if not in the same unit. These communities may have a “life care” provision and some have Medicaid that could cover skilled nursing costs where applicable. The calculations here could be more complicated and our office can help with that.

Location and Socialization. Affordability is not the only consideration.If you move you might consider whether you can still live close to family members and friends and what social activities are available. Sometimes a key motivator is knowing that current friends have already moved to the community. Communities have begun to recognize that residents come with many outside interests, talents, and endeavors and some provide opportunities to continue them.

Sentiment, Cleanout, Affordability and Moving Costs. Several factors result in keeping people in the home where they raised their children and have lived many years. Sentiment is a major one. If you have difficulty downsizing because so many items are emotionally important or if you really do have items in the house of value that you never want to leave it can be hard to leave even if for a more modern, more stress free environment. Also, moving costs and aggravation can factor in. It can be stressful.

What to do now regardless. If you do not want to move, you can still improve. When you have been in your home for several years you have probably accumulated more than you need or want. Now is the time to separate what you really want from the rest. Whether you stay or go, it helps.

About the Author Janet Colliton

Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.

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