According to AARP’s most recent survey of adults age 50 and over, 76 percent of seniors want to remain in their homes for as long as possible. I’ve seen other surveys that put that figure at upwards of 90 percent. Whichever source you consider, the consensus seems to be that a large majority of retirees would prefer to stay in their current home rather than move to a retirement community such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community).
AARP research identified the most common reasons that people give for not wanting to move to a CCRC or other senior living community. They included: the physical stress in moving, fear of losing independence, anxiety over leaving a community, emotional attachment to a family home, and fear of the unknown.
These findings are not too different from our own research findings. In our 2019 myLifeSite Consumer Survey, we received responses from 430 people who are actively engaged in the process of researching CCRCs for themselves. We found that even when prospective residents of a CCRC feel that making the move is the best choice for them over the long-term, there are a variety of reason that might indefinitely delay the decision to move.
Top 3 reasons for delaying a CCRC move
In our survey, we asked respondents to provide their primary reasons for delaying a move to a CCRC. The top three responses were:
- I don’t feel I’m old enough for a retirement community (46.6 percent)
- I have concerns about long-term affordability (41.92 percent)
- I’m putting off dealing with all my stuff / hassle of moving (34.19 percent)
Many survey participants—approximately 35 percent—also chose to share other reasons for delay in the comments box. Some of the key themes around these write-in responses included: spousal opposition, hard to leave my home/neighborhood, difficulty of moving to a smaller space, waiting for the right residence to come available, and a lack of confidence in the management team.
Interestingly, the survey respondent’s age impacted their reasons for delaying their CCRC move too. For those age 80 and under, not feeling old enough was the top response (47.17 percent), and putting off dealing with all their stuff was third (34.34 percent). For those over 81 and over, dealing with all of their stuff was the top reason (53.62 percent), but even at 81+ years old, 18.84 percent said they didn’t feel old enough for a CCRC.
Reasons to reconsider delaying your CCRC move
Let’s take a look at each of the three most common reasons that people say they are putting off their CCRC move and examine reasons they may want to reconsider their delay.
I don’t feel I’m old enough for a retirement community.
A certain percentage of people will probably never feel like they are “old enough” for a CCRC. I’ve heard people well into their eighties say this. But the reality is that there may be numerous benefits to making a CCRC move sooner rather than later, some of which people often do not fully realize until after the move.
I wrote about this very topic earlier this year, but in short, moving to a CCRC at a younger age allows you to get involved in the community’s many activities and make friendships sooner, can increase your overall wellness, reduces concerns about being healthy enough to qualify for entry, and in general, can make the CCRC transition easier.
I have concerns about long-term affordability.
The cost of a CCRC is an important consideration. With the hefty entrance fee required by most CCRCs on top of the monthly residence fee, many people assume that it will be cheaper to remain in their own home as they grow older. However, this may not always be the case, especially if the entry fee is refundable and if the cost of care is discounted at the CCRC. (Be sure you understand the contract stipulations.)
All of the living expenses that come with remaining in your home (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, food, etc.) plus paying for any in-home assisted living services you may eventually require can really add up. Just 20 hours of in-home care per week (part-time care) can range from around $1,600 to $2,400 each month on top of your other expenses.
Comparing the lifetime cost of staying in your home and the cost of moving to a CCRC is nearly impossible because there are so many unknowns related to the costs of staying at home. For example, will home renovations be needed (to update or to accommodate any mobility issues)? What is the ongoing maintenance expense of the home? And what if you need in-home care? How much will you need and for how long? What will be the financial impact on family members if they must help with caregiving? What if you ultimately must move more than once based on various levels of long-term care needs?
Without a crystal ball, these questions are difficult to answer. However, in terms of getting a quick comparison of your monthly expenses today versus if you opt to move to a CCRC, our “Monthly Cost Impact of Moving to a Retirement Community” downloadable worksheet (PDF) can help.
I am putting off dealing with all my stuff / hassle of moving.
This one is a biggie. And to be honest, I totally get it. Moving is rarely if ever a fun chore, and moving to a CCRC is a big life change. Plus, downsizing to a smaller residence is not only a lot of work, it can be highly emotional for many people. But the reality is that at some point, someone is going to have to sort through all of your possessions and decide what to keep and what to get rid of—either you, your partner/spouse/adult children, or the executor of your estate.
The good news is that most CCRCs provide tremendous resources and support so that the whole moving process is much, much easier on the senior. Just last week, I had someone tell me that they really appreciate some advice I had shared in my book about the value of a move-in coordinator or senior relocation specialist. Many CCRCs have move-in coordinators on staff who act as your personal move liaison, offering recommendations on estate sale companies and movers, answering any questions that may arise, and even providing design services to help you determine what furniture will fit in your new home. A senior relocation specialist may work independently of any particular retirement community. These valuable services typically spring into action once a soon-to-be-resident signs their CCRC contract and submits their deposit.
What’s holding you back?
CCRC residents cite countless advantages of living in a CCRC. Among the top reasons cited by our survey respondents: the health and wellness programs and facilities available on the CCRC campus, the social opportunities presented by the community, and the safety benefits that come with CCRC residency.
However, access to a full-continuum of care services was by far the top reason that people gave for wanting to move to a CCRC. Sixty-three percent of respondents rated this as the number one reason among the given survey choices; in fact, it scored 45 percent higher than the next most popular response (health and wellness programs). The peace of mind that comes with knowing that you will have access to the care services you need—from just a little help with activities of daily living (ADLs) to full-time skilled nursing care—is invaluable to many people.
So ultimately, if you are considering a CCRC but one (or more) of the reasons above is holding you back from making the move, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis of your choice—and by cost, I mean not only monetary but also the emotional and physical cost.
Is the thing that is holding you back from making a CCRC move really an issue? Is it an issue that will get easier or more difficult as more time goes by and you grow older? Or is it a surmountable challenge, or even a relatively minor challenge, if you look at it a little more objectively?
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