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

Independent livingWhat's the Difference Between a CCRC and a Life Plan Community, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, continuing care retirement community (CCRC), life plan community… navigating the landscape of the various types of senior living communities can be confusing and overwhelming.

Here, we offer insight into the name change from CCRC to life plan community to shed light on the terminology and what to expect at these types of communities.

What’s in a Name?

The switch to “life plan community” came about because many people—seniors included—don’t feel the term “continuing care retirement community” is an accurate reflection of everything these communities have to offer.

For many, the “continuing care” part of CCRC seems to imply a setting where older adults are being cared for, rather than one that also fosters new experiences and growth.

“‘Continuing Care’ really sells the end stage of what a CCRC can provide,” Mary Leary, president and CEO of Mather LifeWays, told Senior Housing News. “We would like to remove the focus on that and focus instead on the more aspirational aspects for older adults…. These are things that relate to engagement, capability, productivity and staying connected.”

The truth is, CCRCs are about more than just care. Thus, the search began for a name that conveys the goal of empowering residents to live life to the fullest, whether or not care is needed.

The new name—life plan community—was unveiled two years ago as the result of a two-year process led by LeadingAge and Mather LifeWays to brainstorm something better than the CCRC moniker. The name change shifts the emphasis from passive care to active living and planning.

“The notion of a ‘life plan’ reflects the autonomy and independence of residents, while the name ‘continuing care’ focuses on the (often very short) period of time when residents may need medical care and support,” says Nancy Chiquoine, director of marketing and resident services at Wake Robin, a life plan community in Shelburne, Vermont.

While this may seem like an issue of mere semantics, it’s important to keep in mind that words matter. After all, the language we use has the power to shape our experience. As family caregiving expert Stephanie Erickson told us, “When our words change, our mindset follows.”

What to Expect

According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, both CCRCs and life plan communities are defined as:

Age-restricted properties that include a combination of independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing services (or independent living and skilled nursing) available to residents all on one campus. Resident payment plans vary and include entrance fee, condo/coop and rental programs.

Whatever the name, you can expect these communities to provide activities and amenities tailored to the individual—from empowerment for the active, independent senior to skilled nursing for seniors who require care. The benefit of CCRCs and life plan communities is that they enable all seniors to thrive, no matter their level of independence. And if you should require more attention, you can easily transition to a unit on the same campus that offers the care you need.

Current Life Plan Communities

Though not every CCRC has gotten on board with the new name, the moniker has caught on in a number of communities. Wake Robin is one such place.

“The name ‘life plan community’ more accurately reflects our community and the people who live here,” says Chiquoine. “Wake Robin residents are planners. They are very much in charge of their decisions, and when they choose to move here they are making a deliberate plan for where they wish to spend the rest of their lives.”

What’s more, she says that many current residents are not fully retired, choosing to continue their work or volunteer commitments outside the community.

“The notion of retirees in rocking chairs does not really fit the profile of residents who are choosing the life plan community setting,” she affirms.

For those who are skeptical of the name change, Larry Minnix, former president and CEO of Leading Age, said this to Senior Housing News:

“Keep in mind, 100 years ago, [LeadingAge] members were called widows and orphans homes, and the people in them were inmates or patients, not residents.”

Clearly, a lot has changed in the last century—and more change is yet to come. But with senior living communities leading the way in empowering rather than limiting seniors, the future may be looking a little brighter for all of us.

CHIME IN: Do you see value in the name change from CCRC to life plan community?

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