Retirement communities are designed for people who can live independently but who need or want some help, mainly with caring for a home. Some older people choose to move to a retirement community before they need additional help. They may move because they do not want the responsibility of maintaining a large house and yard or because they have become lonely or isolated.
Retirement communities consist of a group of apartments, townhouses, or detached homes. These communities provide some services, such as transportation, entertainment facilities, some on-site nursing services, community meals, laundry services, and house cleaning and maintenance. Such services enable older people who are reasonably well to live independently. Retirement communities may arrange group activities, such as trips, game nights, or lectures by guest speakers. Some have recreational facilities, such as swimming pools and golf courses. The homes are usually designed for older people. For example, they may have only one floor. Retirement communities enable some people to postpone a move to a facility that provides more intensive long-term care.
Some retirement communities are part of a life-care community (see Long-Term Care: Life-Care Communities). Life-care communities provide as much care as people need for the rest of their life.
Because retirement communities vary so much, people should ask questions to make sure the community they are considering is suitable for them.
People may rent or purchase their residence in retirement communities often in a condominium-type arrangement. Obtaining financing and conducting the sale or transfer of property are done as with any other private residence. When personal care services are needed, they are usually paid for privately or with long-term care insurance.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Paul R. Katz, MD