Merck Manual

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Retirement Communities


Debra Bakerjian

, PhD, APRN, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, UC Davis

Last full review/revision Jul 2020| Content last modified Jul 2020
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NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

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 housecleaning 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. 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.

  • Is there an entrance fee in addition to the monthly fee? Which services, activities, and amenities are included in the monthly fee?

  • What services, activities, and amenities are available? Is there a bank, beauty salon, post office, or general store? Is transportation readily available for trips to local shopping areas, doctors’ offices, and other health care facilities? What social and physical activities are available?

  • What is the minimum age to live in the community?

  • Are the facilities well maintained? Are the living units and their setting pleasant? Is there enough parking?

  • Are there service people to help?

  • Are meals provided?

Financial issues

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 with private funds or with long-term care insurance.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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