Continuing Care Retirement Community to Life Plan Community


If you’ve been researching retirement living options lately, a new term may have appeared on your radar: the Life Plan Community. So what is a Life Plan Community? Is it the same thing as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (a CCRC), or is it something new? We’ve put together a short “cheat sheet” to help you understand the Life Plan Community, and decide if this is a good option for you or your loved ones.

What is a Life Plan Community?

Basically, it is the new term for CCRCs. In 2015, the industry introduced the new term “Life Plan Community,” and communities have been encouraged to drop the old CCRC label and start using the new one. But with the new name comes a new focus, a new philosophy, and a hope to reach more residents. Even more than CCRCs did, Life Plan Communities strive to emphasize active living, wellness and well-being, and abundant, independent lifestyles. 

What’s in a name?

As the senior housing market evolves and changes, Life Plan Communities continue to offer the same basic features that CCRCs and most other senior living options have always offered, like assisted living, memory care services, and on-site medical facilities, but are more focused on maintaining and improving wellness. They also hope to attract younger residents, those who aren’t ready for a nursing home and still want to live independently.

By dropping the “care” from the old “Continuing Care Retirement Community” label, the new name is designed to attract younger older adults, people who are active and want to stay that way—those who are not ready for “care.” The agencies in charge of the rebranding found that a CCRC seems like something people may need someday, maybe when they get older. In contrast, Life Plan Communities seem more like somewhere they could move now, with little change to their current lifestyle.

The addition of the word “plan” to the label shows that Life Plan Communities focus on change and adaptability. A resident can start their “life plan” by living independently in a villa or apartment in the facility. As the resident ages, they can transition into other areas of the facility that offer assisted living.

What are the benefits?

Life Plan Communities are seen as the highest standard of retirement living, and are vastly different from the idea of a traditional nursing home. They feature amenities like spas and movie theaters, walking trails and fitness centers, and multiple dining options like cafés, bistros, and restaurants. Communities tout their local cuisine, biking trails, educational programs, and luxury apartments.

Life Plan Communities are more senior-focused – more resident-focused – than other models of retirement living. For example, many communities insist that meals are provided when residents want them, not at set mealtimes. Residents are free to choose their own activities and encouraged to keep their own schedules.

Even though they seem luxurious, Life Plan Communities also stress their affordability. Most require a one-time entrance fee (either refundable or not, depending on the facility), and after that, require a monthly fee that covers all residency, services, and programming. Paying an entrance fee up front can actually lower the costs of services and care that may be needed later in your life. In Life Plan Communities, once you’re in, you’re in; the entrance fee guarantees residents’ lifetime access to the community’s multiple levels of care available to them as they age, usually with no time limits on the provided services.

So when you see the term Life Plan Community, know that on the surface, it is just the new preferred label for the Continuing Care Retirement Community. However, the name change signifies a new, evolving philosophy in senior living: a focus on wellness and well-being, as well as a promise of security through life transitions.

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