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Life Care Communities vs. Rental Communities: Which Is the Better Option?

Happy senior woman talking on her phone while using a laptop

Ah, moving! The very thought of it conjures up delightful mental images of adorable cardboard boxes, that always-fun-to-pop bubble wrap, and the joy of walking up and down the ramp again and again … before you get to repeat the process in reverse at your brand-new home. Yes. Life is good when you’re making a move, isn’t it?

Okay, let’s get back to reality. While many of us do look forward to making a move, the act of moving isn’t exactly our favorite pastime, right? So when you do decide to move, especially after you’ve retired, you hope it will be the last time you uproot your life.

For most of us, that means doing our research, particularly when our goal is to find a senior living/retirement community that matches our lifestyle and accounts for our future needs. If this is where you are  in your moving journey, you may be looking at the differences between a Life Plan Community that offers Life Care and a stand-alone rental community.

What is Life Care and why does it matter?

Life Care is simply a contract option offered by some continuum-of-care communities, usually marketing themselves as either a Life Plan Community or a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). It’s important to note that these are simply two different names for the same kind of community, and not all such communities offer Life Care.

Life Care is care for life; it’s considered the gold standard of senior living health care contracts. Life Care assures a resident that if they ever need long-term care — such as assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing — they’ll have these services and receive them at about the same monthly fee they pay in independent living. Residents know where they’ll receive care, who will provide it, and what it will cost.

When residents choose a Life Care plan, they pay a one-time entrance fee (sometimes called “entry fee” or “buy-in fee”) and a monthly fee that doesn’t substantially change as their health needs change. That means if they need additional care, there’s no guesswork. The costs are predictable, and they can stay in the community they’ve grown to know as home.

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use “Life Care community” throughout the rest of this article, since we’ll be talking about levels of care and how they differ between Life Care communities and retirement rental communities.

Why do Life Care communities charge an entrance fee?

When you move to a Life Care community, you pay an upfront entrance fee on top of your monthly fees. The amount of the entrance fee varies from community to community depending on the amenities and services offered. This entrance fee helps lower your monthly fees and essentially acts as a downpayment for your future care needs. At many Life Care communities, like Freedom Village, a portion of your entrance fee is refundable to your estate upon death or if you choose to leave the community.

Life at a Life Care community. 

Life at a Life Care community includes a wide array of services and amenities designed to make your life easier, more convenient and more fun. In fact, you’ll generally find more services and amenities than rental retirement communities offer because a Life Care community is built to satisfy your needs for your lifetime, while rental communities may appeal more to those who don’t intend to stay long at any one place.

How are rental communities different?

The main difference between the two community types is that Life Care communities always offer at least some level of long-term continuum of care services while many rental communities don’t. So if you need to transition from independent living to assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing, your Life Care contract provides you with priority access without ever having to move again. If you decide to move to a retirement rental community instead of a Life Care community, make sure you ask them what levels of care, if any, they offer and what the cost is estimated to be.

And while you won’t pay an entrance fee at a rental community, you also most likely won’t have access to additional senior care and certainly not at a locked-in rate. If you do find a rental retirement community that offers a continuum of care, you’ll be paying non-discounted market rates at the time of service, and may well only have the option of receiving that care from an outside third-party provider.

Directly comparing costs between the two community options isn’t a simple comparison. On the one hand, you’ll pay an entrance fee plus a monthly fee at a Life Care community. But while you won’t have an entrance fee at a rental community, you also won’t have guaranteed care at below-market rates, which could leave you vulnerable in the future. That’s something to think about if you hope to never have to move again.

Freedom Village offers Life Care so you can live the life you desire without worry.

After you’ve done your research, we think you’ll see that Freedom Village is the last move you’ll ever have to make. So why wait? Contact us today to learn more about our many senior living options. We can also help you decide the best age to move into a Life Plan community (hint: It’s right now).