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CCRCs: The Ideal and The Reality

The concept of a CCRC is appealing.  Move into a campus, meet new friends, enjoy meals with them in the dining room, and have healthcare readily at hand for when you need it.  On a superficial level all of that promise is there.  Yet, the Federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled its 2010 study of the industry, “Continuing Care Retirement Communities Can Provide Benefits, but Not Without Some Risk.”   

The U. S. Senate Committee on Aging also noted the need for reforms in the less obvious financial and contract aspects of the CCRC industry.  The Senators called on the states to enact legislation.  Despite that 2010 call for change, the status quo continues to prevail in the industry.  In the public dialogue, spokespeople for the industry, such as LeadingAge’s Steve Maag, seek to minimize the challenges  and to reassure complacent provider executives that what they are doing is not only positive but that it is all that is needed.  Yes, providers have noted, there is a new generation of more demanding customers coming on the scene but a name change to Life Plan Communities (replacing CCRCs) should take care of that.

Part of the mission of Active Aging Advocates is to foster the groundswell of public opinion that will be needed to bring about the CCRC industry that the public needs and one that it can trust.  That trustworthy industry does not now exist, though there are some bright spots, and nothing less than marketplace demands will persuade CCRC operators, their lawyers, and their investment bankers that change must happen.

To the right are resources that can make you a better CCRC consumer. An informed consumer is the best safeguard against disappointment and buyer’s remorse.  On March 15, 1962, President John F. Kennedy presented a speech to the United States Congress in which he extolled four basic consumer rights, later called the Consumer Bill of Rights.  These are: (1) the right to safety; (2) the right to be informed; (3) the right to choose; and (4) the right to be heard.  The absence of these basic rights among CCRC residents, many of whom feel locked in by forfeitable entry fees and age-related residential dependence, has spawned a nationwide movement among residents to advocate for Resident Rights.

Simply stated, the ideal is a full care inclusive (Type A) continuing care contract with revenue recognition and reserves matched to the promised benefits and without the smoke and mirrors of contingent occupancy refund contracts, disingenuous accounting, or less than credible accreditation. The ideal is an open, honest, forthcoming, and trustworthy industry that meets the needs of aging Americans without equivocation or executive level self-deception.  In the ideal, residents can have the option of ownership or membership if they wish it, and are treated in all cases as the ultimate organizational purpose.

Let us make this clear.  Active Aging Advocates seeks and supports a continuum-for-aging industry that is responsive to what older Americans want and need, that preserves their dignity and continuing contribution throughout their lives, and that is an industry that Americans can embrace and trust.  Those visionary attributes are not just for the wealthy or affluent.  All Americans, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances, deserve to be sustained through the aging process.  That is not only our vision.  It is the vision of those industry and public leaders who are committed to what’s best for America.


Resources for Informed Consumers

Dreaming of What a CCRC Can Be

Is a CCRC for you? Questions to Ponder

CCRC Questions and Answers Guide

Video: CCRC Living As Choice and Investment

Video: Panel on CCRC Bankruptcies

Industry and State Consumer Guides

U. S. Senate Committee on Aging Hearing into CCRCs July 2010 and the Federal GAO Investigation

NaCCRA Model Laws

State Statutes

CCRC Litigation

Video:  Full Day Symposium at the McGeorge School of Law on Legal Rights and Responsibilities in California CCRCs



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Adminstration:  Active Aging Advocates, 2855 Carlsbad Blvd., N116, Carlsbad, CA 92008

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