Continuous care retirement communities are fueling latest trend in retirement living and care in the Valley

Baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day, according to a Pew Research report, and that number is expected to remain steady for the next 11 years.

Whether these boomers retire at 65 or choose to stay in the workforce for a few more years, the number of people retiring will continue to grow at a record pace. That means the number of people whose living arrangements will change will also continue to increase. This has given rise to continuous care retirement communities gaining more ground around the country and here in the Valley.

Until the mid-20th century, most Americans didn’t retire. When they did, said Bob Roth, a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging and managing director of Cypress HomeCare Solutions, it was quietly accepted that retirement was a short interlude of just a few years before the inevitable. Today people live longer than ever, and the short interlude can now last as long as 30 years. It’s a whole new, full phase of life for Americans that many aren’t prepared for.

“It’s not a one-time conversation,” Roth said. “It’s an ongoing conversation about how you want to live out your life should you not be able to communicate, and/or should you age to the point where you can’t live alone. You know we need to have a road map and a plan.”

If seniors have made no plans for the future, their choices may be limited. If they have planned ahead, CCRCs can be a good option. These facilities can take a retiree from the active adult phase of their golden years, through assisted living and eventual final care. They can be a collection of apartments, townhomes or condos that includes common activity areas, a restaurant-like dining room, an assisted-living facility and a nursing home. Banking services, convenience stores, a golf course, swimming pools and guest accommodations also may be available.

There are three types of CCRC contracts: Class A, life-care contracts, where there is an upfront buy in and a resident’s monthly service fee remains at a predetermined rate over the person’s lifetime; Class B, modified fee-for-service, where residents pay an entry fee and also are responsible for some expenses associated with assisted living or skilled nursing; and Class C, fee-for-service, where residents usually pay an entry fee and then pay the full-market rate for the cost of care in assisted living and skilled nursing.

Arizona is home to some of the nation’s best Class A CCRCs, including Vi at Silverstone and Vi at Grayhawk, both in North Scottsdale. Owned by Vi and Plaza Companies, the cost to Live at Vi Silverstone can range from an upfront fee of between $243,000 to $1.1 million, plus monthly fees between $3,600 to $6,600 depending on the floor plan.

“Yes, we will be cost-prohibitive, but not because we’re a Class A, because either you’re able to pay this kind of money to begin with or you can’t, depending on how you planned for your future,” said Jill Wolverton, executive director at Vi at Silverstone, which opened in 2010.

The Class A CCRC may still be rare in the Valley at the moment, but Roth said more are coming.

“From what I understand, just in 2018, 20 of these communities have broken ground along the 101 from Scottsdale all the way out to the West Valley,” he said.

For those who can’t afford what Grayhawk, Silverstone and other Class As offer, Roth said there are several reputable and comfortable Class B communities in the Valley. One interesting community currently under construction in Tempe at Mill and University is Mirabella at ASU. The new high-rise senior community will provide continued education, numerous health care services, and an environment where performing arts, social, athletic and research activities are easily accessible.

While cost is the challenge for consumers, for the industry, another challenge, according to Roth and Wolverton, is staffing for everything from landscaping to skilled nursing.

“With the unemployment rate as low as it is in the Phoenix area, it does continue to be a challenge,” Wolvertone said. “A lot of our employees are traveling 30-plus minutes to get to work from all parts of the Valley.”

A lack of mass transit to the area exacerbates the problem, but Wolverton said her parent company offers a variety of benefits in a so-far-successful attempt to attract employees. That’s important in a region with more than 100 retirement communities alone.

Janet Perez

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