“When it comes to choosing a Life Plan Community for you or a loved one, there are no right or wrong choices,” says Mary Ellen Thieroff, Marketing Director of Royal Oaks, an established Life Plan Community in Sun City, AZ. “Everyone’s needs, desires and interests are different, which can make it a little more difficult and confusing as you explore the various options available.”

Life Plan Communities (formerly known as CCRCs) are the “one-stop shop” of senior living. Usually, Life Plan Communities are situated on a campus-like setting that offers resort-like amenities where residents live in apartment homes, villas or garden homes in a community setting. Higher levels of living, such as assisted living, memory support and complete supportive living are carefully arranged if and when residents need those services.

“A Life Plan Community is a good option if you want security and predictable costs for the rest of your life,” says Mary Ellen. “Regardless of how your health changes, you will be taken care of for life without having to move. This can bring great peace of mind for you while freeing your children and grandchildren from financial and emotional burdens that could affect their future and yours.”

Mary Ellen says it’s important for seniors to plan early and choose a Life Plan Community that meets their needs both now and in the future. “Taking the opportunity to research communities well in advance means that you will be able to make the best possible choice for you and your loved ones,” she says. “You want a community that will allow you to accomplish the things you want to do now, whether that’s volunteering, traveling, spending time with family or whatever else you’d like to do. At the same time, you want to choose a place where you’ll be happy to spend your golden years, even if you require a little extra assistance in the future.”

As you start (or continue) your search for the right Life Plan Community, here are 10 essential questions to ask to help determine whether a community is a right fit for what you’re searching for.

1. Is the Life Plan Community’s financial health transparent?
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the financial soundness of a community. If the community hesitates to provide financials when you request them, that may be a red flag. Since first opening, Royal Oaks has built a reputation for financial and management strength. Today, we offer our residents the security and confidence of over three decades of financial stability.

2. What are the fees and how do they increase as my needs increase?
Fee structures for Life Plan Communities vary quite a bit from one community to another. In most cases, residents pay a sizable entrance fee plus a monthly fee moving forward. The community should provide an understanding of the entrance fee, Monthly Service Fee (MSF) and services covered by the MSF, along with fee increase trends.

3. Who manages the community and how accessible is the management?
Life Plan Communities, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, should disclose the management structure and provide a comfort level that on-site management is readily available to discuss your home and care needs. Ask if periodic updates are held and how residents can have input into decisions made. You will also want to have the opportunity to meet the Board of Directors when you become a resident.

4. What are the tax advantages of living at a Life Plan Community and what percentage of the entrance fee and MSF can you deduct?
Because the IRS recognizes Life Plan Communities as having a medical component, a portion of the entrance fee and monthly service fees can be deducted as prepaid medical expenses in the year in which they are paid. The community should be open about this substantial tax deduction, as it is quite an advantage if you itemize deductions on your federal taxes.

5. Are there expenses associated with my home in the community?
The answer to this should be a definitive “no!” All maintenance and utilities are provided in a Life Plan Community, along with housekeeping and transportation services to doctors, shopping, activities and more. A certain level of meal service is also included in the Monthly Service Fee. Every community will have a different set of amenities included in the monthly fee, so be sure to inquire.

6. How is the food?
In the past, the traditional senior housing community hasn’t been thought of as creating gourmet fare, but the savviest Life Plan Communities across the country employ Executive Chefs with resort training to keep the residents healthy and satisfied in the culinary category. Life Plan Communities with good chefs will invite you to a complimentary meal before you make the decision to become a resident since they are proud of the quality and variety of exceptional cuisine they prepare and serve every day.

7. What kind of social activities are offered?
Friendships and activities are two big advantages of living in a Life Plan Community. Ask to see an activity calendar and/or speak to the person in charge of activities. Top-notch communities understand the positive correlation between active social lives and living longer. These communities take residents on cruises, outings, sporting and theater events, and generally provide a multitude of fun activities both on and off the campus.

8. Does the community have a commitment to promoting physical fitness in residents?
Aging does not have to mean slowing down. Many Life Plan Communities have fitness centers, including swimming pools, to rival the top gyms in town. The gym equipment should be specifically adjusted for the senior adult while the fitness offerings ideally will center around fun classes that increase range of motion, help with balance and are easy on the joints.

9. What types of lifelong learning programs are offered?
Retiring can mean exploring new paths and opening your mind to new learning experiences. Communities in touch with their residents’ needs realize that an active mind results in sharper residents. Many communities have partnered with local universities to provide on-campus classes, while others have developed their own learning opportunities. Ask the community you are considering to explain all the activities planned to keep your mind engaged.

10. What are the licensed levels of living beyond independent living, and is home care an option?
It’s probable that you or your loved one, at some point as you age, will need help with bathing, dressing, medication management, memory support or complete supportive living. Thus, you will want to have an understanding of the credentials of the staff who will be caring for you and options available if you prefer to recuperate from an operation or illness in your on-campus residence. Today’s educated consumers of health services know that home health is a viable alternative, so be sure to ask the community you are visiting if home health is readily available.
A vibrant oasis in the heart of Arizona.
If you love the idea of living in a community that sees the world a little differently – welcome home to Royal Oaks. Come discover the extraordinary when you reach beyond the familiar. You’ll have the time of your life in our Life Plan Community, exploring the almost endless possibilities.
Conveniently located near Phoenix in Sun City, Arizona, our upscale senior living community is an oasis of 50+ lush acres featuring a myriad of plants, trees and rose gardens. We are a nonprofit community that offers a full continuum of senior living services and care to older adults, including independent living, assisted living, memory support and complete supportive living. Continual improvements to the campus have resulted in state-of-the-art communal and private areas. Our main building bustles like Grand Central Station, complete with all the amenities of a small city.
With state-of-the-art technology, beautiful residences and engaging programs and amenities, Royal Oaks was designed with a focus on the future and all its potential. We invite you to visit our vibrant retirement community near Phoenix and get a taste for the good life.
Call 623-377-7663 today to schedule a personal tour.