Not Your Grandfather’s Retirement Community

The term retirement community typically conjures images of golf courses, tennis courts, and communal dining rooms, with few senior services and no medical care. The term nursing home calls to mind a medicalized environment where everyone is sick. One of the newest and fastest-growing trends in elder care is the emergence of continuing-care retirement communities (CCRCs). The goal is to provide a place where older people can retire and live an active life, then receive whatever assistance they need when they need it—without having to move. More than 2,000 CCRCs have opened around the country, mostly in the past decade. Because New York is generally slow to license health-care facilities, the state currently has just eight (none yet in the five boroughs, though one is under way in Queens and taking reservations). “Given the popularity of the existing communities and the interest by private developers, you can expect to see that this is a trend that’s going to accelerate,” says Scott Amrhein, president of the nonprofit Continuing Care Leadership Coalition.

CCRCs generally work like this: Residents pay a onetime entry fee plus monthly charges to cover housing, transportation, housekeeping, security, meals, and care for the rest of their lives. The entry fee—anywhere from $70,000 to several million dollars—is determined by an applicant’s age at entry and the quality, location, and size of the home. Fees are partially refundable—heirs can expect to get between 50 and 100 percent of the deposit back when a resident dies, depending on the terms of the contract and how many services have been used. (CCRCs sustain themselves by banking the buy-in money and using the interest to pay for residents’ care.) These facilities have a minimum entry age of 62 but an average of 78 nationwide. They screen applicants medically and financially; younger and healthier people are more likely to get in. Because of the high costs, these communities typically cater to upper-middle-class retirees, Amrhein says.

Experts say three of the best CCRCs within an hour’s drive of midtown Manhattan are Cedar Crest, in Pomton Plains, New Jersey, Meadow Ridge Retirement Community in Redding, Connecticut, and Kendal on Hudson, in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Cedar Crest (800-301-8722; is a virtual geriatropolis set on a pretty, sprawling 130-acre hilltop campus, with 1,242 apartments and 104 nursing-home beds. Entrance fees run from $138,000 to $556,000 (100 percent refundable); monthly fees are $1,400 to $2,200.

Meadow Ridge (203-544-7777; caters primarily to affluent New England Yankees. “We’re pretty much Ivy League and Waspy, but there are some Jewish families here, too,” says Mort Bailey, an 84-year-old retired publisher who’s lived at Meadow Ridge for five years. The complex offers 224 independent-living apartments, twenty assisted-living studio and one-bedroom units, 50 nursing-home beds. Entrance fees range from $395,000 to $655,000 (85 percent refundable), with monthly fees from $2,861 to $4,319.

Kendal on Hudson (914-922-1000 or 800-517-8964;, which opened last year on a prime stretch of Hudson riverfront, is owned by a Pennsylvania-based Quaker nonprofit group that operates a dozen similar communities around the country. It’s home to 222 independent-living apartments, 24 assisted-living units, and 42 nursing-home beds. Entrance fees are $110,775 to $686,000; monthly fees are $2,558 to $4,721.

Additional reporting by Wesley Wade.

Not Your Grandfather’s Retirement Community