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Sugar Hill Community Blog

04 October, 2017

Co-ops vs. CCRCs: What You Need to Know

When it comes to choosing between a cooperative retirement community and a continuing care retirement community, it’s important to know how the two types differ. Once you know what each brings to the table, it’ll be much easier to determine which one is the best fit for you.

Here’s a basic overview of a cooperative (or co-op) and a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) to help you on your search.

What’s the difference between a Co-op and a CCRC?

It’s important to know that while both a cooperative and a CCRC are both retirement communities, each is set up in a unique way.

A co-op is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. Each member of the co-op owns the property--in other words, each member is a shareholder. To become a part of a co-op, you typically pay a one-time share cost (think of it like a downpayment on a house) and then a monthly fee to cover the wide range of services and amenities.

Learn the Top 8 Financial Benefits of a Co-op

A CCRC is structured to be a continuum of care for seniors. Members of a CCRC are residents, not part-owners, of their community. When you enter into a CCRC, you expect to go from independent living to an assisted living community, and typically skilled nursing after that. As with a co-op, you pay an entry fee plus a monthly fee.

The main difference is this: a co-op is more focused on independent senior living while a CCRC is more focused on supportive services like nursing and physician care. They are similar in that they both offer typical retirement community amenities like community rooms, dining, maintenance, and more.

How do Co-ops and CCRCs Operate?

You might be wondering what the big deal is. If both types offer similar retirement community services, what does it matter how they’re structured?

Well, the unique structure of a cooperative makes a big difference when it comes to the overall lifestyle and culture.

For starters, a co-op operates by an elected board of directors and each shareholder gets to make decisions about community priorities and costs. At Sugar Hill, your neighbors sit on the board so you know decisions are being made with you in mind.

Simply put, you’re a shareholder in the community so you get a say in how it’s run. You’re a contributing member of an active, lively community.

And even though you have a say in how a co-op is run, you certainly don’t have to run it yourself. When you move into a co-op, daily operations are managed by a competent executive staff.

In contrast, a CCRC is owned by a corporation, so they make the calls. The management of a CCRC decides what services will be offered and how much they’ll cost.

While most CCRCs have a solid financial background, you do run the risk of monthly fee hikes if the community isn’t carefully vetted. Be sure to do your research before committing to a contract.

At co-ops like Sugar Hill, you can expect a stable monthly payment because the board members making the calls are residents themselves. You’re a shareholder, so you get to guide community priorities.

Financial Benefits of Retirement Community Living

For both CCRCs and co-ops, you typically pay an entrance fee and then monthly fees for living within the retirement community. At a CCRC, your monthly fees go toward the care plan you’ve contracted. At a co-op, think of the monthly fee as a “mortgage” payment in addition to provided services.

One major difference between the two is that in a co-op, you’re a part-owner. That means that you still get similar tax breaks to when you were a homeowner. At a CCRC, you’re no longer a homeowner so those benefits go away.

Another financial benefit of a co-op is that you can expect stable monthly payments. And if you decide to sell, you typically receive a majority of the resale value.

At Sugar Hill, you are guaranteed 92% of the value of your apartment or cottage upon resale. The residence is marketed for resale at no cost to you. Overall, a co-op is the financial benefit of home ownership without the risk.

Included Amenities and Services

There are a lot of great amenities included in the monthly fee for a co-op. At Sugar Hill, for example, we offer dinner six nights a week, a hair salon, post office boxes, and a wellness center, just to name a few.

Services in a co-op are geared toward taking away all the hassles of home ownership. To give you an idea of what might be offered at a co-op, Sugar Hill’s services include snow and trash removal, a 24-hour emergency monitoring system, and interior and exterior maintenance.

A CCRC will often offer similar amenities and services, especially for their independent living community. However, they also have to keep assisted living and skilled nursing residents in mind. You have access to more health and personal care services at a CCRC, but you may have to pay a little extra for certain services, especially medical ones.

When you’re researching and touring communities, don’t just look at how many amenities and services there are. Ask yourself--do they fit your interests or needs?

Of course, amenities and services are not the only things you should be looking at. You should also be considering the culture and lifestyle. Does it fit the picture of how you want to live your life?

Lifestyle at a Co-Op versus a CCRC

Because of their structure, co-ops build a strong sense of camaraderie and ownership. Residents tend to take more pride in their community--you’re all in it together.

They also typically attract a diverse group of residents. You can expect to meet a wide variety of new people from different backgrounds to give you a fresh perspective.

As part-owner at a co-op, you also have the opportunity to shape the community. Input from residents is encouraged when planning social gatherings.

In a co-op like Sugar Hill, you have your own apartment or cottage for privacy, but you also have plenty of opportunities to socialize. In other words, you have complete independence to be the guide of your retirement.

A CCRC typically offers its own range of social programming and services. However, CCRC residents tend to be a little older than those of a co-op. The average age of a new resident in a CCRC is about 80 years old. For co-ops, the average age is about 73-74 years old.

A CCRC is great for seniors with an eye on long term care. If you’re facing some health issues related to aging--or just worried about issues developing later in life--a CCRC is designed to meet those needs.

Although they may not offer the same extensive skilled nursing care as a CCRC, many co-ops do offer some kind of assisted living. On-site assisted living options mean residents can remain independent for as long as possible, without worrying about moving later in life.

Sugar Hill Cooperative Living Benefits

At first, the differences between a CCRC and a co-op may seem like just technicality in the structure. However, once you know the differences you can see how they affect many avenues, from your future care to the lifestyle you want to live. If you feel like a senior living cooperative is the best fit for you, check out our “Why Choose a Co-op?” to learn more.

What makes a co-op one of the most desirable places to retire?

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