In recent months, some continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) have found themselves struggling to attract residents and a dwq have even ended up in bankruptcy court, but this hasn’t prevented others from forging ahead and offering new services and programs, such as a vacation travel network.
Mather LifeWays in Evanston, Ill., and La Posada, in Green Valley, Ariz., are two CCRCs who are participating in what’s called the CCRC Vacation Experience, a program that allows CCRC residents to choose from a directory of participating communities around the nation to travel to for vacation.
How it Began
The idea of providing a way for residents to vacation was floated around on a LeadingAge CCRC listserv, according to Kathryn Brod, vice president of Senior Living Strategic Initiatives for Mather LifeWays, and her company along with La Posada picked it up and ran with it. She says there are several other organizations who are getting their information together and looking to join the travel network, as well.
The goal is simple: allow CCRC residents to go to other CCRCs on vacation, where they’ll be familiar with the lifestyle and have access to similar amenities, athletic equipment, scheduled transportation, and other services they’re used to getting in their own community, but at a different location.
“Our residents want to travel—how can we make it easier and more enjoyable for them?” was the question leading the travel network’s development, says Brod, and creating a CCRC-to-CCRC network eliminates the need to rely on or navigate third-party websites such as VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Costs would vary for each community, and would depend on the size of the unit and length of stay, which could be as long as three months.
“We designed it to allow for each organization to classify their own requirements for participating; they set their own fee structure, designate their own host, they are in charge of the program that they’re going to provide for each participant in the service package,” says Tim Carmichael, director of the Inspired Living Institute of La Posada. “They can map out for themselves what would be required. Having the common network, website, and process of booking the vacation and ensuring that the experience somebody might have is standard throughout is the only requirement that’s being imposed on participants.”
The program is limited to independent living residents who are able to travel on their own, says Brod, as it doesn’t include healthcare. “If they have healthcare needs, they’re not going to be offered any of the contractual healthcare they’d receive from their home CCRC, just like it would be on a normal vacation experience.”
There hasn’t been much market research to poll how CCRC residents feel about the program, but “We have seen a demand for it, and we hope it catches on,” Brod told SHN, adding that while the program is not yet live, they hope it will be shortly.
Considering that the two communities currently in the network are located in Illinois and Arizona, the program might attract some “snow birds” looking to trade in Chicago’s cold weather for Tucson’s balmier temperatures.
“Certainly the concern is, that a lot of migration to the warmer country is going to be expected versus those from the warm country going out to everywhere else,” says Carmichael. “We didn’t want to become so overwhelmed where we’re the only ones who benefited from this program; we may have to limit the number of opportunities that any one person might have over the course of time so we don’t get monopolized.”
Right now, the program is asking that participating communities earmark at least one unit for vacationers; La Posada currently has multiple units available, says Carmichael.
Some multi-site CCRCs have similar programs within their own company that allow residents to travel between a chain of communities, while others give prospective residents a “sneak peek” into community life.
For Erickson Living communities, there’s no vacation program for residents, but prospective residents are able to take “vacation trips” to experience what it would be like to move into a community, says Dan Dunne, Erickson Living’s director of communications. Some of Erickson’s campuses have apartments available for prospectives, but it’s more of a weekend thing rather than for an extended time period, with most participants having already identified the possibility of moving in.
This CCRC Vacation Experience program, however, was designed to allow any resident of a CCRC who’s part of the network have access to another CCRC, says Carmichael.
And while it evolved through the not-for-profit world, with the first half-dozen communities who are getting involved being not-for-profits, the intention is to open it up to for-profit CCRCS, as well; Carmichael says it’s “just a matter of getting [the word] out to the for-profits.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace