The times of aging in America they are a-changing .  Many senior Arizona residents couldn’t be happier about it.   Long gone are the days of mandatory retirement at age 65 and the idea of sitting quietly on the front porch in a rocking chair.  Active adult and senior living in Phoenix has been and continues to be in high demand.

To begin with forget about that rocking chair.  Active adults in Phoenix spend their mornings working out in the gym or pedaling along the hike and bike trails.   As for the front porch, seniors in Arizona find that they have a wide variety of housing options that can accommodate their budget.   Additionally, they are enjoying their lifestyle in a community that encourages the pursuit of their personal interests goals and activities.

While aging is inevitable, medical advances and a healthy lifestyle choices are responsible for increasing the number of years a person may live.  As a result,  the demographics of seniors in Arizona have undergone some significant changes.  For example, the term “senior” may describe an active person in her late 50’s or someone in her early 80’s. Baby Boomers now entering the senior arena are faced with the responsibility of preparing not only for their own retirement but with making  plans for their elderly parents.

Phoenix offers a wide array of options to accommodate the different lifestyles for seniors and active adults. From upscale active adult retirement communities to full-care facilities, there is a senior citizen living solution to fit every need.

Taking Stock of Yourself

When making retirement housing plans there’s no denying that the number and diversity of choices available is overwhelming. Begin by taking a personal inventory, including personal living expenses, health, interests and expectations.


Make a list of monthly expenses.   From rental or housing fees to day-to-day living expenses and anticipated medical expenses. The point is to be realistic about everyday expenses now so there are no rude surprises later.


Active golf enthusiasts for example might want close proximity to a local golf course. Those who want to use this time for community involvement might want to live close by schools churches or community centers.  While others who want to  pursuing an active lifestyle might want easy access to hike and bike trails fitness centers.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Deciding to pack up and sell a  home filled with memories is a difficult decision.  One viable option open to senior homeowners is the reverse mortgage.   Guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  a reverse mortgage is a federally insured private loan to provide financial security.

The money from a reverse loan may be paid to the borrower in a variety of ways.  From a lump sum or regular monthly cash advance or combination of the two. Typically borrowers do not have to pay anything back until they permanently move out of the home, sell or pass away. Eligibility for most reverse mortgages requires that the home should be owned outright and the applicant is 62 years of age or older. (Visit AARP’s website and use their Reverse Mortgage Calculator:

A reverse mortgage offers retirees a distinct advantage. Since most lenders require that borrowers have income so they can determine a borrower’s ability to pay back the loan.  However, many retired seniors cannot qualify for a traditional home equity loan.  A reverse mortgage does not require monthly payments.   Therefore, there is not a minimum income required. Additionally,  reverse mortgages require no repayment as long as the owner or any co-owner lives in the home.

The best way to determine if a reverse mortgage is the following:

  • How much would the home sell for on today’s market?
  • What would the cost be to buy and maintain or rent a new home?
  • Would there be any money left over from the purchase of a new home that could be safely invested?
  • What are the options for downsizing into a less expensive home renting an apartment or moving into an assisted living or alternative senior housing situation?

Being realistic about finances and longevity is important.  Retirees have to think about their health, future beyond the average life expectation.  They need to consider the need to be close to hospitals and doctors that can provide them with care. Acceptance of insurance cannot be overlooked.   A real estate professional can help to find a retirement situation.

Become a SnowBird

Another option is to enjoy nice weather all year long.  The ideal climate in Phoenix begins in late October and continues into early May.   This period has been home to the “Snowbird” lifestyle for years.  Many major events and activities occur during this period offering a wide range of options for seniors in the area.

Senior Snowbirds generally are among the more active of retirees.  They face the same needs and concerns as a full time residence, but are less likely to be interested in assisted or long term care.  However, many of the facilities and services in place for the permanent senior residents are also available to the part time resident.

Although some retirees have multiple full time residences, Phoenix offers many options for winter only accommodations.  Homes and Condos are available throughout the area under short term lease.  Two very popular options are RV/trailer parks and manufactured home parks.   RV/trailer parks are plentiful and offer affordable rates for multiple month stays. Manufactured homes are generally an ownership only option but are much more affordable than the traditional home or condo.  Manufactured home parks offer the amenities associated with apartment or condo living including facility and yard maintenance.

Senior Housing Options

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that private senior care housing can range in cost form $20000 to $200000 per year.  Many senior care housing communities employ medically trained staff and provide housekeeping, meal preparation services, transportation. HUD also notes that as Baby Boomers approach their own retirement years the trend toward creating active retirement communities will continue.  Whereas seniors are encouraged to live as independently as they are capable of handling.

The time to begin thinking about a retirement community isn’t when you have to have it.  There are not enough retirement communities to keep up with the demand.   You want to be sure that you know your options and what’s available.  The Internet is a good source for families to learn more about retirement communities check on specific programs and associated costs.

Medicare generally does not pay for long-term care, but only for services deemed medically necessary.  Medicaid will pay for certain healthcare services and nursing home care for those with low incomes and limited assets. Optimally the selected community should have someone on staff familiar with the requirements and criteria of both programs.

Active Senior Housing Communities

Many seniors do not want to worry about the upkeep and maintenance of a home.  Preferring to spend their leisure time in other ways.  Independent seniors in good health may find they need a community where they can fully enjoy pursuing their personal interests. For them, moving to an active independent living retirement community is the best fit for their budget and lifestyle.  Furthermore, options include renting an apartment or the outright purchase of a property in a senior community.

A personal visit will give valuable first-hand information and the opportunity to visit with current residents.  In addition to day-to-day living arrangements,  consideration of  shopping centers and grocery stores within easy walking distance and transportation.  Additional questions should include, Where is the community located in proximity to major health care providers? And what security measures are in place for residents?   Many seniors rent a home under a short-term agreement  to make sure the community provides for their needs and lives up to their expectations.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) offers 360-degree care in residential community for seniors with a full menu of services and living situations. Residents at a CCRC may move between independent living assisted living and nursing home care depending on their individual changing needs. Seniors electing to live in a CCRC (also known as “Continuing Care Retirement Facilities” “Life-Care Facilities” and “Life-Care Communities”) contract with the community in advance for a lifetime commitment to provide care regardless of their future health and needs. Residents live in the residential community for the remainder of their lives,  receiving appropriate care to address their needs and abilities.

A CCRC generally offers seniors a contract that provide a continuum of care that includes housing services and health care for the balance of their lives.  It is a wise idea for seniors to move into a CCRC sooner rather than later as most CCRCs require that new residents be capable of living independently when they first move in.

CCRC Options

There are a number of contract options offered by CCRCs to seniors and their families. An extensive care contract is the most expensive, but affords the least risk providing long-term nursing care. A modified care contract comes with medium financial risk and provides long-term health or nursing services for a specified period of time. A fee-for-service contract offers an a la carte approach, where residents pay separately for all health and medical services provided.  While a fee-for-service contract is the least expensive contract, it does have the highest risk.   Costs can run very high for seniors who require unanticipated care later in life.

The most common element in a CCRC contract is an entrance fee.  Regardless of whether the contract is an extensive modified or fee-for-service, the resident pays a lump sum entrance fee plus monthly fees.  Another CCRC contract option may require an equity agreement, which includes the purchase of a condominium or co-op apartment.  Less commonly found are CCRC contracts where residents pay monthly fees only. Seniors and their families are advised to be sure to read the fine print on the contract carefully to ensure that they are signing an agreement that guarantees the services and support over an extended period of time. There are so-called copycat senior-care residences that claim to offer all the benefits of a CCRC,  but in reality the services guaranteed by the actual contract fall far short of the claims made by management.

Ask Questions

Before signing a contract with a CCRC seniors should conduct a thorough review of the facility’s services operations and finances to determine that the CCRC is appropriate to their needs lifestyle and expectations. It’s also a good idea to ask a family attorney or accountant to review the contract.  If the contract is found agreeable, request to spend at least one night and two days at the facility to test drive the community and make sure it is a good fit. Some points to consider included:

  • Are pets allowed in your residence?
  • What social recreational and cultural activities are offered?
  • Is food prepared onsite? If so how is it prepared?
  • Are there fitness facilities onsite?
  • Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable?
  • What healthcare and personal care services are available?
  • What preparations have been made for handling medical and evacuation emergency situations?

CCRCs are an excellent option for those who are independent and in good health but might need some assistance with daily living needs or require skilled nursing care. The variety of housing offered by CCRCs is varied as well ranging from ultra-urban high-rise apartment communities to cottages townhouses duplexes or even single-family homes located in a beautiful natural setting.

Assisted Living Communities

An Assisted Living Community (ALC) bridges the gap for seniors.  Residents in an ALC are unable to live by themselves but do not require constant supervision. An ALC offers its residents assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, laundry, housekeeping and keeping track of medications. They often have centers for medical services, but typically do not offer the extensive medical services provided by a nursing home. An ALC is not a substitute for a nursing home, but rather is a stepping stone between complete independence and service provided by a nursing home.

Often an ALC will create an individualized service plan for seniors.  This plan is periodically reviewed and updated to provide the correct care each resident receives. Housing in an ALC may be studio or one-bedroom apartments with small kitchen facilities. Typically, ALC housing units have group dining facilities and common areas where residents gather to enjoy social and recreational activities.

The first impression of an Assisted Living Community is the most important.  What do you see when you get out of the car? How do they take care of the lawn? What is your first impression of the staff? Are the residents properly dressed? How’s the lighting inside the buildings? What activities are available? Are staff members all in the same uniform? Scrubs are not appropriate for an Assisted Living Community but name tags are important.

Nursing Care Facilities

A Nursing Care Facility (NCF) is a state licensed private-care facility that provides 24-hour skilled hospital care for residents who do not require hospitalization.  Also called Long Term Care Facilities, the majority of nursing homes are staffed by caring trained persons who provide an excellent level of service for their residents.

It pays to shop around when selecting a NCF.  Seniors should consult with a trusted doctor or health care practitioner for recommendations of nearby facilities. Plan on visiting at least four or five area facilities and make an appointment with the administrator or director of nursing.  Check to make sure that information provided is consistent with information gathered during the facility tour.  Discrepancies between provided information and your own observations indicate possible problems later on.  A nursing care facility should have clean floors and a clean smell. Facilities with dirty floors and a sour smell do not put a high priority on cleanliness and should not be considered.

Ask to see the compliance survey report prepared by the State of Arizona. The report will list deficiencies found in resident care during routine inspections and the facility’s effort to correct the problem. Under Arizona law nursing homes must make this and other survey compliance reports available upon request.

Important Questions

Another option available is to call the Arizona Department of Health Services Division of Licensing at 602-364-2690. While state law may prohibit agency employees from recommending one facility over another, they can answer the following recommended questions about any such facility:

  • Have there been any proposed license terminations in the past two years?
  • Number of complaints have been filed in the past year?
  • What is the validitiy of the complaints?
  • Have there been any deficiencies cited in the past two years?
  • How many “quality of care” violations have been cited in the past two years?
  • When did ADHS last visit the facility and what was the purpose of the visit?
  • Has the owner of this facility had other facilities recommended for license termination?

The answers to these questions combined with observations and impressions made during facility tours and staff interviews will ease the task of selecting the right nursing care facility.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Facilities

Residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia need specialized care. Assisted Living Facilities offer services and separate facilities for residents with early onset symptoms.  However, because of the progressive nature of the disease it may become necessary to transfer the resident to another facility that can provide more appropriate care.

Facilities specializing in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia should provide a treatment plan that takes into account not only the resident’s medical needs but also the needs of the entire family with social services and professional consultations and individualized treatment reviews. Emphasis within the facility should be placed on providing a calming soothing environment that is sensitive to the needs of the patient.