What is a Life Plan Community?

Residents enjoy the library at the Dock Woods senior living community in Lansdale

What is a Life Plan Community?

While exploring the senior living options for a loved one, you may have encountered the term “Life Plan Community.” This term describes a specific kind of retirement community that you may want to consider as you do more research.

Let’s unpack this term so you can determine whether a Life Plan Community is ideal for you or your loved one.

Residents enjoy the bistro at the Dock Woods senior living community in Lansdale

What is a Life Plan Community?

Put simply, a Life Plan Community offers everything you may ever need – all in one place.

Sometimes also called a continuing care retirement community or CCRC, a Life Plan Community has the full range of housing options and care services. This separates them from other kinds of senior communities – like assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities, or rehabilitation centers – that only offer one level of care.

In a Life Plan Community, residents can join at the independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing level and then transition smoothly between them as their needs change with time.

Many seniors choose a Life Plan Community because it provides peace of mind. Moving to a new community is difficult when you’re in perfect health – it’s even more stressful when you’re not. A Life Plan Community allows residents to get more support while remaining in the place they know and love.

Residents at The Willows Personal Care community in Hatfield enjoy games with local students

Access all levels of care in a Life Plan Community

Life Plan communities offer all three levels of long-term care: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing. They may also provide memory care, which can support residents with dementia who need assisted living or skilled nursing care.

Let’s review each level of care that Life Plan Communities offer.

Independent living

Independent living is exactly what it sounds like: residents live on or near the heart of campus in their own residences, choosing how and when they want to participate in campus life. In a Life Plan Community, residents often start in a villa, condo, cottage, or apartment within the community. Home maintenance is taken care of, and they have access to amenities on their campus, such as restaurants, fitness centers, and other common spaces.

Assisted living

In assisted living – sometimes called personal care in Pennsylvania – residents live in their own apartment on campus and receive personalized support with some activities of daily living. Caregivers may provide some support with taking medication, using the bathroom, or getting dressed and groomed. Typically, residents in an assisted living community eat together and partake in fitness and recreational activities with their neighbors, enjoying all the amenities their campus center offers.

Skilled nursing

In a skilled nursing neighborhood, residents need the highest level of care. They may have limited mobility, complex health challenges, or chronic illness. Often, these residents receive help with things like eating, hygiene, and moving from a bed to a chair or shower.

Memory care

If the community offers it, a memory care neighborhood provides specialized support for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These communities are designed to be home-like and cozy, offering peace and security within the assisted living or skilled nursing environment. Caregivers in memory care communities are trained to meet the unique needs of a person with dementia and their loved ones.

A resident swims in the pool at the Dock Woods senior living community in Lansdale

Amenities and services in a Life Plan Community

Because they offer the full range of care, Life Plan communities must meet a range of physical, mental, emotional, and social needs. They are often larger than communities with fewer levels of care, with more resources to provide amenities and services for their residents.

A typical Life Plan Community offers:

  • On-campus dining options
  • Fitness spaces, including gyms and pools
  • Recreation facilities, such as pickleball, bocce, and shuffleboard courts
  • Activities, trips, and continuing education opportunities
  • Resident-led clubs
  • Worship services and small groups for members of various faiths
  • Salons and barber shops
  • Art and crafting studios
  • Libraries and computer labs
  • Auditoriums and halls for lectures, concerts, and other large events
  • Transportation services for outings and appointments
  • Outdoor walking paths, gardens, and seating areas
  • Game rooms for activities like cards or board games
Residents enjoy outdoor shuffleboard at the Souderton Mennonite Homes senior living community in Souderton

The advantages of a Life Plan Community

There are many reasons to make a Life Plan Community part of your retirement planning. Because they offer all levels of care and numerous services, Life Plan Communities help residents prepare for the future while enjoying the present.

Peace of mind

From independent living to skilled nursing, there’s a place for every resident in a Life Plan Community. Many residents join at the independent living or assisted living levels, knowing they have the safety net of memory care and skilled nursing. Even better, these resources are already part of their home – there’s no need to move to a new community if the time comes.

Community atmosphere

Life Plan Communities are not what you may think of as a nursing home. They’re bustling hubs of activity. Residents come and go, doing the jobs, service, and activities they enjoy in the broader community or on campus. And there’s always something to do, whether it’s a social opportunity or an interesting lecture.

Sought-after amenities

Life Plan Communities are not one-size-fits-all. Providing support for residents at all levels requires a variety of amenities and housing options. Residents at many Life Plan Communities can take advantage of deluxe amenities, such as indoor pools, walking trails, lifelong learning classes, comprehensive wellness programs, and more.

Residents enjoy the library at the Dock Woods senior living community in Lansdale

Choosing the right Life Plan Community

When it’s time to choose a Life Plan Community for you or a loved one, use this checklist to narrow down your options.


How close is the Life Plan Community to family members, shopping centers, medical facilities, and other important locations?

Housing options

Decide the housing options you want to consider, including apartments, cottages, and villas. Be sure to consider factors like size, layout, and accessibility.

Payment structure

Would you prefer to pay a standard fee regardless of the level of care needed, or would you rather pay only for the care needed at any given time? If you pay a standard fee regardless of care level, that’s a Life Care (sometimes called Type A) contract, which requires a higher entrance and monthly fee than a Fee For Service (sometimes called Type C) contract. Fee For Service contracts are known to give residents more flexibility and control over their costs, and Life Care contracts offer stability that appeals to some. Knowing your preference can help you choose a community that will work for you.

Amenities and services

Make a list of amenities that are most important to you or your loved one. Consider dining options, recreation, continuing education, wellness programs, clubs and social events, pastoral care, and more. Which amenities are available at the communities you’re considering? How would you rank the quality of your most important amenities?

Non-profit or for-profit

Some Life Plan Communities are non-profit organizations; others are for-profit companies. While both types can offer excellent care and quality of life, there are some key differences:

  • Non-profits are driven by a mission to serve their communities, prioritizing the well-being of their residents over profits for shareholders.
  • Non-profit organizations may offer financial assistance programs to make their services available to a broader range of people.
  • Non-profit organizations often use their resources to invest more intentionally in resident care, team member training, and maintaining or upgrading their facilities.
  • Non-profit organizations often have a long history in their communities, making them less susceptible to changes in ownership or management.
  • Non-profit organizations may engage in more community outreach and service work. This can give residents and their families a sense of belonging and connection in the wider community.

Resident testimonials and visits

Once you have a short list of Life Plan Communities in your area, take some time to tour each one. Bring any questions you may have and ask about connecting with a current resident for their perspective on life in the community. You’ll be given materials to take with you, but you may also want to take notes on your own while you visit.

As a Life Plan Community, Living Branches offers all levels of care across our campuses in Hatfield, Souderton, and Lansdale. Contact one of our sales counselors to learn which community is best for you.