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WNC Business

The importance of Continuing Care Retirement Communities in WNC

Oct 12, 2023 02:11PM ● By Randee Brown

While North Carolina has an increasing retiree population, there are only 64 Continuing Care Retirement Communities in the state, according to Carolina Village Executive Director Kevin Parries

NC is unique in the Southeast US in that CCRCs are governed by a general statute overseen by the NC Department of Insurance containing rules and laws that provide oversight and regulations for these facilities. Parries said this provides comfort and security for residents as well as making the state’s communities more attractive to retirees considering relocation. While all of these communities provide similar offerings, the programming, amenities, and culture can be unique to each community.

Carolina Village, celebrating its 50th year in 2024, started in 1974 with the vision of just one Hendersonville resident who wanted to help care for older adults in the area. They took the idea to their doctor who also happened to be active in the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, which wanted to attract retirees to the county. County leaders came together to flesh out the vision that became the first secular CCRC in WNC.

The property’s 95 acres just a few miles outside of the City of Hendersonville supported 561 residents in the summer of 2023 with the help of about 350 staff members.

“It takes a village to run the Village,” Parries said. “We have people helping from the front gate to the back gate in every aspect including security, housekeeping, dining services, certified nursing assistants, service workers, and more."

Maintaining a workforce to support all the programming and care offered to its residents is a growing challenge.

“We work hard to show appreciation to our staff, but the problem is the workforce itself has changed,” Parries said. “We are not competing with other retirement communities, we are competing with everyone in town. There is some longevity in our staff; some have been here more than 20 years and some key direct caregivers have been here for 30 or even 40 years. The thing is that we know they’ll be retiring soon themselves."

While Parries said there was concern about retirement community interest during COVID as congregate living was heavily impacted, the marketing department is now booked for tours about a month in advance, and there is a waiting list of retirees interested in moving into the community.

CCRC residents vary widely. Parries said the majority of people move into Carolina Village for long-term peace of mind, some staying for more than 20 years. Residents’ ages range from 62 to 106, and there are currently six members of their ‘Centenarian Club’ over 100 years old. The leadership team at Carolina Village does its best to fulfill lots of different wishes and desires on offerings from the wide range of residents, according to Parries.

Director of Strategic Communications Wendy Smith said every resident has a different idea of what retirement should look like. She often sees residents who enjoy reading outside by the pond alone, and she also sees residents who enjoy participating in many of the community’s programs and activities. While no one wants to need the healthcare component, it provides peace of mind for residents and their families to know it is available if and when it becomes needed.

Residents are attracted to these communities because of all of the services and programs provided, according to Parries. Offering so many services – everything from lawn care to assisted living to wellness programs and other activities – has led many residents to say they wish they had moved there years earlier than they did.

Retirement communities like these can help retirees stay vibrant, according to Parries. Residents can do things like enjoy meals with friends without the cooking, cleaning, and entertaining tasks they would have otherwise. Residents are also able to stay involved in the community and do activities like volunteer work because they don’t have additional responsibilities.

“Our residents have poured — and are still pouring — their time and talents into local happenings, causes, and organizations,” Smith said. “It’s really special to get to witness it first hand. Who doesn’t want to live in safety and security and be able to give of themselves as they see fit? That goal’s not unique to any one demographic. So in that way, retirement living is not so different than just local living.”