When Dick and Jean Haley moved into the Maple Knoll Village retirement community in October this year, their 15-year-old grandson Josh had a concern.

“Are we still going to be able to have Christmas at your house?” he asked. “Do you still have a place for me to sleep?”

The Haleys had been accustomed to suburban living after owning homes in Springdale for 25 years and in Mason for 15 years after that. They decided to move into a retirement community about five years ago. Both are still in good health, so they began searching for something that would fit their active lifestyle.

“We didn’t want to move into a real tiny apartment after having lived in comfortable surroundings for a lot of years,” Jean says. They were put on a waiting list for one of the larger units at Maple Knoll. After waiting about three years, Maple Knoll offered them the opportunity this year to convert two side-by-side smaller units into a 3,100-square-foot condo-style home. They worked with an architect and ended up “with exactly what we were looking for.”

And it has plenty of room for guests, such as their three children’s families, including nine grandchildren. Christmas at Grandpa and Grandma’s will go on.

Megan Gresham, director of communications for Maple Knoll Communities Inc., which operates Maple Knoll Village in Springdale and the Knolls of Oxford in Oxford, says: “Retirement living is not what it used to be. What we have found more and more over the past few years is that older adults are wanting to make a move while they can still enjoy the services and activities offered to them.”

That was the case for the Haleys, who will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary in January 2014. Dick is 78 and was in sales and marketing management at Procter & Gamble for 37 years. Jean is 77 and retired from Southern Ohio College as a placement director, then worked as a part-time cruise consultant until 2012.

“We wanted to move while we could still enjoy all of the options that they offered and that we would not be pushed into something by necessity,” Jean says.

Connie Kingsbury, vice president of marketing, public relations and communications for Life Enriching Communities—which operates Twin Lakes in Montgomery and Twin Towers in College Hill—says people often want to get away from home maintenance when they decide to go to retirement communities.

“They’re tired of the responsibility of their home, they want to spend their time doing things that they like to do and are fun,” she says. “They look a little further down the road, and they want to be in a place that, when their health needs change, they can stay in one location to get additional services as they may need them.”

Ken Paley, Episcopal Retirement Homes vice president of marketing, says that’s the idea behind CCRC, or continuing care retirement communities. CCRCs generally offer independent living, assisted living and nursing care—and often include some form of memory-loss care (dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, for instance).

Paley’s company operates 10 retirement communities—the more-upscale Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community and Deupree House in Hyde Park and eight affordable-living retirement communities (five in Greater Cincinnati and three elsewhere in Ohio).

Paley says it’s important for potential residents to consider a retirement community’s philosophy of aging in place. Some communities keep people in the various levels of care completely separate, with different times or places for things such as movies and dinners, and possibly separate entrances.

“Are you separated out and moved to another floor, or is their philosophy more about aging in place where they’ll bring the services to you and you can actually stay in your apartment?” Paley says.

For instance, a person who uses a walker might no longer be permitted to live in the independent-living area in some communities. Paley says Episcopal Retirement Homes’ philosophy is to allow residents to remain in their homes as long as possible.

Paley says forcing residents to move is a difficult proposition, which must be handled delicately and with compassion.

“If you need a little help on a daily basis—maybe a little extra house cleaning or help putting your eyedrops in—we don’t think that’s a reason to move you to assisted living,” he says. “Of course, there’s a point where you need a lot more services than you can get in your own apartment.”

While many people have viewed retirement communities as a final resting place, possibly as a place where you go to die, that idea is changing now that these communities are offering many amenities and social activities. People are living longer and staying healthier longer—and they still want to have fun.

“It’s all about keeping people healthy, providing services for them so that they can do the things that they want to do—they can spend more time socializing with friends, volunteering, taking trips,” Kingsbury says.

Some of the things people seek are garden areas, walking paths, pools, weight rooms, lifelong-learning opportunities, safety and security, high technology (Internet, computer classes, so-called Smart Home products such as kitchen appliances, lighting controls and security systems), housekeeping help, day trips and opportunities to attend plays and concerts.

Other amenities are nice touches as well. As examples, Maple Knoll offers a woodworking shop and a ceramics room, and Life Enriching Communities offers HydroWorx (aquatic treadmill) and a pottery studio.

With life spans lengthening, the age of entrance at retirement communities is also increasing. Nowadays, late 70s to mid-80s seems to be the norm.

Paley says potential residents should go beyond the normal questions of what’s offered and research a retirement community’s long-term reputation and financial stability.

“Are they known for innovation and staying ahead of the trends, because the health-care marketplace is changing so dramatically,” Paley says. “There’s going to be a lot of folks in five years who aren’t going to be in this business anymore if they’re not keeping ahead of the trends,” such as the newest care techniques and insurance/financial reimbursement processes.

Paley says accreditations are also important “because you have to jump through a lot of hoops and do a lot of things to get those.” CARF International, originally the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, is a key organization, he says.

Typically, retirement community residents pay an entrance fee, based on the size of the unit they are moving into, plus a monthly or yearly maintenance fee. Units can range from several hundred to thousands of square feet. Plans often offer a refund of part of the entrance fee upon the resident’s leaving.

Another resource for seniors is the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio’s housing database.

Although the organization’s primary mission is keeping seniors in their homes as long as possible, Paula Smith, communications specialist, says housing is a top request at the council’s call center, so staff members update the database regularly and provide information on such topics as social activities, meals, Medicaid acceptance and whether pets are allowed.

At Maple Knoll, and likely all retirement communities, “individuals seeking retirement-living accommodations want to be in the driver’s seat,” Gresham says.