Choosing the retirement community for you can have a hugely positive impact on your life – while ending up at the wrong community can have the exact opposite effect. Before you start packing up your adaptive clothing for women and selling off your furniture, here are 11 factors to consider as you visit retirement communities and make your final selection:
Proximity to Loved Ones
Many older adults are looking to maximize time with their loved ones, and the closer you are to your family, the more likely you are to see them. If you are looking to move to a new place anyway, then use their homes as a starting point to find retirement communities in the area. (Alternatively, if you have some relatives you really do not like, then you may be better served by choosing a community far away from them.)
Speaking of getting out and about, it’s important to consider the transportation options offered by the community. If you still drive a car, will they charge you extra to park it on-site, or is parking free? If you don’t drive, or plan to stop at some point in the future, do they offer a driver service? If not, is public transportation accessible and affordable? The answers to these questions may help you make your decision.
Accessibility is about so much more than transportation, though that definitely plays a role. For instance, if you use a walker or wheelchair — or need to use one in the future — that could significantly curtail your ability to get around the community even if it is technically ADA compliant. Investigate elevators, wheelchair ramps, widened doors, stairlifts, pike paths and more to see if the facility will be sufficient for your potential needs.
If you are staying in the same area, then look for a retirement community that is close to all your regular doctors and specialists. If you are moving, ask the facility for information about finding reputable providers in the area. Also, ask if there is any type of medical care or assistance provided on-site as well the proximity of hospitals and emergency rooms in case something does happen.
Food and Dining
Don’t reach for your adult bibs just yet. Food options in retirement communities may vary widely. If they have an on-site cafeteria, ask how often they change over the menu and how they accommodate dietary restrictions. Try to sample the food as well so you can assess its quality. See what other dining options there are, either on-site or within a short driving distance, especially if you are a foodie who enjoys eating out.
Many retirement communities provide essential services such as haircuts and exercise classes on-site. Depending on the design of the community, these may be housed in buildings that basically function as regular shops, or service providers might come visit the facility a few times a month or week. If you still plan to visit all your regular places, make sure that the community isn’t too far of a drive from them.
Most retirement communities offer some kind of enrichment activities, but these vary greatly in scope and variety. You’ll want to make sure that the community will allow you to engage in your favorite hobbies, whether that’s playing on the tennis courts or taking painting classes. Ask about how often the community introduces new programs and whether or not they are open to suggestions from residents.
Not all retirement communities allow pets, and others have restrictions on the breed, size or number of pets you may have. If you already have a pet, or plan to adopt one eventually, you should confirm the community’s pet policy ahead of time. Keep in mind that it’s likely you may have to pay a weekly or monthly fee for having a pet on the premises.
Every single retirement community has a different feel, and not all the cultures will agree with you. For instance, some are very welcoming of families, while others have strict visiting rules. Residents and staff will be more friendly in certain facilities than others, and the diversity and inclusion of the communities will vary as well. As you tour different communities, try to get a feel for the different cultures and which one seems to fit you the best.
Independent vs. Assisted Living
Some retirement communities only offer one level of care, while others are designed to suit a wide range of situations. The latter are usually called “life plan communities” or “continuing care retirement communities.” Certain facilities also offer specialized care, such as skilled nursing or memory care, for residents who need more help than just grooming or getting dressed in men’s adaptive clothing. Even if you are planning to live independently for now, you may want to choose a facility with continuing care options so you never have to move again.
Cost and Insurance
There are many different ways the costs for a retirement community may be structured: an all-inclusive monthly fee, an a la carte fee schedule, a big down payment plus ongoing fees. The money you owe may also change over time — for instance, if you move from independent to assisted living within the same facility. The amount you owe will also vary depending on whether the facility accepts Medicare, Medicaid, your private insurance or long-term care insurance, as well as what care you qualify for now. Compare the current and future financial projections for each of your top facilities to see how they stack up and which gives you the most value for the money.
We hope this list helped you make a decision about which retirement community is best for you. Moving into a community is a big transition, but it can greatly benefit your life in the long run and make your golden years that much brighter.