How Do You Choose the Best Retirement Community?
Now that you’ve decided to move into a retirement community, how do you pick the one that’s best for you? There are many factors to consider. Let’s explore them, so that you will know what questions to ask.
Are you an active senior who likes to be on the go and have lots of activities? Maybe you prefer a quieter lifestyle or need help with daily activities. Whatever your preference, you can choose a retirement community that suits you.
Active seniors will probably prefer to choose an independent living community. Maintenance and upkeep of your home is no longer your responsibility, and you can use your free time to participate in the many activities offered in these communities. If you need no help with daily activities such as dressing yourself, driving, or managing your medications, independent living is probably for you.
Seniors who do need help with daily activities, or who have health or mobility issues, have other options. These seniors might choose to live in an assisted living community. In assisted living, seniors receive help with daily activities but still have options for recreation and social activities.
Sometimes seniors who are married might have different needs. One may still be active, while the other needs medical care or assistance with day-to-day activities. Or sometimes a senior might want to remain active as long as possible while planning for future medical and daily assistance needs. These seniors might choose to live in a continuing care community, which provides medical care for those who need it and an independent living experience for active seniors.
Pets and family have to be considered, too. Some communities have restrictions that don’t allow pets. If you have a pet, make sure the community will allow you to keep it. Likewise, if your family visits you often, make sure there are no restrictions on visitors.
For active seniors, look for retirement communities that have a range of activities. Some activities include fitness classes such as Zumba, Pilates, and yoga. Other activities may include swimming, dance lessons, or hiking. Or you can participate in competitive sports like tennis, golf, and even pickleball. Some retirement communities even sponsor travel groups, for trips both local and long-distance. Local venues may include restaurants, movies, and museums, but travel groups may even travel internationally or go on cruises.
Most retirement communities also offer less strenuous activities such as card and board games. Retirement communities may also have art classes, workshops for woodworking, and clubs for crafts such as knitting and quilting. If you enjoy these kinds of activities, this is something to look for. Other activities that most communities offer are music and movie nights.
How much medical care do you need? You may not need much or any medical care or help managing daily medications. You may also have no trouble driving yourself to the doctor for appointments. In that case, you would choose an independent living community since they do not offer medical care. However, if you anticipate needing medical care in the future – and most seniors do – you will eventually have to leave your independent living community.
For the many seniors who do need help managing their daily medications or need some medical care, assisted living is a good choice. Often the assisted living community will have shuttles to doctors’ offices and pharmacies, making it easier for the senior to receive medical care. Assisted living communities also offer 24-hours monitoring for seniors with health issues and may have nurses on staff.
Seniors who have more serious medical problems have the option of choosing a continuous care community that offers skilled nursing or specialized care, such as Alzheimer’s care or rehabilitative care. While some assisted living communities offer Alzheimer’s care or rehabilitative, they do not usually offer skilled nursing.
In any facility you are considering, you will want to look at the staff-to-patient ratio. A high number of patients per staff member will equate to a lower quality of care. You will also want to consider whether you will need to move out of the retirement community if you need higher levels of care in the future. Having to adapt to a new home when you are already coping with medical issues adds extra stress to your life.
When you enter the facility, does it look well-maintained? You will be paying a monthly fee for maintenance, so you want to be sure that your money is well spent. Think about how much maintenance you want to do. Are the staff at the facility responsible for all housekeeping and internal maintenance, or will you have to do some of this yourself? If you live in an independent living community, you will probably be doing your own housekeeping for your apartment or other living space.
But the grounds and common areas will be maintained by the staff, including snow removal in northern areas. However, in assisted living communities, housekeeping of living quarters and even laundry services are offered in addition to the maintenance of the common areas and grounds. If you have difficulty performing daily household chores, this extra help can greatly add to your quality of life.
What kind of weather do you prefer? Although some seniors stay in northern areas to be near family and friends, many prefer to escape extreme cold and snow, particularly if they enjoy outside activities. However, if you move too far south, while winters will be mild summers may be unbearably hot, also curtailing outdoor activities. Many seniors will want to consider the activities they enjoy and how the weather will affect them.
For example, even if you don’t enjoy an outdoor activity such as golf, a heavy snowfall may prevent an excursion to a restaurant or movie. You might want to consider moving to a retirement community in an area that combines mild winters and summers that are hot but not unbearably sweltering.
How much you can afford will definitely affect the retirement community you choose. While many independent living communities may be affordable even for seniors with small budgets, others which offer more amenities, or which are in high cost-of-living areas will be very expensive. Assisted living facilities will usually be more expensive than independent living communities because of the increased number of services offered. Also, costs will rise with the amount of specialized medical care you need, so be sure to plan for this.
Be sure to plan for inflation. Many retirement communities raise their rates every year. You will want to take that into account and make sure you won’t be priced out of your community. If you think you may run out of assets, you will want to ask about the community’s policy on accepting Medicare.
Choosing a Retirement Home Location
Choosing a location will depend on many factors – cost of living, weather, amenities in the area such as hospitals and shopping, safety, and proximity to family. If your budget is tight, you may wish to move to a low cost-of-living area. If you enjoy outdoor activities, a location with good weather will be important.
A more rural area might be less expensive but will offer many fewer medical services and cultural opportunities. A more populated area might offer many amenities but have a high crime rate. Your decision will need to balance all these factors.
How to Find a Retirement Community Near Me
Maybe you’ve decided to stay in your own area because you want to be close to family and friends, or just like the area. How do you find a retirement community near you? Searching the internet for “independent living”, “assisted living”, or “retirement community” should bring up a list of facilities in your area. You can start with these lists and start checking to see which facilities meet your criteria. Once you’ve picked facilities, go visit them with your list of questions.