Seven helpful points to consider
Choosing a retirement community is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for the next
chapter of your life. But with differences in things like costs, contract options, availability of health care,
amenities, services and more, choosing the community that’s the best fit for you requires research.
To make comparing your options easier, we’ve narrowed down some important factors to consider and have created a convenient worksheet you can use as you visit the communities that interest you.
Let’s dive in …
- The four R’s: ratings, reviews, referrals and residents: Research the community online and read ratings and reviews. Ask relatives, friends, and neighbors for referrals based on their experiences.
When you visit the community, strike up a conversation with some of the residents. Ask about their experiences living in the community. Is it friendly and welcoming? Are staff members attentive to resident needs? What do they like most? What would they change if they could? Residents who love their community are always happy to share their insights.
- First impressions (and beyond): When you call to schedule your visit, is your call handled professionally? What kind
of impression do you get when you visit? Are you greeted warmly? Do you see staff interacting with residents? What are those interactions like? Do residents and staff members seem happy?
Attend an event to gain even more insight into the overall culture. There is a lot to be said for the feeling you get when you spend time at a community. Trust your gut.
- Amenities you’ll enjoy: Before your visit, take a moment to consider what types of amenities will be most important to you. Would you like to work out in a gym, swim laps in a pool or take group fitness classes? Do you enjoy art or woodworking? If you’re a gardener, does the community have resident garden areas? Are planned activities like clubs, classes and trips important to you?Is transportation provided? What about social events? Are there opportunities to volunteer?Be sure to ask about the things that matter most to you, check out a calendar of events, and tour the areas of the community that are devoted to activities and amenities.
- Taking care of your health: The best retirement communities empower residents to maintain and enhance their personal wellness. Does the community you’re considering offer wellness programming? Does it have services for routine screenings, health maintenance and acute illnesses? What about transportation to medical appointments? While most of us don’t like to think about it, our needs are likely to change as we age. Does the community offer additional levels of care such as assisted living, memory care, 24-hour nursing care and therapy? Is it a Life Plan Community — also known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)? Will you be able to continue living at the community if your health needs change? Planning for the future now can provide priceless peace of mind for you and your family.
- What kind of contract fits your plans? When it comes to retirement living, there are a variety of contract options, and they differ from community to community. What contract options does the community you’re considering offer? Is there an entrance fee and, if so, is all or part of it refundable? Is rental an option? If it is a Life Plan Community or a CCRC, does it offer a Life Care contract? What about a fee-for-service plan? You may find that the availability of a particular type of contract makes a big difference in your final decision.
- Calculating the cost of living: For most people, the cost of living in a retirement community is an important consideration. Be open with the sales counselor about your personal financial picture. You may be surprised to learn that many retirement communities are more affordable than you originally thought when compared to the cost of owning and maintaining a home; paying for utilities, taxes and insurance; shopping for and cooking your own meals; and more. Plus, you’ll have added benefits, services and opportunities you may not have in your home.
- Use your imagination: As you research your options, use your imagination. Can you picture yourself living in the community, being happy, active, and taking advantage of the services and amenities offered? Do you look forward to making new friends and having the time and freedom to explore and learn new things? If you answer yes to all of these, then you may have just found your new home. Congratulations!
Choosing a retirement community is a process. Starting early can help make it an enjoyable experience and ensure that you have the time you need to make the best decision for yourself. You can even involve your family or trusted friends if having their insight would be helpful.
To get you started, we’ve created a worksheet on the following pages. Print a copy for each community you’re interested in, fill out each one as you gain insight and information, and then put them side by side to compare your options. and be sure to reach out to the community’s sales and marketing team with questions or to request additional information. They understand it’s a big decision, and their job is to help you choose the community that’s the best fit for you.