How To Choose a Retirement Community

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The term "retirement community" can refer to many types of housing available to seniors. Typically, it is used to describe a community specifically for people ages 55 or over who are healthy enough to live in an independent fashion. Choosing a great retirement community can give you opportunities to meet new people with whom you share common interests, while freeing you from some of the tasks of traditional home ownership, such as lawn care and snow removal. If you are considering a move to a retirement community, here are a few guidelines:

  1. Ask friends and family members for referrals. Often, someone knows of a terrific place, and there is no better advertisement than a satisfied customer!
  2. Tour several places so that you can get a feel for what's available in your area. Facilities vary immensely, so you'll increase your chances of finding the "right fit" for you if you shop around a bit. Be sure to talk to current residents as well as setting some time aside to spend with the staff. Residents will be able to give you an authentic picture of life in the community and by talking to staff members, you will quickly know whether or not they seem friendly and cheerful.
  3. Don't be shy. If the facility is subject to licensing by your state (regulations vary), ask to see copies of the latest inspection reports. Take note of any violations, especially those relating to resident safety.
  4. A question of age. Although there are always age restrictions for residents of retirement communities, check to be sure that there are provisions in place to allow for younger guests. If your children and grandchildren come for a visit, you want to be sure that they will be able to stay with you.
  5. What about Rover and Tabby? Some retirement communities allow pets, although there are usually size restrictions. If you hope to have a furry little roommate, be sure to ask about the pet policy.
  6. Plan to move before you need to. Many retirement communities limit new memberships to healthy, active seniors. Although it may seem strange to apply for residence at a retirement community while you are still perfectly capable of managing your household, that is the best time to secure your spot.
  7. Check them out online. Simply go to your favorite search engine and type in the name and location of the community. If the company has a website, you will be able to browse the information and photos at your leisure. Additionally, the search will likely come up with a site or two that rates companies who provide senior housing options. It is definitely worth the time to look over these reports.
  8. Money matters. As retirement communities vary, so do the costs. Basic accommodations with limited amenities may be very affordable, while deluxe apartments on lush golf courses can be quite costly. Be aware, too, that there may be "hidden" costs, so be sure to read your contract carefully. In some communities, services like laundry, housekeeping, and transportation are included in your monthly fees, but in others, they may be available for a fee, or not at all. These additional costs can add up, so take a look at the whole picture when deciding on affordability.
  9. Fun is key. Many retirement communities offer organized trips and outings, game nights, exercise facilities, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Being able to socialize on site with your friends and neighbors is a big plus.
  10. Look to the future. Although it is impossible to tell what tomorrow will bring, it is wise to choose a retirement community that has affiliations with an assisted living and nursing facility. The ability to stay put can be a big plus when choosing to make your move. Consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) if you want to be assured that you will be able to maintain residency for your lifetime. While traditional retirement communities are designed only for healthy seniors, CCRC organizations provide several levels of care to accommodate the needs of independent, semi-independent, and fully dependent residents. Typically, seniors must be healthy and independent when entering a CCRC, but if a health condition arises, the increasing needs will be accommodated. There is usually a sizable entrance fee for such facilities, which may or may not be refundable, so ask questions before making your decision.


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