For most of us, retiring in a luxury villa with a terraced garden overlooking the French Riviera isn’t going to happen. It is possible, however, to find an excellent senior lifestyle community that aligns with your values, life stage, budget and within a beautiful setting.
Finding the right place takes time and perseverance. And if you are moving from a traditional home to a senior lifestyle community, there will be an adjustment period. The good news is that many seniors improve their quality of life with the additional care, amenities, social interaction and activities now available to them.
For most, post-retirement income won’t fluctuate, even as health care costs continue to rise as we age. What you can afford today may not be what you can afford tomorrow. Ask about the cost of independent living versus assisted living or for memory support care. Other costs to consider include deposits (and whether they are refundable), and if there are assessment, move-in or other fees. And make sure you clearly understand what’s included in the rent: cleaning and laundry services, utilities, parking, wellness programs, transportation, meals and on-site activities.
Are there elements that are absolutely vital to your happiness? Do you need a community that accepts pets? How about considerations like a garden, swimming pool & fitness center, great food, and lots of social interaction? Do you value the freedom to entertain guests, sleep in, eat when you like and come and go as you please? Make sure the communities you visit have the same priorities you do.
Once you determine your budget and must-haves, start scheduling tours with as many senior lifestyle communities meeting your criteria as you can. There are many excellent choices. Ultimately, some communities will feel more like “home” to you than others. Bring a loved one or friend along for their perspectives, as well as a camera, notepad and pen. During your tours take photos and detailed notes.
Document your first impressions as you compare and contrast different communities. How did it look from the street? Did the neighborhood appear safe? Was the entrance pleasing? Were the grounds kept up? Were you greeted right away? Did you notice any offensive smells? Are the noise level, lighting, furniture and interior colors pleasing to you?
Evaluate a variety of room styles from independent to assisted living and memory support. Make sure you see real rooms not just model rooms. Consider their cleanliness, layout, colors, lighting, safety features and noise levels. Other things to consider — Is the room too dark, do the ceilings feel too low, or does the room feel fresh and upbeat? Is there enough room to be comfortable or to entertain? Will the kitchen meet my needs?
In exploring accredited senior lifestyle communities, safety and security features must be in place. Features to watch for include handrails in the hallways, smoke detectors, sprinklers and emergency communications systems throughout. Hallways and common areas should be well lit and wheelchair and walker accessible.
Observe how the staff treat residents. Are they friendly and engaged or do they appear to be overworked and stressed? Are they treating residents with respect and humor or with impatience? Don’t be shy about asking a resident or two about their experiences with the staff. In the best of all possible worlds, you’ll hear the staff is friendly, caring and “like family.”
One of the most important aspects of a senior community is the available amenities. See if they measure up. Is the exercise equipment modern, clean and in workable condition? Is the dining room pleasant and comfortable? Is there an outdoor courtyard to enjoy? Are the dog friendly areas well maintained? How do the pool, spa and workout rooms look? Check out the activities available, too. Would you enjoy them?
The quality of food served is important. Your meals should feature fresh, nutritious and flavorful ingredients. Are the meals restaurant-style or reminiscent of your grade school cafeteria? What about the dining hours? Are they flexible? Are residents required to eat as a group? Most tours include a meal. If they don’t, ask to look at a menu and to speak with the onsite chef.
By the end of your tour, you should do a gut check. Did you leave feeling anxious? Do you have lingering concerns that were not addressed adequately? Was there something that just didn’t feel right? On the flip side, did the community feel like a place to live well, make friends and receive excellent care? You know what’s right for you.
While this list is not exhaustive, we hope it will help you evaluate and choose a senior lifestyle community that’s right for you today and into the future!