What Do Seniors Look For In A Retirement Community?

Moving into a retirement community is a life-changing experience for many seniors who were previously living alone and taking care of themselves, often for many years.

Seniors often need help deciding what type of retirement community is appropriate for their circumstances. Options range from the carefree lifestyle of age-restricted communities to full-time nursing care.

Types of retirement communities

It helps to know what you want! Choosing a retirement community is a big decision. Your choice will affect your finances, quality of life, and in many cases, health and longevity, and possibly even the same aspects of your loved ones’ lives.

Several different options are available with varying levels of hospitality and services. From the least level of care to the greatest level of care, they are:

Active adult communitiesActive adult communities usually require one resident to be of a specific age. Many start at age 55 or 60. No medical services are provided. About 5% of American Seniors live in senior living communities.
Independent living communitiesIndependent living facilities are intended for healthy, independent seniors to enjoy a more carefree, laid back lifestyle filled with social, education, and recreational activities with people around the same age. No health care services are available on the campus.
Continuing care retirement communitiesContinuing care retirement communities provide a full menu of lifestyle and health care services in one facility. Services can be included in an all-inclusive package, on an ala cart basis, or fee-for-service basis.
Assisted living facilitiesSafety is the driving force for assisted living facilities. Assisted living facilities are best for those seniors for whom living alone or independently is no longer safe for physical, mental, or emotional reasons. Residents of assisted living facilities typically need additional, but limited assistance with meals, bathing, and medication.
Skilled nursing facilities and nursing homesSkilled nursing facilities are a living option for Seniors for round-the-clock nursing care for those who need more direct daily care. These facilities may also have specialized care and housing tailored to the special needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or related diseases.

How will I know when it is time to move to a retirement community

Following are three factors that will let you know that a change is necessary:

Increasing care needs

If you or your loved one requires more care than can be provided at home it might be time to start looking for a retirement community. Caregiving is hard work. It can take a major toll on families. Often, it adds to the feeling of being a burden for the loved one as well. Then they will hesitate to say what their real needs are. In a continuing care retirement community, families will have greater peace of mind knowing that their older loved ones will be cared for, no matter what the future holds.

Home maintenance is a pain

This is the “Who is going to change the light bulb” test. Many seniors want to stay in their beloved homes as long as possible. However, routine tasks that were easier when we were younger can quickly get out of hand.  If you or a loved one are struggling to keep up with daily maintenance needs of owning a home, including cleaning, yard work, repairs, or even driving, it may be a sign that it’s time to look for a retirement community.

Increasing loneliness or isolation

The ordeal of losing a spouse or significant other can be crushing for a senior. Loneliness and isolation become major issues. An active social life is a key to combating loneliness and isolation in older adults, and retirement is the perfect time to make new friendships.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these three factors, it is time to start looking at retirement options.

Questions to ask yourself about Senior Living options

What do I need?

Very early in the process of making a change, you need to answer several very important questions to guide you. Right now, your needs may mainly be social needs and quality of life needs. After decades of taking care of a home, perhaps it is time to let someone else change the light bulbs and mow the lawn. Later on, health care or memory care may be the key issues.

What will the future bring?

Unfortunately, making decisions about retirement facilities requires that you look into your crystal ball. “How is my health now and what will it be like over the next decade or so?” are questions you need to answer.

What can I afford?

Start with your financial advisor, if you have on. With the help of a financial advisor you trust, you should be able to determine what you can afford. A financial advisor will usually err on the side of caution.

If you do not have a financial advisor, visit with a professional with someone you trust to review what government and social programs might be available to you.

10 Factors to consider when evaluating senior living communities

It is important to select, not settle, for a retirement facility that fits your circumstances.

First ImpressionJust like curb appeal when buying a home, your first impression of a senior living community can be very informative. How does it smell? What do you hear? Is it light and cheery or dark and dreary? Is the staff warm and friendly? Is the food appetizing?
LocationLocation is very important. Is the retirement community is a pastoral, rural setting, or is it in the heart of a busy city with its accompanying noise pollution? Is it close to family members?
ActivitiesThe amount and type of activities vary greatly from community to community. Learning which communities offer which activities can be an excellent evaluation tool during your search.
PetsStudies point to the benefits of pets for seniors. Make sure you ask about pets, especially if your loved one already has a pet. Some communities allow pets, some allow pets for an extra fee, and some do not allow pets at all. Make sure you ask.
CostWhat is the complete price based on the services you or your loved one need? How will the fee be paid? What happens if the money runs out? How does the community help with financial issues like Medicare or Medicaid? According to AARP, about 65 percent of nursing home residents are supported primarily by Medicaid, and Medicaid pays for 45 percent of the total nursing home bill.
StaffingStaffing will make or break the retirement community experience. Ask about the ratio of staff to residents. Ask about staff turnover. High turnover can be a red flag. What do you observe while you are in the community? Do the staff members appear to enjoy their work?
Resident feedbackTalk to current residents if you can. Some communities offer potential residents the opportunity to meet with residents and some do not. If they do not, it should probably trigger alarm bells.
TransportationDoes the community have a shuttle service for doctors’ appointments, shopping trips, and outings? Or, will you have to provide that service?
Levels of serviceDoes the community offer a “future path” as your loved one’s health evolves? Will a move be required in the future?
How about you?Can you see yourself living there? Can you see yourself being happy there? Can see yourself making friends there?

Let the experts help you

Most facilities have trained professionals to help you as you make your decisions. Find one you trust and learn what you can from them. Compare the comments from three or four facilities, and you will quickly see the outliers.

How to find a retirement community

A safe and comfortable place to live is a top priority at any age. Finding the right housing and home environment can be a concern for older adults. There are many questions to consider. Will it be affordable? Will it be accessible? What are the options? Is it best to live alone, in assisted living, or with family? To use the Eldercare Locator provided by the Administration for Community living, click here.

We would love to hear your thoughts

If you have additional questions, comments, or would even like to share your own experiences, please leave them in the comments below.

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