How to Choose a Retirement Home
Whether you’re looking for a home for your aging parents or making plans for your own retirement years down the road, it pays to have a plan to locate the best retirement community for your needs. Just as residential neighborhoods vary from town to town, you’ll find a wide range of retirement communities offering different lifestyle options.
While many of your choices will be based on personal preference, it can be very beneficial to evaluate retirement homes based on similar criteria. That way, you know you’re comparing apples to apples.
1. Type of Community
There are basically five types of retirement communities available, three of which cater to those who currently live an independent, active lifestyle. Your age or the level of care you need will likely guide your choices.
Age-restricted communities, as their name suggests, require at least one individual living in the household to be age 55 or over. Generally, children under the age of 19 are not permitted. Homes in these communities are built with senior-friendly amenities and often provide access to a variety of clubs and activities, including golf courses, walking trails, hobby spaces or recreational centers. These communities are built to encourage those in a similar age group to interact and enjoy an active lifestyle. Outdoor maintenance services are typically included in the fees charged. No medical care is typically offered in these communities.
Independent Living Communities
Similar to age-restricted communities, independent living communities limit the age of residents. These communities usually provide well-appointed homes that may have more features than those in other communities such as handicapped access doorways or medical alert systems. These communities also offer a wide range of onsite activities such as golf, games, hobby centers or areas for meetings and special events. They usually include a central dining hall and other conveniences. Outdoor maintenance services are usually included in the fees charged. No medical care is typically offered in these communities.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Like age-restricted and independent living communities, continuing care retirement communities offer a variety of housing options in a community centered around those in a similar age group. Residents are typically required to be at least 62 years of age. Continuing care retirement communities are often set up in a campus format that combines independent housing with a host of activities and amenities similar to the offerings in other independent living communities. The main difference is that continuing care communities also provide additional support as resident needs change. The community may provide assisted living housing for those who need extra help, but not full medical services. They may also provide full-scale nursing facilities either on campus or at a neighboring facility adjacent to the main campus.
Assisted Living Communities
Assisted living communities (in Pennsylvania, most are considered personal care communities) combine various choices in resident housing with additional supportive services perfect for those who find difficulty in living independently and desire the security of 24 hour staff support for unscheduled personal assistance.
Nursing Care Facilities
Nursing care facilities provide round-the-clock skilled care with registered nurse supervision for individuals with more complex medical needs. Additional specialized services and rehabilitation are available for those with serious medical conditions or memory losses.
The location of a particular facility is an important consideration. You may wish to remain in the community where you’ve lived for years so you can stay in touch with friends and family. You may also choose to move out of your current area to experience a new challenge or a more temperate climate.
Whether you choose to stay in your familiar community or move to a totally new area, you’ll want to be sure any facility you’re considering offers access to the services you want and need. Whether you enjoy the theater, like to shop or pursue a favorite hobby, take a look at the services and amenities near any community you’re considering to be sure they meet your needs. You may also wish to choose a location that is close to state-of-the-art medical facilities as well.
3. Size of Community
The number of people a particular community serves can be an important consideration for many reasons. First, do you prefer living close to many people or require more solitude? Communities with many residents typically host more activities and provide more entertainment than smaller communities. However, a smaller community might give you the opportunity to make friends more easily and actually get to know the majority of your neighbors.
4. Levels of Care
As we mentioned under the community types section, many independent living and age-restricted facilities do not offer any level of support or medical care. Choosing one of these facilities will mean that you may need to find an assisted living or nursing care facility if the need arises. This can be difficult, as many of the top facilities have long waiting lists for admission.
If levels of care are important to you, we suggest choosing a continuing care retirement community where assisted living and nursing care services are available. You’ll want to check with the community you’re considering to become familiar with the levels of care they offer and what their admission policies are.
Of course the cost of any retirement community will be a consideration when deciding on the right facility for your needs, but this should not necessarily be the deciding factor. For example, while it may initially be more cost-effective to reside in an independent living community, you must factor in the cost of services you could need in the future. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples when you evaluate the cost of one facility against another. Some facilities require a large initial payment, but have lower monthly costs. Others charge less up front and require larger monthly fees. Be sure to do the math to decide on the best deal for your needs.
Carefully evaluate the reputation of any community you are considering. Be sure to check with your local Better Business Bureau and your state’s Office of Aging to research reported complaints or problems at any facility you are considering. Doing online research and talking with people who live in the area can also give you some great information. You’ll want to choose a facility with the best reputation you can to ensure you’ll receive the best service possible.
7. Length of Waiting List
Whether you are considering facilities for yourself or an aging parent, it’s important to find out if the facility has a waiting list for entry. You may not mind being on a waiting list if you have no immediate plans to move to a retirement community, but it helps to know how long the wait is likely to be when making future plans.
8. Financial Stability
Be sure to research the financial stability of any facility you’re considering. A facility that has a large amount of debt or other financial issues could unexpectedly close their doors, leaving you without a place to call home. Or the facility could be taken over by a less than desirable management company that could compromise the quality of care you receive.
9. Years in Operation
While looking at the number of years a facility has been in operation isn’t a deciding factor in and of itself, facilities that have been in business longer, tend to have more established reputations. On the other hand, how will you know if a newly-opened facility will still be in business 5 or 10 years down the road?
- Tips to Help You Choose – As you can see there are many factors to consider when choosing the right retirement community for your needs. After you’ve narrowed your list of possibilities, we recommend the following tips to help you zero-in on the best community for your needs.
- Take a Tour – Be sure to take a complete tour of any community you are considering. It’s important to see the homes or apartments and any personal care or nursing care areas.
- Have a Meal – We also recommend having a meal in the dining room to sample the food and observe the atmosphere. Pay special attention to how the staff interacts with residents and how residents get along with each other.
- Drive Around – You’ll also want to drive around the complex. Observe how easy it is to get from one place to another. Do the grounds look clean and tidy? Are there places to relax and enjoy the outdoors? Are there walking or biking paths? Do you feel comfortable or uneasy?
- Talk to Friends & Relatives – If you know someone who lives in the community where you’d like to live, talk with them about their experience and ask if they’d recommend living there.
- Check Out the Neighborhood – Finally, check out the surrounding neighborhood. Is there a lot of traffic? Does it look safe? Is it clean and inviting or run down? Are there stores, churches, cultural offerings, entertainment venues or other services nearby? Would you be comfortable living here?
Choosing the right retirement community can seem overwhelming with so many factors to consider. But we think the reward is well worth the effort. Deliberate, careful planning now can provide some of the happiest years of your life or in the life of someone you love.
Want more information about Calvary Fellowship Homes? We’d love to talk with you about our unique, spiritually-based continuing care retirement community that currently helps over 370 residents live a carefree and active retirement. Contact us today to schedule a tour!