The decision to move from the family home into independent living is rarely easy at first, but two components make the transition much smoother: time and choosing the right community. Both are vital! Often people find after they’ve moved into independent living that a heavy burden has been lifted, but it can be a scary process nonetheless. Here are 10 questions to ask when selecting an independent living community. (Hint: Print this list and take it with you when you’re ready to consider the big move! Consider writing down answers so you can review the information later.)
- What is the residence like? Whether you would be moving into an apartment, a cottage, or a house, you need to feel comfortable enough to call the new place home. If possible, ask to tour the actual space–and not a shiny floor model–where you would be living. Does it need new carpet or paint? Who would be responsible for that? Are you free to make non-structural changes? Can you bring your own furnishings? What are the dimensions? How soon would the residence be available for move-in? Does the community assist with moving in any way?
- Where is it located?Is the independent living community near your family or friends? How close or far would you be from places (stores, medical offices, religious centers) of interest? Would you feel more or less safe living in the community than you feel at home right now? Important consideration: Try not to simply consider what you want in an independent living community today. Look for a place that will continue to meet your needs for a long time.
- Who lives there? When it comes to any community–but especially independent living–the people make all the difference. What is the average age of the residents? What is the male/female ratio? How much of the community’s population is single vs. married? Hint: The best way to get a feel for who lives there is to schedule a tour and see for yourself. Talk to the residents. Ask for their feedback. Rare is the resident who won’t tell you what he or she truly thinks.
- What are the provided vs. premium services offered? Often, communities will charge a flat fee for a whole list of available services. Other communities offer a sort of a la carte concept, where you are free to select housekeeping or cable, for instance, while passing on other services. Are washers and dryers provided? Would you have access to an on-site nurse for minor medical requests? Who pays the monthly utilities? Be certain before you sign the dotted line that you know what is included in your fee package. You would hate to find out your bill doesn’t include what you need it to include.
- Is transportation available? Specifically–if transportation is available–are there rules about where they will/won’t take you? Is it available only at specific times? Can you keep your own car on-site? This may not be the most important question for you to ask today–especially if you have no issues driving wherever you want to go–but it could be important to you later.
- Are there any hidden fees? What is the cost for an extra person? Is a pet deposit required? How are fee increases communicated? How often do fee increases happen? What type of insurance is required? Note: It is a good rule of thumb to share your potential contract with someone knowledgeable about retirement living and/or your adult children. They may be able to think of questions you want to ask or issues you may need to consider before agreeing to the move.
- What meals are provided? One or two meals a day is the standard provision for most independent living communities. Meal hours, seat assignments, and dietary restrictions can vary based on the specific community. And don’t forget one of the most important considerations of all: taste! (You don’t want this to be a reenactment of your summer camp dining experiences!) If possible, ask if you can attend a meal and see for yourself what the dining experience is like. What is the cost for bringing a guest to a meal? Do you have options at meal times?
- What’s on the activity calendar? Ask for a calendar of events. What is the typical attendance at activities? Do residents seem to enjoy themselves when they are together? Depending on whether or not you are a social person, this detail could be incredibly important. A vibrant, active social life is one of the main reasons to join an independent living community. Could you see yourself enjoying the activities offered within the community? (Having a packed calendar doesn’t really matter if you can’t see yourself appreciating the options.)
- What are the health requirements? Some retirement communities require residents to change locations when certain health needs require more care or attention. Better to know those requirements ahead of time. What health needs would require a move? Is there a call system in place for emergencies?
- How and what medical care is provided? Not all independent living communities are Continuing Care Retirement Communities (also known as CCRCs). Some communities offer full access to nurses and on-site medical facilities, while others are independent in this way. If there is no medical facility on-site, what is the nearest hospital? What help is available to you in the event of an emergency? If you have a medical need, what (if any) steps will be taken to ensure you are safe and healthy?
Though the idea of moving out of the home you love and into an independent living community can be daunting at first, the goal for most communities is to make you feel warmly welcomed and to give you the opportunity to enjoy retirement to its fullest. And while you may worry about loneliness or loss, you can be confident you aren’t alone.
Here at Verena at the Glen, we believe retirement should be enjoyed your way. With a vibrant, active community, you are free to develop the lifestyle that’s best for you. And while we may not be able to move your big family home on-site, we’re pretty confident one of our apartments will be the perfect next place for you to call home. Contact us to set up a tour. We’d love to show you around.