Imagine if we all took Scarlett O’Hara’s advice and regularly said, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Not only would we miss out on some of life’s best experiences, but we might give up the chance to choose how and where we live in our later years.
If retirement is in view for yourself or for a loved one, the time to think about how and where those years will be spent is now. Many seniors decide that a senior living community is the way to go because of the breadth of amenities and services offered. The good news is we live in a time where there are many excellent retirement community options available. But reviewing all those choices can be overwhelming. Before you jump into your search, consider these six tips gathered from seniors who’ve been in your shoes.
1. Think Current & Long-Term Needs
You love your independence (who doesn’t?) and look forward to enjoying everything retirement has to offer. Of course, aging has a way of sneaking up on everyone, and your care needs will likely change over time.
When you consider what to look for in a senior living community, be sure to look at the big picture — does it offer all the lifestyle choices you want now PLUS the care options and services you might need in the future? Some communities offer multiple levels of care such as independent living, assisted living and memory care. Others may have additional services. Not every retirement community offers all levels of care, so be sure to ask.
Keep in mind that if the retirement community caters only to independent living, you may have to move again if you require a higher level of care like the kind offered in assisted living. As you begin planning ahead for retirement, it’s helpful for you and your loved one to understand in advance what care options will be available if needed in the future.
2. Consider Where You’d Like to Live
There are many variables to consider when planning ahead for retirement. One question that prompts a lot of thought is, “Where do I want to settle down?” Senior living communities are cropping up everywhere, so your choice of locales is pretty extensive. Some people prefer to stay in or near where they’ve lived before because of familiarity or family close by. Others are ready for something completely different.
If you’re looking for a new experience, think about what that means. Do you want a warmer climate with proximity to water? Have you always wanted to live in a big city or near the mountains? Keep in mind, the farther out of town you live, the farther you may be from high-level medical care, and driving to doctors’ appointments may take more time.
3. Create a Lifestyle Wish List
Retirement is a time to make wishes come true, so start thinking about your lifestyle dreams and how to make them a reality. Is walkability important to you? Check if the community is close to the places you want to stroll, like a park, bank or coffee shop. Are there fitness facilities on-site, provisions for pets, or bike paths? If your kids or grandkids live out of town, does the community have guest rooms or is there a hotel nearby?
You’ll find many retirement communities check all or most of these boxes, but some do not. Having a wish list is an easy way to quickly rule out places that just don’t meet your nonnegotiable priorities, so don’t be shy about standing your ground to get everything you want — this is your well-deserved retirement we’re talking about here!
4. Assess Your Cost of Living
As you begin to explore what to look for in a retirement community, one thing will be clear: costs, expenses, and even the way payments are handled can vary greatly. Take plenty of time to think through what you need to live on each month and understand exactly what would be covered in your monthly fee. Typically that fee covers your apartment or room, all daily meals (clarify which meals), utilities (clarify which ones), maid service, and laundry service. Other services such as cable and internet, administering medications, help with dressing and bathing, etc., may have additional fees attached. Don’t assume — ask.
On a more serious note, while it’s a blessing that medical advancements are helping us live longer, it can result in some seniors depleting the funds they expected would last the rest of their days. Don’t be squeamish about discussing this issue with any senior living community you’re exploring. Some communities are set up to help seniors in these cases, while others are not.
Help may also come in the form of insurance or other benefits. If you or your loved one has long-term care insurance or some type of veterans’ benefits, in some cases, these can be applied to rent or other care expenses. Do your homework. Even if you don’t need to use these benefits now, you might be relieved to have them available to you down the road.
5. Make Searching a Team Effort
If there was ever a time to seek opinions, this is it! When you’re researching what to look for in a senior living community, by all means, talk with as many people as possible about their experiences. And adult children can learn a lot by talking with friends who’ve been through it with their parents.
The internet can also be a great resource. Every community has a website and may also have a Facebook page. Check them out. Look at the photos. Read the comments and posts. You can learn a lot about the lifestyle at a community with a little online investigating.
Online referral sites for senior communities can also offer some perspective, but as Dan Hutson, chief strategy officer at HumanGood, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of housing for older adults, explains, “Referral sites are a great place to start your research … but they should only be a start. Find a community, contact them directly, and then visit them in person.”
6. Schedule Appointments
Websites can paint you a basic picture, but sitting down and talking directly to a community representative or taking a tour if available will give you the best impression of whether a senior living community is right for you. Once you’ve made a list of retirement communities that interest you, it’s worth taking the time to talk to as many of their representatives as you can, either in person or by phone, and ask all the questions on your mind. In fact, be sure to take the time to write down your questions ahead of time to make sure you cover them all. There’s no substitute for getting firsthand information and speaking to people who know the facts.
Create Your Best Life Starting Today
You’re at an exciting time in your life. Retirement is here or just around the corner, and we’d love to help you make it a time filled with choice and opportunity. At Aberdeen Ridge, we’re creating a retirement community built for the way you live now and how you want to live in the future. With senior living options for independent living, assisted living and memory care all on one campus, you can truly call this wonderful place home for life. Now is the time to reserve your future residence at our beautiful new community. Contact us to schedule a personal visit at our Information Center with one of our representatives. If you prefer, we can also arrange a virtual visit using the Webex video meeting application. Just call 719-286-3014, and we’ll share those details.