How to Evaluate an Independent Living Community
Many older Americans reach a point where they’re ready to simplify. They may no longer need a big house or city home, and want to settle down in a community that can cater to their needs. One popular option is to move to an independent living community of retirees. Independent living communities offer housing with built-in social opportunities, recreation facilities and other services that cater to an older crowd. But finding the right community could take careful evaluation. If you’re considering an independent living community, there are a few specific questions you should be asking before you decide where to spend your golden years. Should You Choose a CCRC or Rental Community? You have two primary options when moving into an independent living community: a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) or a rental community. CCRCs charge a substantial entrance fee and a monthly fee as well. They offer many housing choices, health and wellness centers, community activities and home maintenance. Most CCRCs have assisted living facilities to take in residents once they require additional care, so residents can spend the rest of their lives in the community. One downside: if you decide to move, you could forfeit some of your upfront entrance fee. Potential residents often must pass a medical and financial screening before they’re approved to move in. Rental communities offer many of the same amenities with a much smaller entrance fee. They may or may not have nearby assisted living facilities. How Much Will It Cost Me? One of the first things to evaluate at any community is the cost. Because of their entry fee, CCRCs can be quite expensive and they’re often funded by the sale of the resident’s prior home. Rental communities will usually have a higher monthly cost. Those aren’t the only costs to consider. Many communities come with meal plans, entertainment and transportation included. If the community doesn’t provide these services as part of the package, you’ll have to factor those expenditures into your total cost of living. What Perks Will I Get? You should carefully evaluate the “fun factor” of the community, meaning the events and services that provide recreation and an opportunity to make friends. These perks could include rec centers, movie nights or a community pool. You should look for activities and facilities you’ll actually enjoy, because otherwise you’ll be paying for services you likely won’t use. Independent living communities also can offer services you may not have considered, including housekeeping, utilities and onsite medical staff. When you’re touring a community, make sure to get a full picture of the available services. Is the Community Conveniently Located? Independent living communities offer the luxury of convenience, with many of your needs offered in one place. But you’ll probably want to go off reservation at times. If you don’t have your own car, you’ll need to know the available transportation options. You should also consider the community’s proximity to friends, family and your favorite places to visit or activities to participate in. Is the Community Right for Me? Finally, you’ll have to decide if the community is the right fit for you. That’s something you’ll have to get a feel for as you visit different locations. Outside of touring the homes and available facilities, you should investigate each community with a critical eye. Talk to different residents and staff members to get their perspectives. Take a look at the quality of the facilities you see. And if you’re moving in with your partner, you’ll want to consider their needs as well. You may even decide that retirement communities - at least for the time being - aren’t for you. Picking the right place to live in your golden years depends entirely on your priorities, so don’t make the decision lightly.