Choosing a Retirement Community

11/20/2009  |  MARY WESLEY
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You won’t find today’s grandparents in rocking chairs. In fact, you probably won’t find them at home most of the time. Their calendars are full, their travel schedules are packed (along with suitcases) and maintenance free living is what they want.

Most retirees know what kind of lifestyle they want, but are confused by the numerous opportunities for residential communities. The initial discovery process can be overwhelming and time consuming. Such an important decision requires thoughtful planning and research.

Types of Communities

Lifestyle opportunities, cost structure, long term commitment and health care options all play a factor in choosing a retirement community. Active Adult Communities are age restricted communities offering a range of housing options with access to social and recreational facilities. Costs vary and typically do not include any continuing health care services.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities provide residential retirement options with a continuum of health services available on-site or at least through the same sponsor.Two common types of continuing care communities are Life Care and Fee for Service. Life Care Communities offer care and services for life, just as the name implies. Generally speaking, life care residents pay a much higher fixed cost throughout the continuum without

being assessed additional costs as their health care needs grow. Fee for Service communities will charge residents based on their health needs at any given time. Residential living at a fee for service community will be much less costly than skilled nursing care and charges will be based on what you need when you need it.

Equity models can also be continuing care and allow the residents to actually purchase their homes with full ownership. This guarantees the value of the home as equity for the resident. Some equity communities require the resident or representative to manage the sale of their home when they move to a higher level of care.

What to Look for in Retirement Living

Location is a critical factor in choosing a retirement community. Do you want to live near the coast, near the mountains, in a big city or a small town? Do you want to live near your children, or far away from them? Once a location is determined, other options can be considered. High rise apartment complex or single home community with green space? Lots of square footage, or small and compact living? With the popularity of active retirement living, the choices are endless.

Research the community’s owner or sponsor — are they for profit or not-for-profit? For more information on not-for-profit communities, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA, www.aahsa.org) is a tremendous resource. Their website lists providers state-by-state and shares valuable information about why you might want to consider a not-for-profit community. In today’s economic climate, it’s also wise to consider the longevity and financial security of a retirement community. Moving to a retirement associated with any retirement community on your list. Also consider that even if you never need long term care, the health center is there for short term needs as well. Make sure it’s top notch and tour it when you visit the community as a prospect.

While you may think you will never need round the clock nursing care, consider the reputation of the health center associated with any retirement community on your list. Also consider that even if you never need long term care, the health center is there for short term needs as well. Make sure it’s top notch and tour it when you visit the community as a prospect.

There’s no substitute for spending personal time visiting any community you’re considering. Often your “gut” will be the best judge. Make an appointment with the marketing representative. While you may consider arriving unannounced, the best way to ensure that you get all your questions answered is to make an appointment so adequate time is blocked off just for you. Enjoy a meal as part of your tour for the exposure it will give you to the dining experience and the wait staff. Some communities offer prospects the opportunity to spend the night on campus and will set up social activities with the residents. Current residents are your best opportunity to ask the tough questions — and find out what it’s really like to be part of the community.

Finally, plan ahead. Choosing a retirement community is not easy and should be done with careful thought and consideration. Making the right choice will ease the burden of future concerns for you and those you love.

Mary Wesley is Vice President of Public Relations for United Church Homes and Services. For more information visit www.uchas.org.
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