5 Questions to Ask When Searching for a Retirement Community

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As consumers spend less time shopping in brick-and-mortar buildings and more time shopping online, malls that were once gathering places for Baby Boomers are closing. Forbes reports that some Baby Boomers are returning to malls that have been redeveloped as senior living communities.  

While living in an abandoned mall might conjure images of pitching a tent in an empty Timberland store, developers are replacing parts of the old structures with mixed-use buildings. Residential units in former malls are located within walking distance of grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, and movie theaters. Since malls are often located near banks and clinics, senior residents may have access to most of their daily needs without driving. 

Innovative ideas to expand senior housing are needed in a time when older adults are thinking about housing options that might be preferable to staying in a house that is larger than they need. As housing options continue to expand, seniors who are contemplating life in a senior housing community will need to choose the community that best meets their needs. Here are some questions seniors should ask before searching for the perfect retirement community.

Do You Need Help from a Caregiver?

Older adults who can live independently have a wide range of housing choices. A popular choice is a unit in an age-restricted retirement community. Retirement communities typically offer a variety of amenities, ranging from golf courses and swimming pools to dining rooms and fitness classes.

Most retirement communities do not provide residents with caregiving services. Residents who need help with their activities of daily living and who want to live with a caregiver will need to be certain that the living arrangement is permitted by community rules.

Older adults who need caregiver assistance might instead choose to live in an assisted-living facility. Trained staff members help residents with their daily needs. While amenities vary, they tend to be geared toward less physically active seniors. The facilities commonly organize on-site social activities. Meals are included in monthly fees or are available at an extra cost.

Retirees who have no immediate need for caregiving services might consider a community care community (also known as life plan or life care communities). Residents of continuing care communities may start in an independent living environment, much like a traditional retirement community. If they eventually require the assistance of a caregiver, they transition to an assisted-living environment. A nursing home is available if the resident later requires fulltime medical care. These housing options share the same campus, making it easy for residents to transition from one to another as their needs change.

Where Do You Want to Live?

Location is a significant factor for most retirees. Some people look for a retirement community in the city where they were living before they retired. That choice promotes frequent contact with friends and family members. Others prefer to live in a more climate-friendly or less expensive environment.

Retirement communities can be found in every state. The best state for retirement living depends on the relative value a retiree places on competing factors. Cost of living may be the most important factor for some seniors. Quality of life and access to excellent healthcare services may be valued more highly by others. Seniors need to assess and balance relevant factors before they start searching for the ideal retirement community.

Are Medical Providers Conveniently Located?

Most older adults are covered by Medicare. Many have a Medicare Advantage plan. While it isn’t usually difficult to find a clinic that accepts Medicare payments, many Medicare Advantage plans require participants to find coverage within a provider network. 

Before choosing a retirement community, plan participants should be sure that network providers are located within a convenient distance from their new location. If they are not, participants may need to change their Medicare Advantage plan or look for a different community.

What Kind of Housing Do You Want?

Residents in traditional retirement communities purchase their homes, typically as condominium residences. Whether the home is a freestanding house or a unit in a townhouse or larger building, residents own their interior walls and all the space between them.

Residents of assisted-living and continuing care communities typically pay an upfront fee and a monthly fee that serves as a rent payment. Since contracts in each kind of housing can be complex, seniors might want to have them reviewed by a lawyer who has experience with senior housing. Understanding contract terms can avoid being surprised about expenses that arise after the contract is signed.

What Lifestyle Do You Want?

Active seniors may want to choose a retirement community that has a variety of amenities, including a pool or golf course, pickleball or tennis court, walking paths, and exercise equipment. Since amenities tend to increase the cost of housing, an alternative is to find a community that is within walking distance of parks, gyms, movie theaters, and shopping districts.

A senior who lives alone might want to investigate the social activities that the community promotes. Book clubs, yoga classes, woodworking rooms, and other opportunities to interact with residents who share the same interests can help residents form new friendships and avoid loneliness.

Each retirement community has its own culture. Vegetarians who are looking for a retirement community that offers a meal plan will want to inspect menus to be sure that food offerings are compatible with their diets. Some communities restrict lengthy stays by younger family members while others are more flexible. Making sure that the retirement community’s culture is consistent with the senior’s lifestyle will help avoid regrets in making a housing choice.

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