When the time comes for you to choose a retirement community, there are major features and issues to consider.
First, start by asking yourself, “what features in my present home have given me the most pleasure, comfort, and security?” Your answers will be of great help when you begin to review choices in your search for a new home. Five critical areas to be considered are listed below.
1. Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC):
CCRCs provide a continuum of care and senior living options, where you can continue to receive care as your needs change. Remember, we all age differently and the needs of your spouse may change over time and become different than your own. What are the options if one of you needs a higher level of care?
Today’s senior population is on the move. What makes one person at home in one environment may not suit another —consider what is important to you. Is the community near family members? If health emergencies occur, will family be close by to help make decisions and arrange care? Will you live in close proximity to a hospital and health care services? Do you prefer a rural or urban setting when choosing your new home? Having access to events in the community such as musical programs, theaters, church services, colleges and universities that have lectures, and sporting events are known to help keep residents active and engaged.
Amenities often drive the decision on which community to choose, as they can help us feel comfortable and at home. Many retirement communities have hiking trails, swimming pools, and fitness centers, which may be of higher importance if you are still very active. Other things to consider are if the community has a salon, library, chapel, wellness center, healthy food, attractive dining areas, culinary teams, transportation, and convenient parking.
Ask yourself the following questions to find a culture where you feel connected and comfortable in a caring and compassionate environment. Does the retirement community have an honorable and longstanding reputation of taking care of seniors in the community? Is the company financially stable? Are they a preferred employer in the region? Do they have a high turnover of employees? If employees are respected, they will be more inclined to treat residents with dignity and respect. In this culture both residents and employees feel valued and cared for. This creates a culture of excellence.
You will want to consider a financial model that is most conducive to your needs and financial resources. Pricing structures vary from community to community. Nonprofit communities are mission driven and any profits are reinvested into the organization, whereas with for-profit entities, their profits are given to shareholders. Both of these models hire staff that is compassionate, caring, and have a strong desire to keep residents happy and healthy.
A large entrance fee can lower your monthly costs considerably and be partially refunded to you or your family members if you leave for any reason, or pass away. Be sure to ask how the refund process is handled. You should also be prepared for annual increases to your monthly payment, and inquire what the average increases have been in the past. It is also important to know what is included in the monthly fees. Some communities include everything from meals, housekeeping, programs/activities, transportation and utilities; others may charge separate fees for each service.
Lastly, look forward to a new home as a change in adventure with new friends to meet, and new experiences and opportunities to enrich your life.
1. Consumers are Changing the Game.
Montana defines “seniors” as people 55 and older. Seniors now Skype friends and grandchildren, shop online, and use Facebook. They have changed the world, and they’re not about to stop any time soon. New consumer demand has led to new concepts such as independent living communities and has displaced ideas that don’t serve seniors well. Taking care of a large house and yard used to be the goal of the American Dream, often to the detriment of loved ones who slowly became servants instead of masters of their own homes. Today’s seniors put their lifestyle before their street address and are willing to move to fulfill their dreams.
2. So Dream Big.
Modern seniors know that they are consumers with options and are willing to think outside the box. I recommend you relax and come up with a “Wish List” with the sky as your limit. How about allowances for furry friends? Quiet and privacy? Great views of the outdoors? Snowbird rates? Does it include a fitness center? No steps? New construction? Housekeeping? A club house to rent out for parties and family reunions? Gardening space? A guest room? A town with a vibrant senior citizen community? Some meals? Community events? A garage? Close proximity to hospitals, airports, and shopping? A town without heavy traffic constraints? Such places most certainly exist. The Peaks offers all of them.
3. Play Detective.
Once you have your “Wish List” completed, it’s time to scope out your options to make your dreams real. Be aware that some popular websites advertising senior housing options only allow large facilities of 20 or more units to do business with them, so it’s important to use more than one source to do your research. I recommend contacting a county’s Council on Aging, whose staff will have your best interests in mind and have a wider scope for options in their area. You can also call the centers directly and ask them about items on your “Wish List.” A senior living facility with no fitness center or community garden, for example, may be a tell that they are looking out more for your check instead of your well-being. If you are seriously interested, many places allow you to spend a night in a vacant apartment, so take a chance and make an adventure of it.
4. Sooner is Better Than Later.
It is a sad situation for loved ones when seniors live alone in a house that they can no longer care for, waiting for a major medical event to force them into an unwanted living situation. If homes fall out-of-date or into disrepair, they can become expensive to fix and property values can decline. It is often better for anyone to evaluate and reevaluate their living situation to determine if it’s truly fulfilling their needs. When people are really honest with themselves, most don’t enjoy the unending intervals of house maintenance, housework, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, and washing windows. Most would much rather spend that time with their families and friends, volunteering for causes they care about, and favorite means of recreation. Today’s seniors know their time and relationships are valuable and set their priorities accordingly.
5. Decisions Give You Freedom.
The root of the word “decision” is literally “a cutting off.” As you explore which senior living options fulfill your “Wish List” and cut off ones that don’t you will find a new peace in knowing that you can make your dreams come true. Share your findings with your friends and family and move forward with your informed decision to change your life for the better. Live your life to the fullest and enjoy your retirement.
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Lindsey Dorrington and her husband are the owners and operators of The Peaks: Independent Living, a brand-new retirement community in Ronan, MT.