If you are an older person thinking about visiting some retirement communities in anticipation of making a move (or if you are a family member thinking about future living arrangements for a loved one), I have a very important piece of advice for you: Do it when things are going well and you are not in crisis or under any pressure to make a fast decision. Not being in a hurry to make a move gives you the freedom to consider all your options, weigh the pros and cons, and make an informed decision.
I’ve been a senior living counselor at Bethany Village for 11 years, and in that time, I have learned what it takes for prospective residents to glean the most information from their retirement community preview tours. Here are some tips:
Don’t be afraid to make an appointment. Selecting a retirement community can’t be done over the phone. You’ll want to compare at least a couple of similar places. Meeting face-to-face with a counselor is the best way to get a feel for the place and have all your questions answered.
Be prepared. Before you set off for your appointment, take a few minutes to write down your “hot button” issues. What are you looking for? What is less than perfect in your current living situation? Could the community you are visiting solve those problems?
Allow enough time for your appointment. For example, Bethany’s campus is fairly large – ranging from independent living in cottages to long-term nursing home care. We ask our prospective residents to plan on about a 90-minute visit.
Visit during the day. Retirement communities are quieter in the evening and on weekends, so if you want get a realistic impression, come during the day.
Try to set aside preconceived negatives. There are several common preconceived notions about moving into a retirement community. One has to do with loss of control over your lifestyle. A quality retirement community will allow you to make the decisions about how much assistance/care you need. Fear of moving into a nursing home is another common issue. If there is a nursing home associated with the retirement community you are visiting, ask to see it and take a good look around. At Bethany, for example, I think the community and atmosphere would be not at all what you anticipated.
Expect the places you visit to follow-up with you. The counselors you meet with should call you about a week after your visit to see if you have any questions. If you show interest in the community, you should expect the counselor to invite you and perhaps a family member back for another visit.
Let’s face it: people generally don’t like making dramatic changes in how and where they live, especially as they get older. You probably want to see me – a retirement community counselor – about as much as you want to go to the dentist! But taking care of these plans now can make your life a lot easier later. I can assure you that at Bethany Village, your needs and comfort come first. And if you use the tips I’ve outlined above, you will be able to make an informed choice when it’s time to look at retirement living.
Your comments are welcome about your experience with tours of retirement communities.