January 7, 2020

Choosing a continuing-care retirement community for yourself or a loved one is a big decision that requires careful research. Most of the time, families start their search online by looking up nearby retirement communities and comparing the options. However, you can’t evaluate a retirement community just by looking at its website. After you’ve done your homework and narrowed down your list of top continuing-care retirement communities, the next step is to see them in person.

During each visit, you’ll likely receive a tour and an informational meeting with one of the retirement community’s counselors. This is your opportunity to ask questions, get more details, and understand what life is really like in the community. It’s also a time for the counselor to learn more about you and what you’re looking for in a continuing-care retirement community.

To make the most of your meeting, it’s helpful to gather some information in advance. Here are some things to consider bringing with you:

A list of your “must-haves” in a continuing-care retirement community

What’s most important to you (or your loved one) in a living space? Some examples:

  • Preferred size of residence
  • Choice of carpeting, countertops, and paint
  • Housekeeping and groundskeeping services
  • Dining options
  • Pet-friendly living
  • Transportation services
  • On-site storage
  • On-site security
  • Proximity to stores, restaurants, doctors offices, and entertainment venues

Your “wish list” of activities and amenities

How do you envision spending your retirement years? What hobbies do you enjoy now, and what new activities would you like to explore in the future? Items on your retirement community wish list might include:

  • Activities: arts and crafts, fitness classes, book clubs, card clubs, volunteering opportunities, and more
  • Group outings to local restaurants, movie theaters, or performances
  • On-site amenities: a movie/TV room, computer room, fitness center, and beauty salon
  • On-site worship services
  • Multiple dining options or cafés
  • Social events like happy hours and holiday celebrations

A list of questions

When you’re choosing a continuing-care retirement community for yourself or an older loved one, it’s natural to have a lot of questions. As you think of them, jot your questions down in a notebook and bring them to your meeting. Here’s a list of some common questions to ask the retirement community counselor:

  • What move-in resources are available or recommended?
  • What is the total cost of living, including monthly fees and any à la carte services?
  • What levels of care are provided?
    • Independent living
    • Assisted living
    • Skilled nursing
    • Memory care
    • Short-term rehabilitation
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio for each level of care?
  • What is the visitor policy?
  • How does the community communicate with residents’ families?

When selecting a continuing-care retirement community for yourself or a loved one, keep an open mind and take detailed notes so you can compare and contrast the communities you visit. If you follow the tips above and ask plenty of questions, you’ll be able to make an informed choice when it’s time to come to a final decision.