When you are looking down the road at that new lifestyle of retirement, there is a whole new way of life to be anticipated. And that is the fun of retirement planning because, as they say, anticipation is half of the fun. And part of the preparation for retirement is looking at various retirement facilities and retirement communities that you might look to call home.
It’s appropriate to use the term “retirement community” because when you are considering selling your home and moving to an assisted care facility or a senior apartment, community is just as important to you as the food and the layout of your space. So when you start that search process, it’s good to know what questions to ask and how to evaluate different retirement communities against each other.
Anytime you go to “interview” the administration of a retirement community, they are going to put their best foot forward. But that’s ok because you want to know what their bragging rights are all about. So in addition to discussing price and amenities, make sure you include community activities as part of the things you ask about and use to evaluate the community. One of the big advantages of moving to a senior center is that you can have a more social lifestyle then living in your home by yourself. So the retirement center must be the kind of place that facilitate a lot of social interaction so you can make friends and get out and have fun.
The layout and how the residents are interacted with by staff make a big difference for how well people get out of their apartments and enjoy their living arrangements. Take the tour of the place but don’t just look the carpet and the views out of the display apartment windows. Look at how many people are out and about, how much informal communication is going on and if public spaces are available and in use on a daily basis. That is something that cannot be “staged” and you will be able to tell if the people are having fun and enjoying each other at the retirement community.
Of course there are the “brass tacks” questions you will need to go through when interviewing a possible new place to live. The facility has to be within your price range so they should be forthright about costs. But even if you can afford what they charge, there has to be value for the money. Look at the facility both for what is being offered and how well they seem to be able to fulfill their promises. Look at the physical arrangements. How old is the facility and does it seem to be in good repair?
Make it a point to talk to various staff members during your stay. If the person assigned to host you lets you talk to residents and staff but they must be present, that might indicate that they are putting on a show for you and not letting you know the real story of the facility. Make arrangements to be “cut loose” to wander the halls, talk to residents and visit staff on a surprise basis. If the staff is irritated by your attempts to communicate, always busy or cold and hostile, that is a culture issue that you don’t want to be part of your new lifestyle.
A real test of a retirement community might come in giving them a test drive. If the facility owners have a guest apartment and they offer to let you stay for a few days to just sample life in the community, that is a strong statement of faith that you will find everything to your liking. By living amongst the people, you have lots of chances to eat with the residents, begin making friends and find out the real scoop on whether this is a good place to live or not.
By coming up with a strategy for looking at different retirement centers to find out what they are really all about, you will do a much better job of evaluating retirement communities. And it’s worth the effort to dig a bit beneath the surface because if this place wants to be your new home, they must be able to make you retirement life happy, social and fun. Because that’s the way it should be.