21 Questions You Should Ask When Shopping for an Independent Living Community

Maybe it’s the thought of mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, or the kitchen faucet that needs to be repaired. The multitude of responsibilities and maintenance involved in keeping up your current home might make the move to an Independent Living Community look very attractive. There are many reasons why seniors decide to move to an Independent Living Community- some of the more common reasons include:

• The neighborhood has changed and safety is a concern.

• To be near children (70% of those 65+ live within 1 hour of a child).

• To match home’s facilities to senior’s faculties.

• Avoid stairs in a home.

• Home is too large or costly to maintain.

• Home may not meet present needs, physical or otherwise.

• Assets are tied up in the home and cash is needed.

• Don’t drive and available transportation is not adequate.

• Retired and looking for new lifestyle

Personal Preference and Personal Needs

1. can you live independently with limited or no services?

2. In what area do you want to live? Would you like to live closer to adult children? In a warmer climate? In a familiar area, or a brand new environment?

3. What type of community to be affiliated with a religious group organization?

4. Do you want the community yo be affiliated with a religious group or organization?

5. Do you need personal care, meals, housekeeping, or transportation?

6. Are you bringing a pet? Does the community allow pets? If so how many, and is there a size or weight limit?

7. How much room do you need, and what personal belongings and furniture would you like to bring with you? Consider the new space?

8. How are you paying for this?

9. What’s included in the monthly fee? Will there be a periodic increases in my monthly fee?

10. How are any increases to the monthly fee determined?

11. What services are provided on-site?

12. If my financial situation changes and I can no longer pay my monthly fee, will I be forced to leave?

13. Is there an entrance fee? Some communities will give you back up to 90% of your entrance fee if things don’t work out, and you want to leave. Others have a no-refund policy.

Nothing Replaces a Tour!

14. Ask to review The Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, which is the set of rules that govern master-planned communities.

15. Pay in-person visits to the facilities you’re considering. Many retirement communities encourage potential residents to stay overnight and have meals in the dining facility.

16. Talk to residents. Take the tour that’s offered, but also try to stroll around on your own and talk to as many people as you can. A few spontaneous conversations can give you a far better feel for a place than a canned tour.

17. Review the contract. When you join a retirement community, you sign a long-term agreement that spells out what you’re paying for, from the size and location of your apartment to how many meals are included in your monthly fee. Items like maid service, laundry and transportation may be part of the package, or you may have to buy them a la carte. As for the fee schedule for services that are provided but not covered by your monthly payment.

18. If the community is a Continuing Care Retirement Community, be sure to check out the assisted living and nursing facilities. You’ll want to make sure these areas are pleasant, clean, and not isolated from the rest of the community.

19. Is the facility accredited? The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission is the only accrediting agency for continuing care retirement communities. (As noted not all Independent Living Communities are CCRCs!)

20. How is medical care provided? Not all facilities have assisted living or nursing home care on site. Some have both, plus on-site or on-call doctors and nurses. Some are affiliated with nearby hospitals, while others are independent.

21. Finally, when you have chosen the community that meets your needs, ask about moving services — how will they help you transition from your current home to your new home in the community? (Most of them will gladly help with the transition!)

Choosing a senior living community ensures that you or your loved one is given every opportunity to fully enjoy retirement, amidst a community of peers, with a full-range of activities in a safe environment. One of the most important things you can do when considering your retirement years is to plan ahead. Addressing financial and health issues early keeps families from having to deal with crisis later.

copyright 2006 Valerie VanBooven RN, BSN, PGCM on behalf of Wisconsin Association of Homes and Services for the Aging