If you have never had occasion to visit anyone in a retirement community, you might only have a hazy idea of what to look for in terms of a suitable arrangement for yourself or a loved one. It doesn't take long, however, to determine desirable characteristics of senior apartments and the requisite services offered by exemplary modern developments.
For anyone exploring the range of options for senior living, whether in an independent community or at a facility that provides assisted living and a continuum of care, concentrate on the following questions:
1. What Kind of Ambience Does the Environment Create?
Trust what your instincts are telling you about a community from the moment you walk up the path to the front door. Look beyond smiles and welcoming expressions, and use all your senses. Give each part of the building the sniff test, and be on the lookout for other factors that impact quality of life.
- Are the buildings well-decorated and maintained?
- Are residents well-groomed and engaged in activities?
- Are staff members helpful, both to visitors and to residents?
- Is there a calendar of events, a transportation schedule, a posted menu?
- Are there quiet spaces for reading or playing cards as well as a central living room and activities lounge?
- Do individual senior apartments seem well-planned?
- Are the grounds attractive with outdoor chairs, benches, paths and gardens for residents to utilize?
- If a senior resident has specific interests, needs or abilities, can they be accommodated?
- Does the community allow pets or overnight guests?
When anticipating a move to a new type of living environment, no question is unimportant. At Episcopal Retirement Homes, we believe that it’s important to not simply find a “good” retirement community, but to find the community that is the right fit.
2. Are Any Undesirable Traits Hiding Below the Community’s Public Face?
While first impressions are important, it may sometimes be necessary to look beyond the obvious. Though the look of a place can and does impact quality of life, a "pretty face"—manicured lawns, beautiful gardens, and gorgeous interiors—can mask myriad sins. It is important to assess a retirement community in terms of safety, appropriateness for daily living, convenience and cleanliness. A responsive staff and safe environment always trump slick and beautiful surroundings when it comes to value.
When making an appointment to visit any facility, ask if you will be allowed to visit with residents, to share a meal or participate in a social gathering, or to explore the building and grounds on your own. Be understanding rather than demanding, but also be wary of scheduled tours, planned events and special occasion meals. You want to get a feeling for what the everyday experience is like, and not be swayed by well-planned, public events.
Check local ratings, and also determine if any specific complaints or violations have been recorded or investigated by authorities.
3. Does the Community Offer a Spectrum of Care and Services?
We all know that a senior’s needs can change, sometimes quickly, and that a continuum of care is an advantage. Cost comparisons are also vital. The ease with which a resident may receive additional services, whether on a short-term basis or as a permanent transition, can be a deciding factor in the choice of a retirement community. The ability to trade independent senior apartments for assisted living arrangements is just one example of important pre-planning. Medically-supervised short-term care in an on-site or adjacent facility is also an advantage. As our senior population rapidly expands, it is more important today than ever before that older adults and their caregivers give some forethought to future living arrangements.
Growing older can be a pleasant and enriching experience. But it definitely requires a bit of advance planning.