Five questions to ask yourself when shopping for a senior living community.

Five questions to ask yourself when shopping for a senior living community.

Five questions to ask yourself when shopping for a senior living community.

I am asked this question a lot: How do you choose a really good retirement community?

Actually, when you've seen one retirement community – you've seen one retirement community!  Each one is a little different – and they come in all shapes and sizes.  Additionally, the financial arrangements are unique to each community.

Here are five questions you should ask yourself about a retirement community.

1) Does it feel like me?  Could I call this place home?  Who better to ask than residents who live there? Ask them about their move.  How they like living there.  And most importantly, are they glad they moved there?

2) Do the residents seem happy?  Look around and acquaint yourself with resident life.  Are residents involved with activities that interest you?  What does the community's activity calendar look like (ask for one).

3) Is the food good?  Get to know how dining is provided at the community.  Try out a meal there.  Better yet, ask if you can dine with one of the residents. Many communities offer marketing luncheons with opportunities to learn about life at the community. Ask to be included in one of these. Dining options at a retirement community may be one of the most important determining factors in your decision. You'll likely be dining daily at the community so it's important to know what is offered.

4) Are the residences nice and the right size?  Tour the community's residences and see what is offered and available. The best communities have a waiting list. It's a good idea to sign up with a community to give yourself time to get to know them better and to prepare for a move.

5) Do they have places for care should I ever need it?  Communities that offer independent living including apartments and cottages along with assisted living and skilled nursing care are often called Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or are known by a new term, Life Plan Communities. These communities generally have a one-time buy-in, which allows for access to their health care centers. These care centers can provide for care should a resident ever need it.  Additionally, many places offer in-home care allowing residents to remain independent in their home with services available on a scheduled basis.  Ask about the care services available to residents and tour those areas as well.

Mike Wallace has marketed senior living communities all over the United States for more than 20 years.  He is VP of Sales and Marketing for Spectrum Consultants, Inc. in Gastonia, NC.