30 Factors To Consider Before Moving To A Senior Community
Life is all about change -- and moving to a senior community is a big one. It's not only smart but also necessary to do plenty of research before making such a major move. Things to keep in mind range from the basics (cost, location) to lifestyle concerns, such as your need for privacy or decor preferences. Thoughtful consideration will go a long way in making your new living arrangements a good fit -- and a true home.
With the population of older Americans continuing to rise, so, too, does the need for living arrangements to suit their changing needs. When deciding on where to move for 55-plus living, investigate the pros and cons of home, apartment, or hotel-style suite living within a senior active-adult community.
Do you want to continue to live in the city or town you've long called home? You may want to relocate to where your children, relatives, or friends are -- or leave the suburbs to experience a more carefree lifestyle -- no mowing lawns -- in a more urban setting.
Find out what is included and how rates may increase over time. Most senior community fees include taxes, utilities, common charges, and program costs. The last thing you want to do is find yourself struggling to keep up during what's meant to be those well-earned "golden years."
Nail down what you're responsible for -- and expected to maintain, if a home is within a community. Do you have to shovel the snow on your sidewalk? Can you decorate your home's exterior – and if so, are there parameters? Know in advance.
If Fido is family, will he be welcome? If you have an animal companion -- or if you've always wanted a pet to be part of your life -- is that permitted? Knowing the rules is equally important if you prefer to live in a pet-free community. In that case, the last thing you need is a dog incessantly barking or a bird chirping 24-7.
Take that a step further. Is the community gated? Are there guards and patrols? You don't want to be paranoid – but home is home. You need to feel you are living in a safe environment.
Most communities have age restrictions in place -- 55-plus, 65-plus, but read the fine print. You don't want to move in only to find that your neighbor's slacker grandson and his blaring music are a permanent -- and perfectly permitted -- fact of life.
If you're moving to a new area, what are the medical options available? Is there an accredited hospital nearby for emergencies? Senior communities are not nursing homes; if you need a doctor, you will go to your own. And when you're new to the community, you need to do proper research to find a competent doctor.
Do you want to keep your vehicle and/or need garage space -- or is giving up your old transportation mode and letting someone else do the driving part of the appeal of "letting go"? If the latter, does the new community offer safe, frequent and well-maintained transportation options, from its own fleet to ready access to public/private transportation.
If you've long hosted your grandchildren each summer while their parents travel, find out if you'll still be able to do so. Non-permanent younger residents are usually allowed -- but you don't want the kids to face hostile comments or anything to make them feel unwelcome.
If you are big on architecture and/or interior design, make sure your search yields places that align with your aesthetic. Some communities take the "nostalgia theme" to extremes, making you feel like you're living on a movie set.
Decide what space you'll need. Do you want a two-bedroom unit so you can turn the second one into an art studio? Do you need a kitchenette? Do you not want any steps? This will be your everyday surroundings, so take the time to make it right.
Are there attractive common areas that you will have access to, such as pubs, cafes, libraries, or theaters on the property? Keep in mind, there may be some days when all you want to do is stay close to home, so if you can catch a movie downstairs, all the better.
Are the facilities well-maintained? Is the property landscaped, debris-free and attractive? You may not need a palace, but shabby is not an option. Also check on the availability of housekeeping services, laundry, or nearby maid services if they are not offered on-site.
If you will be preparing your own meals, are there grocery stores nearby? If you're a foodie, will you have access to the ingredients you need? If you will be patronizing the on-site dining facilities, don't just look at menus -- taste the food. You don't want years of "hospital food" to be your only option.
Do you want to keep your mind stimulated? Are there lectures, art classes, music lessons, or book clubs that you can attend? Ask to sit in on a session to get a sense of the atmosphere -- and level of sophistication.
Being around those your age can be comforting -- but do you enjoy interaction with younger people, too? Are there opportunities to volunteer or interact with people of all ages?
Everyone has days when they "vant to be alone" – but how is privacy respected? There's nothing worse than someone knocking on your door day after day, "We're headed to the pool/theater/card game, are you sure you don't want to come today?"
By nature, moving to a senior community usually means downsizing. Truly evaluate how much the new space will change your daily life. If you want nothing more than to be surrounded by vacation mementos or your own extensive library, make sure they can be accommodated. Investigate storage options, as well.
Though the community is independent, are there staff members or management representatives around should you need someone? You may have dealt with a neglectful landlord for years -- avoid a similar scenario. Ask current residents how they find the management's responsiveness.
Along those same lines, are there "town hall" meetings? Who decides when changes are being proposed? And should you -- though hopefully not -- have problems with a new neighbor, is there an established protocol for resolutions?
A growing segment of senior living is the availability of faith-based communities. If you are devout and want to be a part of this lifestyle, these communities may be ideal. If not, then avoid. Just be sure to make your new home align with your belief system -- and if desired, that it offers easy access to your preferred house of worship.
How hard is it to make the move for more help if/when you need? Larger facilities often offer stepped-up services (from assisted living to full-on nursing care) on-site or at sister locations. It's easier to know that there is a "path" in place should the time arise that you need to take advantage of advanced care.
If you've always been the house where neighbors gather, will you be able to replicate that lifestyle? Gauge the camaraderie of a community, especially if you want to continue to interact regularly with your new friends and neighbors.
Are you close to your banking needs? Of course, most all of today's banking needs can be done online -- but if you need financial advice, insurance help or such, are there independent sources available nearby? You want to maintain your independence.
If travel will be a part of your life, how safe will you feel when you're away? Find out if there are security patrols, neighborhood watches, or the like. Be able to enjoy your time away, knowing all is good at home.
Finally, all these concerns add up to help ensure your new home is your sanctuary. If you have an uneasy feeling about any element of your move, have that concern settled -- or look for another option. At the end of the day, you want the move to be the start of a positive new chapter of your life.
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