Here are nine questions to ask when looking for an independent living community:
Do you want to live in a communal setting? If you've lived in your own home for about 50 years, moving to an apartment-style complex will require an adjustment. While some will welcome the chance to be surrounded by people in retirement, a few may not. Even the most beautiful places feel like facilities to a lot of people.
Where do you want to live? Some people choose a community near their longtime home so they can stay in touch with friends and family and continue their favorite pursuits. Others decide to move closer to adult children. Some independent living chains allow residents to spend part of the year in one city and part in another.
What meals are provided and when? Most independent living communities provide one or two meals a day, with kitchens available for those who cook. Ask about the meal hours, whether seats are assigned, what options are available outside meal hours and how the community accommodates people with any dietary restrictions you may have. Once you narrow down your choice to a few communities, eat a meal or two with residents to get a better idea about the quality of the food.
What activities are provided, and how many people participate? Most facilities have an impressive-looking calendar of activities, but some events turn out to be poorly attended. Or, the activities may not suit your interests. Are activities only during the day or on weekdays? What about excursions into the city?
Who are the residents? Ask about the average age, male-female ratio and percentage of couples versus singles in the community. You want to find a place where you can make friends and stay engaged in social events, so collecting this information is crucial.
What are the transportation options? Most facilities provide transportation, but that doesn't mean you can order a car and driver 24/7 to take you where you want to go. Is there a limit on how far you can go? Is the transportation only to certain places at certain times, or can you go anywhere in a specific radius?
What services are provided and what will cost you extra? Some communities charge a flat monthly rent for a variety of services and others provide more services a la carte. While some include utilities in the rent, others require you to set up your own accounts for electricity, cable TV and Internet. If there is housekeeping, does the housekeeper wash the bed linens and change the sheets and blankets? Do the apartments have washers and dryers, or do you have to go to a communal laundry room? Is there a nurse on staff to deal with minor illnesses? Find out what you will pay for out of pocket and what will be covered in your rent before committing to an assisted living community.
What are your options if you need help? Some independent living communities provide aides for a fee, and others let you bring in your own aides. Find out what options you'll have and also what level of care would trigger a requirement that you leave or move to assisted living.
What are the details of the contract? Before you sign a continuing care contract, your lawyer and financial advisor should review it, and the advisors should also examine the community's financials to ensure it won't go out of business while you're a resident. In recent years, some communities have offered alternatives to the traditional life-care contract, and you want to understand what you're getting. Some communities offer a modified contract, providing a specific set of services for a specific period, and you pay as you go after that expires. A fee-for-service contract has a lower buy-in fee, but you will be charged market rates if you move to assisted living or a nursing home. You may want to have a rental contract reviewed, too, or at least share it with your adult children before you sign.
For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.