How to Find a Retirement Community That Fits Your Lifestyle
Judging from what you see on most billboards and newspaper ads, you might think that all retirement communities are serene, resting places to be cared for and comforted. While that may be true in some cases, retirement communities – like most everything – come in all shapes, colors and sizes. And thanks to the Baby Boomers, things are changing.
Each day ten thousand Boomers will begin turning 65. Just like they redefined society, music, and politics, they are redefining retirement. And it certainly isn’t going to be their grandmother’s retirement.
What’s out there?
To discover the options available, retirement community websites are a good place to start your research. There you can find out what type of tempo, philosophy, and lifestyle a community offers. Finding out whether it fits with your lifestyle is key to a high quality of life.
Take a look at the activities offered. Do they seem like the kind in which you would like to get involved? If you’re into fitness or staying active, do they offer memberships to local wellness centers or offer onsite facilities? If you enjoy concerts and museums, do they plan trips to local venues? Do you like to be involved in community groups or organize events? Have you always been a learner? Take stock at what keeps you active and engaged and make sure that you’ll easily continue to pursue them.
Most websites will also provide information about food and in-house restaurant options. Do you like to eat “three squares” a day or do you prefer just to catch a quick bite on your own schedule? Are there a variety of dining options? Some communities offer both a “nice” restaurant and a casual, neighborhood place. If you are into the local and fresh food movement, plan to explore a community’s menu to see if they put an emphasis on eating well – one that benefits you, your community, and the planet.
Seeing it for real.
Most communities will mail brochures and local chamber of commerce offices or visitor bureaus can supply good information about the area in terms of cultural, recreational, and health opportunities, but nothing can take the place of a visit.
In many ways, it’s like a college visit for high school seniors. A tour is the best way to get the pulse of a campus. It can give you a real picture of what’s offered and delivered. When you arrive, are you greeted with a smile? Do you see friendly conversations between staff and residents? What is the general atmosphere? You might find that some retirement communities have a more institutional feel, while others have a sense of home.
Dick and Ginny Koester, who moved from Ann Arbor to Chelsea in 2007, said that they were struck by the differences in atmosphere between retirement communities.
“We visited several places and sometimes nobody said ‘hello’ or even smiled at us,” remembered Ginny Koester.
Talking to residents is a great way to gauge a community. Most will be glad to share their experiences, both favorable and unfavorable. Their openness – or lack thereof – can speak volumes.
Beyond the immediate retirement community, look for how it fits into the greater community where it is located. Are there partnerships with local arts groups, the library, or other local resources? Is it walk-able?
For Lois deLeon, who moved to a local retirement community from the Cleveland area in 2007, walkability was one of the most important things on her priority list.
“I really like to walk places and living within walking distance to markets, galleries, and restaurants was key to my decision.”
Some retirement communities are offering prospective residents the opportunity to “test drive” the community. This is a free one to three night stay in a completely furnished apartment. Meals are often included, as are most of the activities. It is a chance to meet other residents, talk freely, and experience what it would be like to live in a particular community. Test drives are often the final step in deciding whether a particular community is the best choice for you.
Noreene Heuser, who moved to Chelsea in July 2009, said a 3-day stay helped her with the decision to transition from a full-sized home to independent living. What she learned most during her stay was that it really felt like home.
“It’s a long way from Florida and a stay in the VIP suite gave me a chance to be sure this was the right place for me.”
Top Tips from Insiders: Advice from those who have already made the move.
- Don’t wait. It’s easier to establish new friends and social network when you’re younger and more active.
- Look for smiling faces -- on both staff and residents.
- Ask yourself if this is a place you can call home.
- Make sure it’s a good fit for your lifestyle.
- Schedule an overnight stay at the community if it’s offered.
Chelsea, MI 48118