How do I Choose the Best Retirement Communities?

T. Carrier

Retirement communities are living facilities typically designed for individuals aged 55 or older. Many types of adult communities exist, and the best option often depends on the individual’s functional capacity. Some senior citizens are capable of independent living, and thus adult real estate developments may present the most comfortable living arrangement. Individuals with a debilitating physical or mental impairment may require care in a group assisted living facility. Other factors to consider when choosing a retirement community include price, convenience, and individual personality.

Senior housing often provides a social support network.
Senior housing often provides a social support network.

As individuals age, a host of physical complications can impact the body and mind. Bones and muscles become weaker in general and degenerative disorders in particular can negatively alter a person's physical and mental capacities. Further, older individuals are more susceptible to problems such as heart disease. Any of these outcomes can hinder an individual’s ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Some retirees might choose to live in a warm climate near the beach.
Some retirees might choose to live in a warm climate near the beach.

Two options exist for individuals that need this type of help. If the difficulties are minor to moderate, one may consider assisted living retirement communities. These facilities may consist of one group home or a series of apartment-like structures where individuals can retain some degree of independence. In reliable communities, a fully trained staff is likely on hand at all times, however, to help individuals when needed with tasks like bathing, getting dressed, or room cleaning.

The best assisted living community will provide the right amount of medical care for a patient's individual needs.
The best assisted living community will provide the right amount of medical care for a patient's individual needs.

Nursing retirement communities, on the other hand, typically house individuals who need full-time care. They are usually found in a single building, and nurses and other medical staff regularly monitor the residents. As with assisted living facilities, recreational activities like games or small outings are often arranged to maintain social interaction and a sense of normalcy. Therefore, one should request a copy of an activities calendar from prospective facilities.

There are many communities for active adults aged 55 and older.
There are many communities for active adults aged 55 and older.

Any type of valid assisted living retirement community can provide ease and comfort to both senior citizens and their families. Potential caretakers often have work or family obligations that prevent them from providing the level of care an aging relative may need. A good community can alleviate these concerns, as some communities have medical staff on-site while others work with nearby hospitals to keep nurses and physicians on-call. Many contemporary communities called continuing care facilities even offer different levels of living assistance depending upon a prospective resident’s individual needs.

Individuals aged 55 plus who are otherwise self-sufficient may simply desire a living arrangement where they can maintain close relationships with peers. Independent living communities offer such an option for these citizens. Unlike many assisted living communities, most independent living centers closely resemble a traditional community found in suburban areas. Tracts of land with either apartments or full housing are available for purchase. Often, the only difference between retirement communities and typical communities are the ages of the residents.

Both personality and financial capability should be taken into consideration when choosing a retirement community. Individuals who resist change and dislike highly social settings may prefer community settings with a minimal level of supervision or lodgings. Others may thrive in more active adult communities with surplus luxuries like pools, tennis courts, and maid service.

Some potential retirees may also prefer establishing residence in certain environments like a warm beach setting. Costs for these retirement communities will likely run higher than the average, however. The surrounding region and access to major transportation routes and community stores should also be taken under advisement. In assisted living facilities, costs may be contained under one unlimited service fee, or a fee-per-service plan. Affordability and efficiency are key in choosing the right retirement community.

Finding well-regarded retirement communities is often a matter of research. Valid organizations will have accreditation and endorsements from medical groups and senior citizen advocates, which should be outlined in a contract and licensing report. Further, much online research is available that provides reviews and rankings for nearly every senior citizen community, based on issues such as hospitality and cleanliness. Perhaps the most effective means of vetting a 55 plus community is to personally speak with both workers and, if possible, residents.

Some retirement communities have accommodations for visiting grandchildren.
Some retirement communities have accommodations for visiting grandchildren.

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