What to Ask When Comparing Retirement Communities

Not all senior living communities are designed the same. That’s why finding the right one for you or your loved one is crucial for a superb experience. We understand it can be confusing to begin this process as you or your loved one take the step toward retirement living, but we want to help make it easier to navigate. 

There’s so much information out there on senior living communities, and the many offerings can be overwhelming. Below is a breakdown of the main features of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that differ from one place to the next so you can gain a better understanding of what you’re looking for. 

Keep this list of questions handy as you browse various communities and connect with representatives from each.

How much does it cost? 

Determine what each CCRC costs right off the bat. Cost may be the best place to start because understanding the price point will allow you to rank communities based on what you can afford.

CCRCs typically require payment in the form of an entrance fee and a monthly fee. Both the entrance fee and the monthly fee can vary, depending on the size of the home and the number of residents. 

  • What is an entrance fee? The entrance fee is an upfront cost due to hold your spot or at move in. It’s paid in exchange for services provided at the CCRC, such as healthcare and other assistance throughout the resident’s lifetime. In some cases, the entrance fee is refundable, so you’ll want to ask communities this as you’re checking them out.
  • What is a monthly fee? The monthly fee is a cost due every month and can include housing, dining and other activities. Make sure to ask what the monthly fee entails as it can vary from one community to another.

There are also ownership models, meaning you purchase a home within a senior living community. You’ll own a part of the community and continue to build equity. 

What different levels of care are offered?

Your health must also be at the forefront of your decision. Communities that are more independent focused may offer limited levels of healthcare while others offer comprehensive health services. There are some communities that do not have a professional medical staff on campus or the staff is small and unspecialized, but others may specialize in only one type of healthcare service. 

Most CCRCs offer healthcare for every stage of your life – from the time you live an active lifestyle with minimal health needs to increasingly intensive services to accommodate you as you age. As levels of care differ, the costs do as well. Each community has a different policy, so be sure to ask what’s included in each level of care and what is an additional cost. 

Many CCRCs have the following different options available: 

    • Independent Living: Residents can enjoy a private life while also enjoying all the convenient services and dining available to them as well as the option to join many different programs. They have access to all the community has to offer and can spend their days as they wish.
    • Assisted Living: Assisted Living is for residents who require certain assistance from experienced, licensed nurses, including administering medication, special attention due to illness and other health issues. 
    • Memory Support: Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will be treated in a secure environment with nurturing nurses for comfortable days. 
  • Skilled Nursing: Professionals work closely with residents and their family members to determine what level of nursing assistance is needed while promoting a sense of independence and well-being. 

What kind of residents live there?

Get an idea of the current residents within the community to determine what kind of lifestyle you’d live there. Check out websites and blogs, subscribe to newsletters and browse social media pages. When you visit the community in person, you have the opportunity to speak with residents to get to know them a little better. Many residents are more than willing to share their experiences and look forward to welcoming a new member. 

You can also reach out to staff members to learn about current residents. They’ll help you become familiar with activities and programs the residents are most interested in, how they like to spend their time and what areas are the most popular within the communities. If these activities are of interest to you, you may find that you’d fit in there well. 

What home features can I expect?

Your living space is so important for your comfort and convenience and certain features can make or break the space. It can be difficult to determine which features are non-negotiable for you before you move, so getting an idea of what communities offer ahead of time can help you decide. Below is a list of common features you’re likely to find in a senior living residence. Make a list of must-haves so you know what to look for when you’re scoping out potential communities.

Home Features Conveniences Security
Floor plan options Internal and external maintenance services 24-hour security
Full-size kitchen appliances Regular housekeeping Emergency call response program
Washer and dryer Linen services Life Care
Carpet, ceramic tile or hardwood flooring Additional storage and conveniently located parking
State-of-the-art television and cable 24/7 concierge service
Wi-Fi and high-speed internet
All utilities included

What kinds of programs and events are offered? What are some of the most popular?

Of course you want to know what kind of fun you’ll be able to get involved in! The list below details some of the most common programs and activities at CCRCs. If there’s a certain hobby or interest you feel strongly about pursuing during retirement, make sure the communities you’re checking out include it in their offerings.

Planned social outings

Dining Health and Wellness Programs and Education Social Gatherings
Casual dining options Fitness center Speakers’ series Outdoor gardening
Formal dining options Swimming pool Theatrical venues Walking trails
Coffee shop Spa Continuing education courses Transportation services
Catered dining Yoga Teaching/mentoring opportunities Dog parks
Minimarket Tennis Technological assistance & learning Intergenerational opportunities
Golf Library Religious services
Biking Art studios
Beauty salon

How do residents offer feedback, and how is it received?

Ask the staff at senior living communities about resident feedback to get a general understanding of whether or not the community is receptive to new ideas. It’s important that you join a community that puts its residents’ needs first and identifies areas of improvement. Some examples of these feedback programs can be an email address where residents can send suggestions and in-person or virtual meetings to discuss thoughts and concerns.

If you’re interested in learning how the Highview at Searstone can meet your needs and give you the retirement lifestyle you deserve, visit us here or call at 919.234.0339.