If you’re like millions of Americans today, you may be considering a move to an independent living community. One of the most helpful ways to gather information is by touring some of the properties that appeal to you. While you experience the communities and all they have to offer, make sure you gather as much information as possible. Asking the right questions will help you decide on the right independent living community and steer you away from locations that aren’t a good fit. We sat down with a few residents to find out how they made the decision to move, and what information was helpful as they toured.
First impressions can tell you a lot, so pay attention to how you feel as you take in the property. Ask yourself, “How do I feel when I’m in this community?” Consider the atmosphere and whether it feels comfortable and inviting. Reflect on the interactions with current residents—do they seem open and friendly? An extra-smart tip is to schedule your tour during an active time of day to get a more accurate read on the community.
Of course, any community will feel different than where you might be now, but isn’t that the point? Making a change is about freeing yourself of responsibilities of homeownership you no longer need or want. Having a sense of “home” is not something you should give up. As you take in the tour, try to visualize yourself living on the property. Imagine your daily routine and how it would unfold if you were to live in this community. Ask yourself, “Can I imagine living here and making it my home? Could I comfortably invite my friends and family to this place?
Most of us have a specific vision for how we see our lives unfolding. Don’t forget to ask the staff about the amenities that matter to you, like accommodations for visitors, pet-friendly policies, and on-site dining options.
A tour of any independent living community should allow you to experience available dining options and decide whether their options meet your needs. Some key questions to consider are, “Does it feel like I’ll be eating food created by a chef each day? Will I want to eat here every day? Can I cook if I want to? Can I eat whenever I want – just like in a restaurant?”
While many independent living communities offer dining rooms with set hours, they often aren’t operating chef-driven restaurants with flexible menus and hours. Depending on your needs, ask about dining hours and flexibility—can you choose when and where you eat or are you tied to a schedule?
While touring independent living communities, you may start to notice some similarities. Most offer dining and recreational options. However, it’s the intangibles—the factors that are harder to define—that can set one property above the rest. During your tour, ask yourself, “Can I have this experience or lifestyle someplace else? Or does this community offer something others don’t?” Pay attention to how the property and its surroundings make you feel. One way to help determine if a community is unique in its offerings is to inquire about the amenities that make it one-of-a-kind, like on-site, state-of-the-art gyms, entertainment options, and learning opportunities. Asking these types of detailed questions helps get to the root of what makes a location unique and helps you see how you’d fit in.
An obvious, yet often overlooked, question is: where does my money go? While location, demographics of residents, and amenities will play a big role in your final decision, for many individuals, it comes to the numbers. Ask to see a comparison of the costs of homeownership versus what is included in your monthly rent. Most communities will include utilities, housekeeping and dining in your monthly rent, so you’ll want to understand what sets these services apart from one community to another. Make sure you understand what is and is not included in your rent so there are no surprises or unexpected costs.
The MacArthur Foundation study on aging found that 70% of how we age is due to the lifestyle choices we make. Successful aging is more than a calendar of events, so it is important to find a community that embraces holistic wellness in everything from their menus to their activity programs. Ask what types of groups exist, or will be created, within the community and the process for joining them. Are there on-site coordinators or instructors leading engaging social, educational and physical activities? Will there be opportunities to form meaningful relationships with new neighbors and friends?
Choosing an independent living community is a big decision and should be backed by research and information. Set yourself up for success by reviewing some key questions and don’t be afraid to speak up during tours. And check out our helpful checklist for things to consider during your tours.