Questions to Ask Before Moving into a Retirement Community (By Category)
A comprehensive list of questions to ask when visiting an independent senior living community.
Moving into a retirement community as an independent living resident can provide you with a laid-back lifestyle that you won’t receive in a standalone 55+ community. It’s the preferred style of living for older adults because it offers resort-style amenities which include top-rated restaurants, unique social activities, fitness classes, beauty salons, maintenance free living as well as on-site access to quality care services.
While there may be many communities in your local area, they’re likely vastly different. As you begin to evaluate the options and perform your due diligence, you may wonder what questions to ask senior living communities. Asking the right questions will not only narrow down your search but help you find a retirement community that is best suited for your lifestyle. To assist in your search and ensure they meet your criteria, we’ve compiled and categorized a comprehensive list of questions to ask senior living communities during all phases of your research.
Independent senior living communities offer a variety of home options for you to choose from. You’ll want to know what’s included with the home and explore which one may be correct for your needs.
- What home options do you offer? (townhomes, standalone cottages, apartments, etc.)
- Are you still building homes?
- What does the community layout look like?
- Can I customize my home?
- Does the home come with routine maintenance and repairs included?
- Is exterior maintenance covered?
- What happens if something breaks inside of the home?
- Are appliances included?
- Who covers the cost of electric, gas, and water?
- Who covers the trash pick up?
- Who covers the cable/satellite television and internet?
- Is housekeeping included?
- Do you have a homeowners association (HOA)?
- Can I have pets?
- Can I have visitors?
- Can I have overnight visitors?
- Do you have garages?
- Do you offer additional storage for items?
- Do homes come furnished?
Independent senior living residents prepare and cook their own meals, but having the option to sit-down, take out or have freshly prepared meals delivered may be included in the service fee. Fundamentally, restaurants differ by the type of cuisine, cost, dress code, product, service style and aesthetic. The same is true within retirement communities, so it’s important to find a program that aligns with your palate and would make your dining experience enjoyable.
- How many meals are covered per day / Is there a meal plan?
- Is there variety day-to-day/week-to-week?
- Are snacks included?
- What kind of beverages are included?
- What is the pricing on menu items?
- Can I look at a current menu? (Ask for a copy)
- Can friends/family join you for dinner?
- Is there a dress code?
- Are you required to reserve meal times?
- Who will you be seated with during meals?
- What kind of international cuisine do you serve?
- Do you offer private dining for special events?
- What if you’re still hungry after meals?
- Can you request meal variations or substitutions?
- Are meals covered by a nutrition plan?
- What type of dining are available? (dining room, to-go, casual/bistro, private)
- Can you go out of the community for meals?
- Can you celebrate birthdays and other events?
Social interactions play a crucial role in the quality of life for independent living residents. Prioritizing housing options and community amenities are important, but do not overlook a community’s commitment to social events, activities and outings as they play an important role in one’s overall retirement happiness.
- Do you offer events for residents?
- What kind of events do you offer?
- Does your schedule change month-to-month?
- Do you plan trips outside of the community?
- What clubs do you offer?
- How do you get residents involved in activities?
- How many people attend activities?
- What does your schedule look like? (Ask for a copy)
- What are your most-attended events?
- Can I start a meeting group?
- Do you have other age groups to visit? (kids programs, teenage volunteers)
- Can I bring my friends/family to join an event?
Being active as an older adult is important for maintaining flexibility, muscle strength and mobility. Finding a community that prioritizes wellness and incorporates a variety of classes and activities, is essential when evaluating. Wellness along with an active lifestyle contribute to healthier living.
- How do you get residents who haven’t worked out involved?
- Does your schedule change month-to-month?
- Does your team have a certification or a degree?
- Do you have a pool?
- Do you have a fitness studio?
- Do you have a wellness center/training room?
- Who leads the classes?
- How do you sign up for classes?
- How do you modify the workouts to meet the needs of each resident?
- Do you go off-site for wellness activities?
- What is your most popular wellness class?
- Can I request a class that I’ve tried before?
Affordability and pricing are one of the top questions people ask when looking for retirement communities. The homes, buy-ins and monthly service fees all impacts pricing.
- What are your plans and pricing structure?
- Do your fees increase annually?
- Do you offer financial assistance?
- Do you accept long-term care insurance?
- Is there an entrance fee?
- Is there a buy-in?
- What does the price cover?
- What doesn’t the price cover?
- Is transportation included?
- Is this tax deductible?
- What is the difference in pricing if moved to a different type of care? (ie. from independent living to assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing)
Welcoming guests into your home is a wonderful part of home ownership. If you’re someone who enjoys entertaining family and friends, make sure that the community’s policies align with your welcoming nature. Communities differ on guests numbers and length of stay, so be sure they don’t impede your upcoming 50th wedding anniversary party.
- Do I have to sign in visitors?
- How many visitors are allowed?
- Can I throw parties or entertain?
- Is there a noise policy?
- Can your family/friends stay overnight?
- Can you bring friends and family to activities or to use amenities?
- Can family and friends join you for meals?
- What time can family/friends visit?
- Is there a guest room/suite available to stay in?
- Are there support groups available on-site?
- Can I host my guests in a public area of the community?
- Can my family volunteer in the community?
Choosing a community that offers multiple levels of care ensures that you won’t need to leave the community you live in. As you age, health can change rapidly and residing in a community where you can receive care services will ease the transition, should you or your spouse require care. When evaluating communities, look for those who are registered as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) or continuum of care. These communities offer multiple levels of skilled, compassionate care services.
- What services do you offer? (ie: assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation)
- Can you continue to live in your home and access these services?
- What is your staffing ratio?
- What type of training does your staff receive?
- Do your staff members have a certification or degree?
- Do you have staff available 24/7?
- How close are you to the nearest hospital?
- Can I continue to use the same health care providers?
- Can staff administer medication?
- Do you have an in-house physician?
- Is your community licensed and inspected?
- Is the same caregiver consistently assigned?
- Do you offer hospice or end of life care?
- Do you have security officers?
- Is the community gated?
- What happens in case of inclement weather? (hurricanes, forest fires, blizzards, etc.)
- How many residents live in the community?
- What is the average age of residents?
- What amenities can residents use within the community?
- Do you have a maintenance team?
- Do you offer housekeeping / laundry services?
- Does your apartment come furnished?
- Are the homes customizable?
- Do you have any additional location/properties in your company?
- Ask to see a state survey or Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) evaluation
- Are you a continuing care retirement community? (CCRC’s offer a full continuum of care, making it easier to transition should the need arise)
As you’re visiting these communities, don’t be afraid to ask the questions as it’ll become your home and you’ll want to feel comfortable living there. Additionally, be sure to visually inspect the community, speak with current residents/families and most of all, trust your gut when it comes to making this decision.
In conclusion, while there are endless questions, far beyond this list, to help you evaluate a retirement community, this will help you get started. Asking a full spectrum of questions about retirement communities will assist you in gathering information to make a more-informed decision on the senior living community that is right for you.