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Things to Check Out Before You Check In, In Senior Living

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJanuary 4, 2018
Things to Check Out Before You Check In

Choosing the retirement community where you plan to spend your golden years is a tough decision. Will you relocate to the sunny south or find a community close to your current home, family and friends? Will you vacation seasonally or remain in the community all year long? Will you play golf in all your newfound spare time, or spend your time playing cards?

With the excitement of a long-held dream coming to fruition, people tend to overlook some of the finer details of choosing a retirement community in which to settle. Time Magazine reports that Bankrate.com has developed a handy guideline which ranks the best state to retire in based on:

  • Cost of living
  • Crime
  • Healthcare quality
  • Overall wellbeing

What to Check Out Before You Check In

In addition to these considerations, we have compiled a list of practical tips to check out before you check in, to ensure a flawless transition:

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Consider Access to Medical Services

Medical care is an incredibly important aspect of your overall health and wellbeing. Although none of us enter a new situation anticipating getting injured or sick, being informed and prepared will allow you to make the best decision when choosing a retirement community. Forbes suggests considering the following questions:

  • Does the community have a helipad for airlift?
  • Does the community provide in-home health services, or are local physicians willing to make house calls?
  • Does the community provide medical services?
  • If there are no on-site healthcare facilities, how far must you travel?

Although it’s important that any community you consider have a strong emergency preparedness action plan in place, it’s of critical importance to ask this question in hurricane and flood-prone states.

Consider Additional Expenses

Every new homeowner knows that expenses – in addition to the purchase price of your home – tend to pile up quickly, especially when you move to a new area. Living in a retirement community is no different, so it is important to consider the additional expenses you will incur when doing your short and long-term budget.

For example, most retirement communities have a monthly Home Owners Association (HOA) fee, which pays for the cost of the maintenance and upkeep in the community. These fees can vary drastically depending on the retirement community you choose. In addition to the HOA fee itself, ensure you ask how much these fees will increase year-by-year and if you’re renting, what the average hike in rent is from one year to the next.

Memberships are also an expense to consider. If being part of a country club or golf league is important to you, learn about the specific club membership structures and factor in those costs as part of your day-to-day expenses.

Consider What You Want Out of a Planned Community

Scheduled activities and outings are a huge appeal to many people interested in retirement living. With newfound freedom and time on your hands, consider how you would like to spend your spare time and ensure that the community you are interested in buying into provides that.

It is also important to consider the type of lifestyle you’re looking for when choosing a retirement community. An article published by U.S. News entitled “10 Factors to Consider Before Moving to a Retirement Community” suggests you consider the following three questions when determining if an age-restricted adult community is right for you:

  • Will you enjoy living in a remote, self-contained community?
  • Will you fit in? Consider race, religion, political views and socioeconomic class
  • Will you prefer to be surrounded by other retirees?

Get to Know Your Neighbors

It’s critical to connecting with your soon-to-be neighbors to get a proper lay of the land – and them before you make a formal decision of where you’ll retire. According to Forbes, “retirement will bring more downtime than you may have been used to, and social activities are big in planned communities. Your fellow residents will be your new friends — or your new nemeses. Either way, they’ll have a bigger impact on your life than your bathroom fixtures or hardwood floors.”

Feeling out your prospective new neighbors will also allow you to determine how the community operates. U.S. News suggests asking several residents what they like most about living in the retirement community and what they would improve. Pay close attention to how they interact with you when you’re chatting with them – are they friendly and welcoming?

Location, Location, Location!

Pinning down a geographical location is the first step in relocating to a retirement community. Many people fall in love with a location after a week-long getaway spent in vacation mode, enjoying the relaxing luxuries. However, it is important to remember that vacation is not real life – the weather will be different in the offseason and the responsibilities of day-to-day life can dull the vacation luster you remember. Make a trip to the community you have in mind during a different time of year than you are used to and you will catch a glimpse of the real experience.

Also keep in mind proximity to your family and friends, entertainment and shopping centers. The location in which you purchase your retirement property cannot easily be changed after you have signed on the dotted line, so be sure to check out all aspects of the location before moving forward.

What Are the Limitations of the Community?

Most planned retirement communities have regulations laid out by the HOA, which will impact your daily life. Make sure that you read and thoroughly understand the restrictions and conditions of the community, which may include clauses regarding:

  • Decorating the exterior of your home
  • The length of time younger guests may visit
  • The types of pets you can own
  • Whether you can rent or sublet your property and if so, how often.

Choosing the best retirement community for your unique lifestyle can be very exhilarating, but also overwhelming. Although it is easy to be dazzled by a beautifully manicured community or the exciting prospect of retirement, it is important to take the time to consider all the important factors each community offers.

What are other things to check out before you check in? What considerations would you add to this list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler

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