Identify Your “Wants” and “Needs”
Before you begin your research, it’s important to define what you want and need from a senior living community. Although your priorities may change after you get further in your research and decision making, identifying what’s most important now can help you best focus your time and energy on potential matches for your retirement community wants and needs.
In our many conversations with prospective residents, we have noted several of the most common factors affecting decisions about retirement communities.
Note: It can be dazzling to see or visit brand new communities that look fancy, but often times those facilities are lacking in other ways. Attention to the needs of the resident will impact your day-to-day life in much more profound ways than living in a new building. Prioritizing what’s really important to your health and happiness is critical!
There are many variables that can impact your choice in location. Being near family, close to doctors, and more will help determine which locations you consider while searching for a senior living community.
It’s a reality that price matters for a significant portion of the population. As part of your initial research, review your finances and determine what price range is ideal and what will max out your budget so you can identify which communities fit into your price range.
Do you have a pet at home? Some communities welcome pets alongside residents while others welcome pets as visitors, but not as residents. It’s best to contemplate a future for your pet early in the process so you can determine how much of an impact a pet will have on your decision.
If you move into a senior living community, will you be able to park your car and drive around town like you are used to? Flexibility here will depend on the community, so if continued driving is on your radar (pun intended!) you may want to add this to your list of important considerations.
If you do intend to continue driving, it may also be prudent to ask about parking options for your vehicle. Is there a garage or parking lot spaces available (and do they cost extra)?
If you aren’t driving (or if you don’t feel like getting behind the wheel all the time), you may want to rely on outside transportation for trips to doctors’ offices, supermarkets, shopping malls and other stops. Will you need or want to take advantage of this type of service? Be sure to note it so you can identify which communities can meet that need.
Depending on your habits and hobbies, there are communities with a vast range of activities to meet the needs of their residents. Here at Magnolia Manor, each community has its own list of activities designed to meet the many needs of our residents, including:
- Arts & Culture. Music, poetry, painting, writing, storytelling and other fine arts. Plus, opportunities to learn a second language, take horticulture classes, gain hands-on computer time and more.
- Spiritual Care & Growth. Chaplains offer pastoral care, support group care, services
of worship and Bible study.
- Health & Wellness. Wellness centers and fitness programs keep residents looking and feeling young and energetic.
- Events. The calendars of our residents are jam packed with fun things to do with each other and their families.
- Social Activities. We place emphasis on nourishing your mind, soul, and body.
You may have activities in mind that are crucial to your decision, or you may want to flesh out your list as you research various communities and see what they offer. It’s important to identify and document your desires in this area, though -- they will have a major impact on your day-to-day life.
We all have to eat! The quality and variety of food provided by your retirement community is important to many residents, and who can blame them?! At Magnolia Manor, we believe you shouldn’t have to compromise on taste when living at one of our eight campuses. We strive to meet dietary restrictions, allergies, preferences and health needs.
If you have special requests or needs, define those early so you can identify which communities are capable of meeting your needs.
Accommodating Needs Over Time
Depending on your current situation, you may be looking for independent living. However, you may want to choose a community that has higher levels of care. Knowing that you won’t have to move across town if your health situation changes can provide significant peace of mind when choosing a senior living campus.
Are there other elements affecting your day-to-day life now that you want to be sure are included in your future home? Jot down notes, or ask friends and loved ones what you may be missing. Being thorough at this part of the process can help prevent any frustrations or issues once you get further into the process of making your final choice.
Choosing a senior living community is a major decision that has the potential to impact your life for several decades. It’s definitely not one to take lightly!
While emergencies and other elements outside our control can sometimes hasten the need to decide on a retirement community, planning can help alleviate that stress and prevent those emergency situations from compromising your ability to make a thoughtful decision.
Some senior living communities accept residents as early as age 55, while others begin accepting residents at age 62 (at Magnolia Manor, our residents start at age 62). It may make sense to start doing preliminary research at or even slightly before those ages to identify your wants, needs, and budget.
Another reason to map out your timeline well in advance? Many communities -- including some of our Magnolia Manor campuses -- have waitlists. It doesn’t cost much to put your name on a waitlist; but doing so can help ensure that when the time is right, you don’t have to settle for your second or third choice when making a decision.
Receiving Financial Assistance
Earlier in this eBook, we discussed several financial initiatives that can impact your choice of retirement community. While Medicare / Medicaid do not pay for some types of senior living in Georgia, long-term care insurance and veterans’ benefits (when applicable) can remove a significant financial expense and burden.
Paperwork and payment from benefits like long-term insurance and veterans’ benefits can take up to 6 months. Even cashing in bank accounts, stocks or other funds can take some time. Consider these elements when planning your timeline to ensure any and all financial resources are available and processed in a timely fashion when you are ready to make your senior living decision.
Now that you know what is most important for you in a senior living community, it’s time to start finding communities that meet your criteria.
Data from Pew Research Center shows that ⅔ of seniors use the Internet. In other words, you (or someone you know) are online, or else you would never have found this publication! The Internet is a fantastic place to do initial research when making your choices.
One of the easiest ways to get started is to do a search for “retirement communities in [CITY].” Search for communities in every town or city you’ve identified as a potential fit for your needs. If you prefer to track your research using a computer, you may want to create a spreadsheet with the name, location, and amenities of each community. Or, you can track manually in a notebook.
Download any brochures, eBooks or other information that will help shed light into each community and its amenities, so you can effectively narrow down your list later. At this point, just focus on information gathering.
Ask For Recommendations
Talking to friends, family, and neighbors about their experiences with senior living communities is a classic method that never goes out of style. Reach out to people you trust and let them know you’re ready to make the move. Ask if they’ve had any experiences, and where they might recommend.
Considering the input you gain from recommendations alongside your own research can help you make a more informed decision down the line.