Choosing a Retirement Community and Choosing a College: The Process Isn't That Different
It is back to school time! It is getting darker earlier, the yellow buses are zooming by and football season is upon us. Yep, school is in session. This is also a reminder that many people, like my very own daughter, are off to college for the first time. As I reflect back on her big decision of choosing the right fit for her, it reminds me of another similar big life decision: choosing a retirement community.
How is choosing a retirement community just like choosing a college you ask? Well to name a few things that both college seekers and retirement seekers have in common:
- Possible new living arrangement
- Making new friends
- Teachers or staff that work to enhance your life and teach you new things
- Big money and time investment
- Life changing
So why not approach picking a retirement community in the same manner you would pick the right college fit for you? With this in mind, here are a few tips that can help you make an informed decision to picking a retirement community in the same way that you or a friend may have chosen a college years ago.
Yes, it starts this simply. When you begin to look at a college, they will often send you a complete packet full of pictures of their beautiful campus and their diverse student body. Instead of tuition costs and a list of courses in the information packet, a retirement community will provide you with information on cost break downs, floor plans of units, services, community calendars, and other neat things that make that particular community unique.
Visit the community or have them come to you!
Just like it makes sense to visit a college, walk the campus with a student ambassador, meet with a counselor to select classes, you want to do the same with any retirement community you are looking at. Many people don’t know this, but home visits are a very popular way to begin a retirement community search. Most communities are willing to come to you to begin the discussion of what their community has to offer you. So just like a college coach trying to get a great athlete to commit to their school, a community sales counselor cam come to your home to talk to you about all the benefits of their community. This a no-stress way for many people to begin their search.
Events, events, and more events!
Another great way to check out a college is to go to an event. Many colleges have summer themed ones, class themed (freshman, junior days, etc.) The same goes with retirement communities! Whether you want to understand what the real estate market is doing, how to downsize your home, or just get some general knowledge of what it would be like to live in a specific community, events hosted by a retirement community will be able to provide you with this. Also, A relatively new way to learn about a retirement community is off-site events. Communities today are taking the “show on the road.” This is a great way to learn about a community if you still have concerns about being “hard sold” by going to a community. To use sports terminology, off site events are like a neutral field vs. the home field advantage you may perceive by going to the campus.
Overnight stays like auditing classes
Many potential students will sit in on a college class to see if they are comfortable with the size of the classroom, the feel of the professors, and to see if there are other people like them that go there. Similar situations happen daily at retirement communities! Most communities offer complimentary stays, some for multiple nights so someone can get a real feel for what typical day to day life is like at a community. During your stay, you will have the opportunity to have dinner with other residents, ask questions, meet campus staff and leaders, and participate in various campus activities. These are all the things one can do to find out if waking up every day at a particular place feels right or not.
Visit multiple times and ask lots of questions
My daughter visited the college of her choice about 6 times before enrolling. She met with various advisors to discuss course loads, dorm life, etc. My wife and I met with the business office and financial aid office to see how we could make this dream of hers a reality. Same thing with retirement living! This is not usually a one and done decision. Once you find a community or 2 (heck even 3) that you have narrowed down as your finalists, visit them multiple times. Talk to as many residents as you can to see what life is really like. Ask to talk to people outside of the sales office. Talk to security, dining, housekeeping, the nursing staff, and volunteers. Also, don’t forget the executive director. This person is the head of the campus, just like talking to the Dean of Students at a college. They should have a good feel for everything going on at the campus and can answer many of those hard-hitting questions.
Just like college, nothing happens until you take action
Choosing a college is a huge decision for young adults, and as mentioned before it is life-changing. It can even be a paralyzing fear, but even worse than choosing the wrong college is choosing no college at all. The same goes for retirement living. Inaction is worse than wrong action. Inaction can lead to reactive choosing of a retirement community, rather than proactive choosing.
Reactive decision making involves less time, which leads to fewer options, more settling, and a lot more stress, which in turn can lead to many arguments between parents and adult children. So be proactive. Consider doing a few of these recommendations above now instead of waiting.
I promise you the more of these areas that you check off prior to picking a community the more confident in your choice you will be and the happier you will be. Isn’t that the goal? Happy Hunting!
Deciding on a senior living community that is right for you can be overwhelming. Download our free senior community evaluation checklist to help guide you during your search process!