The decision to move to a retirement community is a major one. It is never too early to begin planning for a time when changes in your life or your health may occur. You may want freedom from home maintenance or a smaller more manageable environment, where you can come and go freely. You might have concerns about your future financial and personal security or your physical or social well-being. Transportation may become a concern and help with personal or domestic tasks could eventually be required.
For couples, it is best to make the decision while you are both doing well and can help each other. For anyone, it is better to plan before you are in a crisis. Far too many individuals wait until their needs become urgent, and then they do not have the time or the objectivity to gather all the information they need. Often there are waiting lists to move into a retirement community. If you anticipate that the time will come when you no longer will be able to live in your own home safely and in good health, it is best to plan ahead.
The Presbyterian Church USA has been a pioneer in providing quality services to seniors, with some Presbyterian sponsored senior care organizations serving for more than 100 years. In the United States, there are more than 475 retirement communities and community based services that relate to or are sponsored by the Presbyterian Church. Many of these communities offer a full range of services, including continuing care retirement communities, senior housing, skilled nursing care, assisted living, specialized care units for Alzheimer’s disease, and home and community based services. In these communities, nearly every income level is served, and millions of dollars of charitable care is provided annually to those who do not have the resources to pay for the care they need. The Presbyterian Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (PAHSA) represents organizations that provide residential communities, health care facilities and services for older adults. PAHSA communities strive to exemplify the values of the Christian Tradition and fulfill residents' physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual needs by offering a comprehensive continuum of care, so that they may experience the fullest life their health will allow. The PAHSA web site contains contact information and locations of Presbyterian communities and community based services around the country. PAHSA members can be a valuable resource for Presbyterians seeking care for themselves or family members.
The options in living arrangements available today are very attractive. Many retirement communities provide a setting for an active lifestyle and opportunities for new experiences and new friends along with services that become available as you continue to age. Residents living in a retirement community can take advantage of a wide variety of activities, services and conveniences. There are no restrictions on lifestyle. You can continue to travel, volunteer and enjoy life outside the community as much as you like. With emphasis on the individual, coupled with a supportive environment, you are free to pursue life long interests.
A retirement community generally offers a choice of senior lifestyle options and services ranging from independent apartments to nursing homes. These communities provide comprehensive residential and health care services. Independent apartments and town homes are frequently located near or attached to a main building where activities and additional services are provided, like assisted living apartments as well as memory care options and nursing homes. Seniors seeking an independent lifestyle in a community-like setting can expect to receive additional services and health care all in one location as their needs change and as they grow older. Typically costs are a little more per month than a free-standing apartment but there are many more services and added peace of mind for future needs.
There are two types of communities offering this range of options, a “continuing care retirement community (CCRC),” which includes a nursing home, and a “mini continuing care retirement community,” which also provides a full range of options including professional nursing and health care, but is not licensed as a nursing home. Each of these communities provides residents with the independence of retirement home living and the security of long term care. These facilities may be accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission, which offers assurance that the facility meets quality standards and has financial strength to fulfill the promise of future care to residents.
The following provides points to ponder as you continue to prepare for living in retirement.
What services are available?
• Meals and special diets
• Scheduled transportation
• Emergency help
• Personal assistance
• Assisted Living
• Recreational, fitness and educational activities
• Nursing and other health care services
What kind of financial agreements are required? Some retirement communities require a one time entrance fee and monthly payments thereafter. Some require a security deposit and a monthly rental agreement. An entry fee option and monthly fees will vary, depending on the type of accommodation and services provided. Fees are usually calculated based on the size of the apartment and the type of services needed, if any. For independent residents, meals may be optional or a specific number of meals may be required. In some communities residents own instead of rent the unit in an arrangement similar to condominium or cooperative ownership. How should you choose a retirement community? If you decide that a retirement community is the best option for you, visit a few facilities. Talk to staff and residents. The following questions may help in making the appropriate choice.
Is there a waiting list? If so, how long is it?
Is there a deposit required upon application? Is it refundable?
Services: Are services provided by the facility’s employees or are arrangements made with other agencies?
Activities/Recreation: What is available and how often they are offered. (Ask to see an activity calendar). Are there opportunities for social, spiritual, educational, physical activities?
Is staff dedicated to this role or are programs tenant directed?
Is there a chaplain? Are worship services conducted on-site?
Are wellness/fitness programs offered regularly? If there is a fitness center, is it supervised? By whom?
Hobbies - such as clay/ceramics, woodworking, weaving Trips and excursions?
Volunteer involvement: Are there opportunities for residents to get involved? Are outside volunteers utilized?
Policies: Smoking, pets, guests - Any limitations?
Cost: Is there an endowment or entrance fee? What are the terms of the lease? What’s included in the monthly fee? Additional costs to be aware of? What is affordable? If you are in a managed care plan, is the service provider part of your plan’s network?
Location, Location, Location: Location is often the number one factor in the selection process. Convenience for family and friends to visit is important. Is it near services, doctors, hospitals, churches, cultural activities and community life?
Atmosphere: Is it a setting you will enjoy today and tomorrow, a rural setting vs. a city close to conveniences. Will you enjoy entertaining friends and loved ones here? Is this a home you can be proud of? Transportation: What kind of transportation and outings are offered? What type of public and/or private transportation exists? Think about the future when you may not be driving.
Apartment or Townhouse features: Consider overall layout, square footage, room sizes and bathroom accessibility – walk in shower? Décor – carpet, cabinets, lighting. Heating/air conditioning – how is this controlled? Who is responsible for costs? Laundry, furnished in the unit or community facilities? Storage within the apartment or elsewhere?
Conveniences and Amenities: gas fireplace, high speed internet connections, quality of construction - sound transfer between apartments, parking (underground, surface, costs) banking, beauty/barber, library?
Other Points to Consider: What government standards or regulations is the facility required to meet? Are they being met? What is the mission of the organization? Is it a for-profit or non-profit organization? Religious, fraternal or other affiliation? Does the staff/management seem friendly, caring and accommodating to residents and visitors? Is the overall facility well maintained, pleasing and cheerful? Is there a sense of community? Are there plans for expansion or renovation? Is so, what are they? Is there an active residents’ council or family council? This article was compiled from a variety of sources.
- Sodexo Senior Services
- Caring Communities
- Hamlin Capital Management
- Presbyterian Foundation