Questions to Ask Before Moving into a Retirement Community

Question and answer puzzle pieces

9 questions to ask before choosing an independent living community.

Moving to a senior living community can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Although giving up a home of your own can seem like a loss of independence, most people who choose to move into independent living don’t regret it one bit. From day one, they become part of a thriving community of new friends and neighbors. The support and camaraderie can really lift your spirits, especially if you’ve lost a spouse or if family members don’t live nearby.

New residents also discover how much easier and more fulfilling an independent lifestyle can be. Instead of dealing with home maintenance or wondering what to cook for dinner, they can focus on the things they want to do. And with the variety of life-enriching amenities and services available at most senior living communities, the possibilities are endless.

So how do you find the senior living community that’s right for you? Start early and do your research. Don’t wait until you have to move. There may not be an opening available at your favorite community. And if your health has declined, you may not qualify for independent living. The earlier you get started, the better off you’ll be. To help you on your way, here are a few questions to ask and issues to consider when choosing an independent living community.

  1. Where do you want to live? Some people prefer to stay close to where they’ve lived for years so they can continue to stay in touch with friends and be in familiar surroundings. If children and grandchildren live further away, would you be happier living where you can see them more often? Or perhaps you’ve had enough of ice and snow and want a change of scenery. Think about what’s important to you before you start visiting communities.
  2. What living accommodations suit you? Independent living residences come in all shapes and sizes. There are high-rises and mid-rises with apartments; townhomes and duplexes; as well as cottages and single-family homes. Some offer garages or under-building parking, while others offer car-ports or open parking spaces.
  3. What type of community? There are basically two types of retirement communities: rental communities and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), also known as Life Plan Communities. Rental communities may not offer higher levels of care, which means if you need assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing, you may have to move from your independent living rental community. Life Plan Communities, on the other hand, offer a full continuum of care on-site, in addition to independent living. This allows you to age in place with a greater sense of control and security, knowing you have a plan in place for care, if ever needed.
  4. Is there an entrance fee? Almost all Life Plan Communities require a one-time entrance fee, and some rental communities will charge a community fee. However, the monthly service fee will likely be lower at a Life Plan Community than at a comparable rental community.
  5. What’s the food like? Most communities will brag about their dining, but the proof is in the pudding. Be sure to eat a meal or two at each community on your shortlist. See what the service is like in the dining room. And ask how many meals per month are included in the meal plan. At Sedgebrook, if you enjoy cooking for yourself, you can use your meal credit for fresh steak or frozen meals to cook in your own apartment.
  6. What activities are available? See if the community supports the kind of activities you like to do. Are you a golfer or swimmer? Do you practice yoga or play bridge? Does the community have an arts studio or woodworking shop? Are there classes and opportunities to continue learning and growing? For a sample of activities at Sedgebrook, check out our activities calendar.
  7. Is transportation provided? Most communities provide transportation, but that doesn’t mean you can order a car and driver 24/7. At Sedgebrook, scheduled transportation is available around town to get you where you need to go, such as shopping or medical appointments.
  8. Are pets allowed? Many communities allow pets, and some have designated pet play areas. If you’re bringing a pet to live with you, ask about the community’s pet policy during your visit. At Sedgebrook, we love our four-legged friends, and they love our expansive grounds and extensive walking trails.
  9. Is there a waiting list? It’s not such a bad thing to have to wait for your desired independent living apartment to become available. Often, it’s a sign of a community’s fiscal health when a high percentage of independent living residences are occupied. By joining the wait list, you can reserve your place in line for your preferred floor plan.

See which community checks all the right boxes.

When you’ve drawn up a shortlist of communities to visit, print out this checklist and take it with you on your visits. It’ll help you record your impressions and make your decision a little easier. Of course, if you have any questions about independent living at Sedgebrook, fill out our form or visit our FAQ page. We’re always happy to provide the answers you need.