How to Choose an Independent Living Community

Even if your parents are ready to transition into independent living, making the move will still be a lengthy process. That’s because selecting the right independent living community requires the same work as purchasing a house:  you have to consider location, price and level of services. Here are a few discussion points that you and your parents should consider when selecting a community.

How much assistance do your parents need?

Independent living communities are tailored for the more active seniors who no longer want to fuss with making meals every day, driving around for errands or worrying about yard work and home maintenance. Residents typically do not require assistance with activities of daily living, and if your parents do require these supportive services, than an assisted living community is a better choice.

However, it is important to plan for the future when selecting a community. Find out if the community offers assisted living services or whether home health care aids can be brought in. This will decrease the likelihood of your parents having to move again to receive the level of healthcare services they require.

Where do you parents want to live and what amenities do they desire?

Nearly every major city has at least one retirement community, in addition to communities that offer only assisted living or memory care. While most communities are located near urban centers, some are located on the edge of town or in residential neighborhoods, which offers more a more quieter, laid-back setting. Your parents should consider whether they like the convenience of walking down the street to a local restaurant or library or whether they are content with driving a car to reach stores or the theater.

Though many communities offer the same type of services, transportation, meal service and housekeeping, the amenities will likely be different. Some communities have a robust activity program, while another community may have a swimming pool and game room. Your parents should consider what type of activities they enjoy so they can find a community that will allow them to pursue their interests or maybe find a new hobby.

Socializing is also important at independent living communities, and while there are plenty of opportunities to meet residents, whether through organized happy hour or activities, making new friends is difficult at any age. Your parents should decide whether a community that has a strong sense of community is important or if they value their privacy.  

What is their monthly budget?

After decades of not having a mortgage payment, your parents may have sticker shock when seeing the cost of independent living. What they should realize is that the monthly rent often includes a number of services, such as weekly housekeeping, meal service and transportation. The monthly rent is also tied to the type of floor plan selected: a studio will be cheaper than a one or two bedroom.

When selecting a community, you and your parents should consider all the charges that will be incurred during the month. And again, you should plan for the future so you can budget accordingly. Expect the monthly rent to increase each year, and when supportive services are required, this will be an additional charge added to the monthly bill.

Do your parents feel welcome at the community?

Just as you would take several tours of a house before making an offer, so too should your parents visit an independent living community multiple times to determine whether it’s the best fit for their desired lifestyle. While you and your parents will likely be taken on the standard tour given by the community’s marketing director, you should also visit the community on your own to see the community at a different time of day.

During the visit, make a note of whether the residents greet each other or the marketing director. If you stay during lunch, do the residents appear engaged and friendly with their neighbors? These are indicators as to the community atmosphere.

The appearance of a community does matter, but you should look beyond the stylish décor to see how the community is being maintained:

  • Are the walls in need of new paint?
  • Is the carpet worn in places?
  • Are the furnishings modern or dated?

You should also request several months worth of the dining menus and activity calendars to see what the meal options and activity offerings are. Again, this will give you an insight as to the community life, whether you parents can expect a welcome variation during the week or if only the tried-and-true offerings are provided to residents.

Because your parents are still active and independent, you are in the fortunate position of being able to take your time and select the best community for your parents. And once they join the community, both they and you can rest easy knowing they can really enjoy life without responsiblity.