What to Ask as You Consider Retirement Communities for Active Adults

active adults at a retirement community

While you’ll find an amazing number of retirement community types these days, it’s true that many people still have the misconception that all of them are the same—and not in a good way.

Thoughts of being stuck in a hospital-like atmosphere where sad people spend most of their hours cooped up in small shared rooms (never with a roommate they like, either) or confined to bed still come to mind for a majority of folks facing retirement.

Luckily, nothing could be further from the truth in 2019—especially for retirees who don’t have current regular care needs and are looking to downsize in order to maximize their free time and enjoyment of life. Independent living communities, like the Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and Life Plan Communities served by Explore Retirement Living, offer comfortable and innovative housing options and fun things to do for active adults every day. And they expect and encourage residents to come and go as they please!

But how do you determine whether retirement community living is right for you?

FAQs about Independent Living Retirement Communities

This post features a few frequently asked questions about the benefits of relocating to an all-inclusive retirement community as an active, mature adult. As you consider whether you plan to stay where you are as a retiree or move to a more retirement lifestyle-friendly place, answers to these big questions can help you decide.

What do retirement communities have that I don’t at home?

With apologies to your current home, even if it is beautiful and well-appointed and you love everything about it, the answer here is “quite a lot.” Modern independent living communities tend to be almost resort-like in their amenities, offering chef-prepared meals, excursions, and learning experiences, in addition to other life-enhancing features like:

Worry-free maintenance
While the range of specific services available varies by community and sometimes also by the type of accommodations you choose within a community, maintenance is almost always included in the fees you pay. You won’t have to fix things that break around the house, care for a large yard, or worry about things like painting interior and exterior surfaces.

Additionally, you may even have benefits like housekeeping and linen services (no more cleaning toilets or washing bedding!), included utilities, and appliance repair and replacement.

Safety & security
Retirement communities take their residents’ safety seriously and employ security personnel who will guard against crime like trespassing and break-ins. Since most communities also include nursing care resources on campus, 24-hour emergency call systems for medical events are common, as well.

Health & wellness facilities
Do you enjoy swimming, walking for exercise, or taking fitness classes, but wish the gym was more conveniently located to where you live? Because healthcare is often the centerpiece of many retirement communities, they often establish health and wellness centers or form a relationship with local clubs. 

St Anne’s offers free membership at one of Lancaster County’s most popular tennis, aquatic and fitness centers because we understand the importance of staying active. 

Life Enrichment
Many independent CCRC and Life Plan retirement communities are dedicated to providing scheduled programming that makes it easy for residents to pursue their interests and explore new ones, too.

LeadingAge.org describes a comprehensive life enrichment program in a retirement community as including “all five dimensions of wellness—emotional, social, spiritual, physical and educational.” The goal of life enrichment is to improve and maintain individuals’ quality of life in mind, body, and spirit.

What living options are available? Will I have to downsize into an apartment?

While many retirement communities offer an array of smaller-scale dwellings like private apartments and “households” in which only your bedroom, bathroom, and a small living area are private, plenty of these campuses also feature detached cottages, bungalows, and carriage homes. Some communities even have separate “off-campus” neighborhoods with full-size homes available that still offer many of the services you would expect if you lived in the heart of campus.

Check with individual communities to find out what your options are. In short, you won’t have to downsize into a living space that you don’t love. The choice is yours!

Can I have pets?

As we talked about in a previous post here on the blog, the number of retirement communities with favorable pet policies is on the rise, which is good news. Research continues to prove that pet ownership is life-enhancing and may make us healthier. To make their communities more enticing, many not only allow pets today, but they may also even provide services or amenities to keep pets safe and well (and their owners happy).

As with other policies and features of individual communities, you should check with those that are most appealing to you to find out what their specific rules are.

What about health care? Is nursing available if I need it?

Yes, various levels of healthcare will be available if you need it. Campus-based independent CCRC and Life Plan communities often offer what’s known as a continuum of care, which allows you to access care when you need it, as you need it without leaving the community.

Some communities even now have programs that allow you to receive care within the living accommodations you’re already in. So, if you do require more in-depth care at some point as you age, you won’t need to make a physical move to another location on campus, such as a personal care wing or memory care unit even if you need to receive those levels of care.

How can I tell if a specific community is the right fit for me?

You’ll want to consider individual communities’ philosophies and stated values, which may include religious affiliations or connections to different cultural groups. Whether your personal beliefs align with the community’s mission may indicate how comfortable you will feel being associated with it.

Remember helping your children (and perhaps your grandchildren) choose a college? This process is not unlike that one. The easiest way to get to know different communities is to visit their campuses and facilities—and on multiple occasions, if you’re having a difficult time deciding. Get on their mailing lists, but also explore the public buildings and overall campuses yourself. Bring trusted family members along with you to get their perspectives, and talk to current residents who may be willing to share their experiences, too.

It’s true that there are many benefits to retirement community living, but the decision to make a move can be a difficult, emotional journey. By taking your time and exploring all your options, you may take the stress out of the process. After all, retirement is a time to celebrate all of the hard work you’ve accomplished in your life and take some much-deserved time out for yourself.

St. Anne’s Retirement Community is a Continuing Care Retirement Community with many options for adults seeking an active, safe community with easy access to all Lancaster County has to offer. For more information, or to schedule a tour, please call 717-285-5443.

Source: Explore Retirement Living, www.exploreretirementliving.org

Tips on Downsizing for Retirement

Empty cardboard box for downsizingWinter is here, and with it comes cold weather causing you to spend more hours indoors than out. Rather than let Old Man Winter give you the blues, use your time inside free up space and begin to downsize for retirement.

While scaling down may seem like a daunting task, there are many obvious places to start, like spare closets, garages and extra bedrooms. Sort through items carefully to identify family mementos to pass onto younger generations and things that can be donated to charity or thrown away. Where ever and whenever you begin, keep one goal in mind – downsize, downsize, downsize!

Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

Kitchen Appliances – If you haven’t ground your own coffee beans, squeezed your own citrus juice or made your own pasta in years, it’s time to take back the cabinet space. You can also eliminate serving dishes, extra plates, etc. to make room for a smaller kitchen in a retirement community.

Entertainment Equipment – In a small apartment or cottage, you may not have room for large entertainment centers or old, large televisions. Scale back the furniture on which your television set is displayed and watch for store promotions in the fall and winter if you wish to purchase a more compact, better quality and lighter weight TV.

Outdoor Furniture – If you enjoy spending time outside, there’s no reason to stop doing it when you’re retired! Look for ways to reduce the size or amount of your patio furniture, because chances are, the space in a retirement community will be smaller than in a residential development. If you need to buy new furniture, wait until the end of the summer for reduced prices on patio sets.

Bedroom Furniture – Most retirement communities offer one or two bedroom residences. Consider donating furniture from additional bedrooms that don’t have nostalgic value. In addition, consider keeping smaller pieces over larger ones in the event that your new bedroom(s) are smaller than in your current home.

Holiday Decorations – As you celebrate holidays throughout the year, donate any decorations you haven’t used or those to which you have no sentimental attachment. In addition, you can eliminate items in storage by decorating for the season instead of specific holidays – i.e. winter themed décor vs. Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day.

Outdoor Maintenance Equipment – Many times, retirement communities will handle the lawn care, snow removal and general landscaping for Residents. So, you won’t need equipment like lawn mowers, snow blowers or leaf blowers, etc.

Childhood Memorabilia – If you’ve been storing artwork, prom dresses, bridesmaid gowns and other items created or used by your grown children, it’s time to talk to them about taking the things they want to keep and donating the rest to charity.

Clothing – If you haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past year, free up the space by donating or consigning it! A popular way to determine unnecessary clothing is to turn the hangers backward in your closet, and at the end of the season, anything that is not facing the correct way can be eliminated from your wardrobe.

Old Documents – If you have a filing cabinet full of documents over a decade old, consider cleaning out. Look up recommended time periods for retaining certain items like tax filings, medical bills, etc. and shred anything with personal information like social security numbers or account numbers.

As you approach retirement, it’s important to not only understand the financial aspects, but to be prepared to embark on the journey itself. If you plan to move into a retirement community like St. Anne’s, downsizing is essential and tackling it early can help minimize the stress of doing it at an older age, completing it within a short timeline or leaving it to your children, relatives or friends in the future. The task might even take you on an unexpected and enjoyable trip down Memory Lane.

Good luck and happy downsizing!

Consider Where to Retire, Before it’s Time to Retire

Residents of St. Anne's smile with potted flowers from the garden.If you’re like most people, you have probably been thinking about retirement since the first day of your first, full-time job. As you embark on the journey, or find it just within your grasp, you should consider how and where you want to spend your time.

When considering a retirement community, it’s helpful to understand your options to find the place that best suits your lifestyle now as well as in the future.

Five Things to Consider in a Retirement Community

Daily Activities

Retirement should be a time to do the things you love. Whether it’s exercising daily, relaxing with a book or playing cards, it’s important to look for a senior community with offerings and events of interest to you. At St. Anne’s, we plan regular activities for all levels of interest and ability. In addition, our Residents enjoy the convenience of an on-site library and café, and can take advantage of transportation to nearby recreational centers, restaurants, shopping centers and more.

Levels of Care

Initially, you may be downsizing or seeking maintenance free, independent living in a senior community, however it is important to consider more skilled care you might need in the future. St. Anne’s offers all levels of care and independence including private cottages, independent living apartments, personal care, skilled nursing care, memory support and restorative care. Once you are a member of the St. Anne’s community, we are committed to your care and prioritize your placement into more skilled care should the need arise.

Christian Connection

While many retirement communities offer similar levels of care and activity, it is the Christian connection that can set one apart from another. If you want attend weekly worship services, consider a faith-based institution or one with close proximity to a worship center and transportation opportunities to get there.

St. Anne’s was founded by Catholic nuns and we take pride in our Catholic sponsorship, so Residents can attend the Rosary and mass on a daily basis. In addition, we welcome all our Residents, approximately half of whom are non-Catholic, to take part in interdenominational worship services every Sunday afternoon.

Cost

It’s important to ask questions around costs to “buy in” to a retirement community. For example, do you have to sell your home to be able to afford to move into the community? It’s also important to understand care an institution will provide should your finances become limited or exhausted.

At St. Anne’s, we understand the bottom line and want you to understand it too. Our staff takes the time to explain costs and fees and guide you through every step of the application process. In addition, we do not turn away current Residents should their finances become limited.

Atmosphere

To understand the atmosphere of a retirement community, talk to the organization about the people and staff who walk the halls. You can also speak with Residents about their experiences and if they are happy with their decision to live there. If you’re looking with a spouse, ask about other couples residing in the community and how future placements into more skilled care are handled. In addition, you should inquire about waiting lists and the typical amount of time it takes to become a Resident.

St. Anne’s is a diverse retirement community open to individuals 62 years of age and older. Our entire staff takes pride in providing a clean, caring and faith-based environment where Residents can live and thrive – from independent living, to personal care, skilled nursing care, memory support and restorative care. We welcome couples as well as individuals and, once you’re a Resident, there’s always room for you in any area of care.

Choosing how and where to spend your retirement is a decision that’s a lifetime in the making. So, when considering retirement communities, schedule tours, ask questions and explore all your options and you’re certain to find the best place for you!

To set up a tour of St. Anne’s campus, apartments and cottages, please call 717-285-5443717-285-5443.