Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eldercare Trend: Top Factors That Influence Your Choice of Retirement Communities

Shopping for a retirement community for your aging parent? As you weigh the factors involved in choosing this new home, the following key words may come into play. I've heard these again and again over the last 16 years.

1. Location. Does your parent want to live close to one child? Or somewhere between several children? And what about rural versus urban living? Consider these questions: Is your parent a city girl at heart? Or a died in the wool country boy? Still another factor for many elders is living close to their current physicians and hospital or to their church.

2. Affordability. For some seniors, the question isn't "Can I afford this community?" but rather, "Even if I have the money, do I want to spend that much?" I remember the words of one resident named Wallace, "It's important to be able to give my children a certain amount of money. At the end of the day, that's important to me." For those at the other end of the economic spectrum, a great option may be "affordable" senior housing, designed for elders with low to moderate incomes.

3. Comfort. Retirement communities are a little like going on vacation, or living in a dorm or sorority, except with no drunken parties. Meals are prepared, activities are planned, and life is simpler than it used to be. It's "Leave the driving to us." But within those parameters, there are many variables. If your parent enjoys dressing up for a steak dinner or equivalent virtually every night, he can opt for that lifestyle at some retirement communities. Or maybe he prefers wearing blue jeans and a golf shirt for his favorite meal of macaroni and cheese. That option is available, too, and all shades of in between.

4. Food. Some key issues here are: "Do staff assign seats to residents?" and "Is there one seating for meals, or can residents come and go during a certain time period?" Seniors often have strong options on both these issues. If you don't discuss these questions with your parent beforehand, you may hear his or her complaints afterward. Often they're not pretty!

5. Space. One size certainly doesn't fit all. One daughter was adament in her desires: "My mother has to have a studio. Anything larger would overwhelm her." We didn't have studios, so I referred her to the lucky retirement community down the street. Other space considerations: square footage, closets, outside access, storage compartments.

6. Activities. For many, the trips to museums, drives to the country and live music on site make their day. But not everyone is created equal! Weigh your parent's preferences against the community's activity schedule to see if it's a match.

Good luck in your search! This post didn't have the space to address the most important element in any retirement community: caring staff. More later.

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