When elders and their children visit Evergreen Court, the retirement community where I work, I often say, "Choosing a retirement community is like dating." Both processes are life-altering. And hopefully, the outcome in each will be "living happily ever after." So much for the corny analogy.
Here's how these two are alike.
1. Appearance is important, but it's not the end-all, be-all. Obviously, leaky roofs, unsightly grounds and unwashed windows speak volumes about how a community is run. But beauty, as our mothers would say, can run skin deep. That's true both in romantic interests and in retirement communities. Many communities, while not posh, are nevertheless comfortable and homelike. It's a matter of choice, lifestyle and budget. Marcia Byrd, Executive Director of Patriots Glen Assisted Living in Bellevue, Washington, expressed it this way: "Look beyond the chandelier."
2. Personality can trump glitz and glamour. As you search for a new home for your aging parent, look for staff and residents engaged in life. Is there a spirit of playfulness? Do residents enjoy chatting in the lobby, curled up near the fireplace? Do the women giggle like sorority sisters while playing bridge? Do the men enjoy swapping stories of war, travel, and their working years? Planned activities can support this active lifestyle, whether it be picnics in the park, trips to the museum, or going out to lunch.
3. Character also counts. Retirement communities have reputations in the community. Social workers, ministers, Rotary members, and other leaders can offer their studied opinion about various retirement living choices in your locale. Listen to them!. When I dated my husband many years ago, I remember debriefing late at night with my friends in the dorm. "What was he like?" "Was he a gentleman? Does he seem to be a good fit?" In looking for retirement communities, the bottom line is: What does your parent want and need? What do you need? And is this a good fit?"
Good luck in your search. Does this analogy work for you?