Questions When Touring an Independent Living Community
Choosing a senior living community can be an exciting time in your life. As you dive into your search, you may be surprised how many choices there are. It may be difficult to compare apples to apples. We recommend touring with a prepared list of questions and jotting down notes to help you remember each community and clarify your final decisions. We also recommend touring your favorite communities at least twice, at different times of the day.
WELLNESS and HEALTH QUESTIONS
Clearly convey your health needs now and in the future. Ask the following:
- What if I need more care than what is provided in independent living?
- Is there a registered nurse or other medical professional on staff?
- What do I do to let staff know there is a health emergency?
- Is your staff trained to deal with medical emergencies?
- Can you offer me transportation to doctors’ appointments and medical centers?
- What will happen to my residence if I have a long-term stay in a hospital or rehabilitation center?
Many independent living communities provide one or two meals a day, with kitchens available in residences for those who choose to cook for themselves. You should expect to be offered a meal or taste samples during your senior living community tour. Communal dining is a great way to meet your neighbors, develop friendships, get the inside community scoop and share camaraderie. As you tour, ask:
- Are meals served buffet- or restaurant-style?
- Do you have meal hours, and what’s available outside of meal hours?
- How do you accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions?
- Are meals freshly prepared on the premises?
- Do the chefs use local, seasonal ingredients?
- How often are your menus changed?
- May I bring guests to dine with me?
- What meals are included in monthly rent?
- Is room service provided if I’m unable to come down for a meal?
- What about complimentary transportation to grocery stores?
COSTS and EXPECTED EXPENSES
Fee policies and procedures should be well documented. Ask for copies to read closely after your tour. Questions to ask:
- May I have a copy of your lease contract with details of all fees, rules and regulations?
- What community services are considered extra? How are they billed?
- What kind of fees do you charge?
- If a resident is either late or unable to pay, how is that handled?
- What circumstances would force a resident to move out?
- May I bring my pet(s)? Is there a fee?
As you tour, ask to be introduced to the team members you see. Feel free to ask any staff member questions about what their roles are:
- How much experience does the executive director have in senior living?
- What training and background checks are required of staff before they are hired?
- How do you accommodate absences of staff members?
- Who do I call if I need maintenance assistance in my residence?
- What are my options if I need help from a health aide?
AMENITIES, EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
Make sure your community tour is thorough and complete. Be aware of the various details inside the residences and surrounding common spaces. How do you feel about the overall look? Examine the outside features such as gardens, patios and courtyards. Do they seem well maintained? Do you see any “out of order” amenities such as a roped-off stairwell or broken elevator? Take home a calendar of activities and list of amenities to examine. Ask the following:
- Can I bring my own furniture, or do apartments come furnished?
- When was the last time the building was renovated, or what are future renovation plans?
- Is there maintenance staff on-site at all times?
- What are the parking options?
- May I have a list of all amenities and services?
- How are residents educated about daily activities?
- What kind of input on the type of programs and entertainment offered do the residents have?
- What activities do you offer that fit my particular interests and hobbies?
- Does the community have any established, ongoing clubs?
When you move to a retirement community, you’ll appreciate the safety and security features that may have been lacking in your own home. Make time as you tour to look for details that will keep you safe. Are there locks on the windows and doors? Are the emergency exits clearly marked? What about overhead sprinklers and smoke detectors? Here are a few security questions:
- Is someone at the front desk 24 hours a day?
- How can visitors enter after hours?
- Are the outdoor courtyard areas secured and locked?
- May I have a copy of your documented emergency procedures?
RESIDENTS KNOW BEST
Some of the most knowledgeable people to speak to during your retirement community search are the residents themselves. You can even ask your community guide to include a few residents in a luncheon for you as you visit. Be prepared and don’t hesitate to ask:
- What do they like best about living here?
- Are there any improvements they would like to see?
- How did they adjust to senior living?
- How responsive is the management to residents’ requests?
The best communities listen to the feedback of their residents. If you don’t already know about the background of the community’s owner and management team, now’s the time to inquire about their expertise. Here are questions to ask about how involved the residents are within the community:
- Does your community have an onboarding process for new residents?
- Is there a resident council?
- How does the community resolve disputes?
- How much input do residents have about programs, activities and menus?
As you can see, there are plenty of questions to ask and decisions to be made in your search. You may need to make several trips to the retirement communities to get all of them in. If you can, ask a family member or friend to go with you to help take notes and evaluate communities.
If you have any questions about independent living at Carnegie Village, we’re here with answers, and we always welcome your visit.