If you're thinking about an independent living community as your retirement home there's a good chance you'll quickly become overwhelmed by glossy brochures and overzealous sales pitches. Before you make appointments to tour the communities on your list it's important to have a good grasp of what to look for when you tour. Here are a dozen tips to help you do just that.
Do some basic research to narrow down your choices and plan to visit no more than two or three campuses a day. Do an online search of both the communities and neighborhoods to get an idea of reviews, comments, and crime in the areas you have in mind before you visit.
Make a List
Because many independent living communities also have assisted living options you can download a list of things to check for when you tour. In addition make a personal list of what you'd like in a home or village and put it in checklist format so you can compare different villages.
Talk to the Staff
As you tour you should have a conversation with any staff members you encounter. Pay attention to their overall demeanor as well as their grasp of knowledge; ask how long they've been there and if they have long-term plans to stay. You can also ask if they always work the same shift and in the same area on a regular schedule.
Chat with the Residents
Keep in mind anyone you meet may become your neighbor. Try to ask open-ended questions such as "What are your three favorite things here?" and "What do you like the least?" rather than questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no. Note how long they've lived in the community and whether they seem healthy and happy.
Look in the Corners
Common tour areas are usually detailed to look the best for prospective residents so look in the corners and remote areas as you tour. Check for dirty baseboards, dusty corners, and cluttered storage areas as you go to get an idea of the overall dedication to cleanliness.
Stay for a Meal
Meals are included in your independent living package so make sure you stay for lunch or dinner. Make sure the meals are well cooked and nutritious, appealing, and offer a wide variety of choice. Confirm whether or not special dietary needs are available in an assortment of selections.
Follow Your Nose
Make sure what you smell isn't a strong deodorizer or sanitizer that's being used to mask odors. Every area of the campus should smell clean and fresh and the dining rooms and kitchen should smell the same as your own.
Go for a Stroll
Walk the grounds and make sure they're clean and well landscaped as well as maintained. Make sure the walking paths are smooth and free of obstructions, too. Take a stroll around the neighborhood and make sure it seems safe and check for coffee shops, stores, and other businesses you might like to patronize.
Check the Security
Make sure the entrance is monitored by 24 hour security and the parking areas are well lit. Indoors check for sprinkler systems and emergency call buttons and ask if there is medical assistance available onsite.
Ask for Reports
While independent living communities aren't overly regulated you can still ask for reports. Check the health department inspections for the past year to get a good idea of how the kitchens are run, and if the village also has assisted living options you can ask to see the licensing survey. Any infractions should be looked at in a discerning manner; minor issues that were immediately addressed can be ignored.
Trust Your Instincts
Sometimes everything looks, sounds, and smells great but you just have a bad feeling you can't pinpoint. Don't ignore your gut instincts as they're telling you something your subconscious picked up on.
Plan a Follow-up
Makes notes as you go and afterwards when you compare the communities you visited. When you think you've made your final choice take a second tour before you commit to moving into your new home.