Top Questions to Ask When Considering an Independent Living Community

Jan 22, 2021
Senior man making a phone call

Independent living in a senior community can be a perfect solution for those who want to spend more time and energy enjoying life and less tending to home maintenance and upkeep. But choosing the right community is key to long-term happiness. What you see from the street, or even on a tour may not reveal everything you need to know before the decision is made and the contract signed.

Before you leap, take the time to assess exactly what you need and expect from an independent living community. Then make a list of questions to ask yourself and staff including the following.

What is the best location?

Whether you want to stay local or move to another state or town, always consider location first. Living somewhere that you want to be is essential to everything else falling in to place. Start by canvassing the preferred area for all the communities available and make a list. Take an online look at each to review exactly where they are situated with respect to what you want in a new home. For example, do you prefer urban or rural? Would you like entertainment and shopping to be close by? If exercise is important, is there an area for enjoying nature or taking a walk outdoors? If you aren’t sure you have a complete list, try the search pages at Senior or A Place for Mom.

Also important is availability. If you have just begun your search and there’s no real hurry, that’s great. But if time is of the essence, be sure to enter that in the search to find communities that are taking new residents sooner than later.

What type of atmosphere is preferred?

Like location, the atmosphere of each community should match your lifestyle and desires. Maybe you enjoy lots of interaction with other residents or perhaps you prefer a more solitary, private life. Either way, a community should offer what you want so you truly enjoy your time there. Be sure to ask questions pertinent to your lifestyle preferences before you commit, and don’t be shy about asking current residents and checking online reviews.

What are the community demographics?

Whatever your age, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to make new friends with people in the same age group. That’s because they have similar memories, often share the same interests, and are more likely to be open to the same activities you enjoy. This is not to say that those younger and older can’t be fun too, but friends your own age can make the move to independent living a bit more fulfilling.

What meal plans are offered?

Different independent living communities have different meal plans so be sure to assess each option honestly, including costs. For those who choose an apartment-style residence, having meals prepared and served within the building might be the perfect solution to shopping and cooking. On the other hand, in senior communities that offer stand-alone units like condos or townhomes, preparing meals at home may be a better option. Some communities also offer café-type food service option where residents can purchase a snack or meal when desired.

When considering a meal plan be sure to confirm the number of meals provided daily, the times meals are provided, and the types of meals offered, (especially for those on special diets or who are vegetarians or vegans). Of course, the best way to assess the quality of meals is to arrange to stay for lunch or dinner, something many communities encourage. To find out more about what to expect, the article, “Best Practices for Food Services in Senior Care Facilities,” looks at the subject in-depth.

What activities and amenities are available?

Independent living communities offer a broad range of activities and amenities designed to make every day fun and ease some of life’s burdens. For example, ask about:

  • Housekeeping and/or laundry service either on a regular schedule or as needed.
  • Maintenance and repair of apartment and other units and whether it is provided for indoor and outdoor issues.
  • Transportation availability that is provided both for organized outings and as-needed for doctor appointments, shopping and other personal off-campus activities.
  • Exercise facilities including a fitness center, a pool, tennis courts, and other athletic options.
  • Regularly planned activities and events both on and off campus such as meditation and yoga classes, movies, and visiting lecturers or speakers at home, and trips to local symphonies, events, and places of interest like parks, museums and sports venues.
  • On-site personal services like hair salons and barbershops and dry cleaning pick-up and drop off.

What types of contracts are offered?

Different types of senior living have different types of contracts so be sure to ask about all of them and what they include or don’t include. Specifically, ask about any extra-cost services and hidden fees so that you get what want and only pay for what you get. For a look at the most common contracts, the Where You Live Matters blog, “Senior Living Contracts Explained,” is a great place to start. For those with concerns about financing independent living, our blog, “Clearing Up Misperceptions About Financing Senior Living,” can help sort out fact from fiction.

Making the move to the perfect independent living community requires research, but in the end, it is well worth the time and effort. For more information about Countryside, please call Margaret Nagel at (517) 206-5000 or download our brochure to learn about our care levels, cost, and amenities.

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