Independent Living Facilities

Some basic issues to consider if your loved one is interested in moving to an independent living retirement community.

Many individuals choose to move into retirement communities, which are also called independent living communities, after retirement. These communities usually require residents to be financially and physically independent and of a certain age. Residents of retirement communities usually enjoy an active lifestyle that includes recreational, educational, spiritual, cultural, and social opportunities—as well as the chance to interact with individuals of a similar age.

Independent living differs from other forms of residential care because retirement communities create a living area that emphasizes independence. Usually these communities have one or more full time staff members devoted to planning community activities. Whereas a health care program is sometimes associated with the community, residents do not necessarily subscribe to this program and often require only infrequent or acute medical care.

Retirement communities include many housing styles, including single-family dwellings, townhouses, duplexes, high-rise apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes, which are either rented or owned by the individual. Types of retirement communities include:

  • Site-built home communities. While these communities normally do not have age restrictions, the majority become senior residences due to home cost, location, and other factors. In general, these communities are upscale, and many have golf courses.
  • Manufactured-home communities often have an age restriction of 55+, and many include clubhouses, golf courses, and heated swimming pools.
  • Golf-course communities are some of the most expensive retirement communities, but offer membership in an affluent clubhouse and access to a championship golf course.
  • Senior condominiums are much like other condominiums except that residents usually have to meet certain age restrictions.
  • RV/Resort living often contains both manufactured homes as well as RV spaces for rent. The communities are very active and usually contain a clubhouse, golf course, and swimming pool.

Relocation

While it may be possible for your loved one to move into a retirement community in his or her local area, many seniors choose to relocate to different parts of the country during their retirement years. If your loved one is thinking about relocation, he or she should consider several factors including climate, cost-of-living, employment options, health care availability, non-facility recreational opportunities, and safety.

  • While your loved one may be interested in a change of climate, spending an extended period of time in a climate that differs significantly from what he or she is used to can be a difficult adjustment. Not only are weather patterns different, but climate influences whether or not the seasons change, as well as the periods of the year that outdoor activities are available. Be sure to research the area that your loved one is interested in, and think about how his or her daily activities will be affected by the new climate.
  • One of the most important issues facing retirees centers around cost-of-living changes. Cost-of-living is based on food, health care, housing, recreation, taxes, and transportation. Because income changes after retirement, it is important for your loved one to reassess his or her budget during this period. This can be done individually or with the help of a financial planner.
  • Oftentimes, recent retirees are interested in continuing to work in some capacity. Many older adults find the extra money, social atmosphere, and structured schedule of employment to be beneficial. Additionally, the income gained from a part-time job allows many retirees to continue to live at standards slightly below those they were previously used to—rather than standards that are drastically lower. If your loved one is interested in continuing to work, he or she should find out how difficult it is for seniors to find employment in the relocation area.
  • Older individuals usually require more health care, so, it is important to look into the availability of health care in the relocation area. If your loved one has any special medical needs, be sure that the appropriate facilities are available. Your loved one should also talk to his or her doctor about possible future medical needs, as well as discussing the doctor’s recommendations for medical facilities in the relocation area.
  • Non-facility recreational activities differ depending on the area. This is especially true when one considers the types of activities available in rural versus urban settings. If your loved one enjoys attending the theater, eating at a variety of restaurants, or visiting museums, he or she should probably consider relocating to an urban area. If your loved one prefers maintaining a large garden, playing a slow round of golf, or volunteering at the local school, he or she might want to focus on rural areas.
  • Regardless of whether your loved one chooses an urban or rural area, it is important to choose a retirement community that provides a safe living environment.

Questions To Consider

When considering different retirement locations and communities be sure to ask:

  • What kind of climate is your loved one used to? What kind of climate might he or she prefer?
  • Where is the rest of your family located? Ideally, how often would your loved one like to see them?
  • Does your loved one plan to travel a lot? How close is the nearest airport to the relocation area? Is this airport a hub for a major airline?
  • Does your loved one enjoy change—such as meeting new people—or is he or she happier spending time with those he or she already knows?
  • What are the conditions of your loved one’s current medical policy? Will the policy cover medical services in the new area?
  • Is your loved one happier in a lively or laid-back environment?
  • Does your loved one expect to participate in multiple social organizations in his or her new community? Does he or she plan to volunteer?
  • Is your loved one interested in continuing his or her education, and does the relocation environment offer opportunities for him or her to do so?
  • Are there jobs available in the relocation area?
  • Can your loved one afford the cost-of-living in the relocation area? Be sure to consider taxes, as well as housing and transportation costs.

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