Rod Anderson-Executive Director, Bridges Senior Lifestyle Living
As we grow older, many of us will be faced with the need or desire to change our living arrangements. If the upkeep on your home is getting tougher, you can’t get around like you used to or you just want more companionship with other people your own age, an independent living community may be a good option for you. Senior independent living communities are typically for those 55 and older and offer a variety amenities, activities and services to make everyday living a little simpler and a little easier. Leaving your home and making the move to an independent living community may seem like you are losing your independence. However, acknowledging your limitations and accepting some assistance now may help you maintain your independence for much longer. To help you find the independent living community that is right for you we would suggest starting with the following questions.
- Is there a large ‘buy-in’ or a long term commitment?
Some communities require an upfront payment called a ‘buy-in’ of anywhere from $100,000 to $1,000,000. These ‘buy-ins’ are typically accompanied by a long term lease and you will lose a portion of your ‘buy-in’ if you decide to leave. Other communities only charge a small initiation fee of $1,000-$2,000 and offer the freedom of a month to month lease.
- What types of meal plan options are available?
Some communities may offer 3 meals per day at set times, and have seating assignments, while other may offer meal plans with the option of 1, 2 or 3 meals per day at times of your choosing. Some even offer Restaurant Style dining offering a wide array of menu choices to suit your individual tastes.
- What type of transportation does the community provide?
While you may still drive now, transportation may become more important to you in the future. Some communities’ transportation services are limited to certain areas on certain days or restrict the number of times you can use their transportation services, while others may have a variety of transport vehicles and options.
- What kind of activities and events are offered?
Consider the number and variety of activities offered. Are there activities offered that you like to do now, are there activities you may want to try in the future. Ask for a current month’s activities calendar as well as several past month’s calendar and ask if you can attend event before you move in.
- Are housekeeping services included in my monthly fee?
Find out whether housekeeping services are included and what those services are and how often. Does it include any laundry? Will they change your bedding? Are there A la carte services available if I need more help.
- Are all of my utilities included in my monthly fee?
Don’t take for granted that all these things are included, ask specifically about each one; gas, electric, water, telephone – including long distance, cable television, internet. If they are not included how do I get these services set up?
- Are pets allowed?
If our furry little friends are allowed on the property ask about any size restrictions or limitations on the number of pets allowed. Are there outdoor spaces readily available when nature calls. Are there any special deposits or additional monthly fees.
- What happens if I fall or need other medical attention?
Some communities have pull cords in their apartments that may be out of reach if you fall. Other communities offer personal emergency buttons that can be worn as a pendent or on the wrist keeping you safe no matter where you are.
- If I need more help from time to time do I have to move?
While independent living does not include medical services you can work with Home Healthcare Agencies in your area to meet your needs. Some communities may help facilitate these services or have special working relationships with certain agencies making it easier for them to meet your needs.
- Can I take a tour?
It is critically important to see the community for yourself. Visit the property, experience the food service, meet some of the staff, or even participate in an activity. Talk to some of the residents to learn more about their experiences. Pictures on a website are a great place to start but they are no substitute for seeing the community for yourself.