The numbers are certainly staggering.
In the next few years, a record number of Americans will retire. Most of these millions of new retirees will be baby-boomers. Baby-boomers are those folks born between the years of 1946 to 1964. This vast group of Americans, about 76-million strong, with start to retire this year, in 2008, when the first of these boomers reach the age of 62.
Not only are millions of baby-boomers are getting closer to retirement, Americans are enjoying record lifespans. With rapid medical advances, and with more and more seniors living a healthier lifestyle, not only are people continuing to live to their 80s, 90s or even 100s, they are more active than ever.
According to the Centers For Disease Control, the United States in 2002 boosted an overall life expectancy of 77.4 years of age. And, the University of Iowa Health Care website reports that individuals over the age are 80 are the fastest growing group of Americans, and that by the year 2040, the United States will have an estimated 1-millon people over the age of 100.
As millions of Americans age towards retirement, one of the prime areas of concern will be proper housing. Many of these seniors will want to relocate of one of the many established, as well as brand new, retirement communities that dot the country.
What fundamentals should be factored into a senior’s decision to move to a specific retirement community?
The website www.hollandsentinel.com reports five basic considerations that retirees should ponder before making the important decision to move to a particular retirement community:
1 – Location, location, location: Like almost every other real estate decision, location is a key factor. Is the community located near hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, retail stores and malls? Is it located near the retiree’s family? What is your “first impression” of the community including its general appearance and upkeep?
A Quick Tip: It is a good idea to check with the local law enforcement agency which has jurisdiction over the retirement community to see what the crime rate is in the vicinity.
If the retirement community has an assisting living area or wing, check with the state agency the licenses such operations. Does the community have any past or present violations with that agency? In addition, it is smart to make contact with the area Better Business Bureau and other consumer protection organizations to see if that community has any history of complaints.
2 – Interview Key Staff: A retirement community is only as good as its key staff. Before making an final decisions to move to a particular community, call to make an appointment to meet with such imperative employees such as the Executive Director and Department Managers in such areas of responsibility as Nursing, Marketing, Admissions, Housekeeping, Laundry, Social Services, Recreation, Maintenance, Security and Transportation.
For example, a meeting with the Admissions Manager with clarify such issues the property ownership, permits and licenses the community has, and current community information including pricing and fees.
A Quick Tip: It is essential to assess the length of employment of the Executive Director and key managers; the managers’ educational credentials; as well as their experience and certifications.
A top-tier retirement community will feature a staff that is trained and knowledgeable in such areas as geriatrics, Medicare benefits, and long-term care issues.
A Quick Tip: What are the staff hiring procedures of the community, and do they include criminal background checks?
3 – Tour The Property: Take the time to do a comprehensive tour of the entire community. Access the safety features, emergency response capability and handicap accessibility. Also, closely examine the size and space needed for personal furnishings, as well as closet and storage areas.
A Quick Tip: Keep an eye out for the cleanliness, maintenance and general upkeep the community. Observe staff-resident interaction and social activities.
4 – The Community’s Amenities, Activities And Restrictions: During the initial and follow-up property tours, determine exactly what amenities, services and activities are included in the admission or purchase agreement. For example, is the retirement community a “buy-in” or lease? What is the refund policy, if any? What about pets? In addition, all amenities such as any meals, housekeeping, laundry/linen service, cable television, transportation and social activities should be described in detail.
Since so many seniors are living an active lifestyle, the community’s social and recreational activity curriculum should be prudently assessed. Many well-operated retirement communities offer a varied program of activities including physical, mental, sensory, cultural and entertainment programs. Many retirement properties offer regular group trips to area restaurants, attractions, museums, and other events.
A Quick Tip: A retirement community should offer a wide selection of daily activities options, such as arts and crafts, card games, movies, bingo, exercise classes, fitness equipment, birthday and themed parties, as well as seasonal and holiday celebrations, so a resident can be as active or inactive as they choose.
Since many seniors may not want to drive as often as they used to, or perhaps stop driving altogether, it is essential to determine the extent of the community’s transportation capabilities. For instance, does the property offer transportation to doctor’s appointments, shopping, and other important trips?
Since, unfortunately, many criminals may view the retirement population as “easy targets” for property crimes and scams, the retirement community should have the proper security and safety programs in place.
A Quick Tip: Communities with 24-hour security featuring officers who are appropriately trained and having a gated perimeter are highly attractive features.
5 – Communicate With The Residents, Their Families And Friends: There is nothing like talking directly with a retirement community’s actual residents, their families and friends to help determine whether or not a specific property is desirable. Be sure to ask direct questions about the community’s staff, service, amenities, safety and security, as well as other day-to-day operations.
If possible, see if you can have an overnight stay at the community including access to meals and activities. This is a wonderful idea to help determine whether a particular property is the correct “fit” for you or a family member.
Also inquire about the average length of stay of the property’s residents. A high resident turnover rate may indicate potential problems in that community.
A Quick Tip: Check with your personal physician to see if they can suggest a local retirement community in which they would feel comfortable recommending to their own family members.
If a senior will need assisted-care living, some additional areas should be investigated before deciding on the proper retirement community. The Internet site www.carepathways.com lists some of these areas of importance including:
• What type of healthcare and personal care services are available such as routine physical and dental examinations, pharmacy services, skilled nursing and therapy services?
• Who provides these services and what are their qualifications?
• Is the staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with such activities as eating, dressing, hygiene and grooming?
• How are medical emergencies handled?
• Is the staff qualified to dispense medications?
• Is the retirement facility accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission? (Note: Accreditation is not required of such assisted living facilities.)
For more information on selecting the proper retirement community, consult with your physician, trusted financial advisor, family members and consumer protection organizations. Additionally, an excellent resource on aging and retirement information is the U.S. Administration On Aging website at www.aoa.gov.
My Final Thoughts: Retirement is both a very exciting and highly stressful time, and finding the retirement community with the proper individual “fit” is certainly of the utmost importance. The selection of the appropriate retirement community is not a decision to be taken lightly nor rushed into. Many vital factors such as proximity to healthcare, family members and shopping; property staff; safety and security; financial costs and expenses; and daily activities, must all be vigilantly examined.
Today, many millions seniors will enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle for decades after their retirement, and having a relaxing, entertaining and secure home is the fundamental foundation on which a successful and fulfilling retirement is built.
"Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can't retire his experience. He must use it. Experience achieves more with less energy and time." – Bernard Mannes Baruch (1870 – 1965).
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