As the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age increases dramatically, the number of retirement communities springing up to serve them also is growing.
- Review your goals for retirement. Determine what your priorities are. If you need to work part time, but the retirement community is located on the edge of a big city where land is cheaper, it might not be a good location for you.
- Figure out where you want to live. If you’re planning on moving, you need to be certain that the community you’re moving to will meet your needs. One suggestion is to move to the city and rent a home or apartment before you buy a home or condo or sign up for a retirement community. See “How to Choose the Best Place to Retire” for items to consider for selecting the best community for your retirement.
- Find out about health facilities in the region and how far you’ll be from them.
- Tour the retirement communities that you’re considering and have a checklist for each. Spend time in every part of the facility. Have a meal, if meals are offered to some or all residents. Drop in unannounced for a second visit. See “Questions to Ask Series: When Selecting Active Independent Living and Retirement Communities” for a checklist to use.
- Analyze the costs thoroughly. Find out what’s included. There may be a buy-in fee or monthly homeowner’s dues. If so, find out what they cover. Ask if you have to pay extra for items such as art classes at the clubhouse.
- Check out the financial stability of the retirement community. Some don’t do a good job maintaining the buildings and grounds. Ask to see financial statements and homeowner association documents and minutes. Also ask to see licensing and inspection reports and any complaint investigations conducted. Be wary if the retirement community is under construction or is partly constructed. Some communities fail to provide the amenities promised and others go bankrupt. See the article “Searching for Security: How to Tell Whether a Continuing-Care Community Will Be Able to Keep Its Financial Promises” for information.
- Find out if the retirement community is a facility that will allow you to age in place. Check to see if it has grab bars and if it’s wheel chair accessible. You also need to consider how you’ll get around if you can no longer drive.
- Ask if there are any rules about children visiting or living with you. You may need to help an adult child with kids or a grandchild. You need to know if the rules preclude such living arrangements.
- Find out if the facility offers ways to help you keep active and what types of activities are offered in the community. Some people want amenities such as a fitness room, fitness classes, a pool, and walking trails, while others would like arts and crafts, bingo, and card games. Cultural activities, colleges that offer classes, nearby parks, and museums are pluses.
- Ask for the names of residents that you can talk with. Find out if there’ll be other residents that have the same interests as you. Also, ask about the ages of the people who live there.
- Review consumer complaints and pay attention to them.
- Don’t sign a contract until you understand pricing and have read the entire contract.
Good luck with your retirement planning and selecting a retirement community. It’s a complicated consumer decision, but using these steps will help you make the right choice for what you need.