How to Choose a Retirement Community

Retirement communities are housing developments designed around meeting the needs of senior citizens who desire staff services, but who are functional enough to live independently. For this reason, such communities are also referred to as independent living communities. Retirement living communities are comprised of individual residential units, which may be houses, condos, townhomes or apartments, and are generally located near large cities, so as to provide for easy access to stores and medical facilities. Some retirement communities are like self-contained townships, in that they provide residents with many of the same types of public facilities that can be found in large cities. Because independent living communities are so varied in scope and organization, it is important to know how to find the right one for you. Follow these guidelines for how to choose a retirement community.


  1. Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 1
    Consider your healthcare needs. Different communities offer different levels of care, from housekeeping to live-in nursing, and your community of choice should be able to provide you with healthcare services that are tailored to your individual circumstances. It is important that you also plan for your future healthcare needs when choosing a retirement community.
  2. Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 2
    Determine your budget. Upon entering into a retirement community, you will have to agree to pay an entrance fee and a recurring monthly fee, both of which will be relative to the type of residence you choose, and you may also have to pay additional fees for any extra services and amenities you opt for. Therefore, it is important that you decide how much money you are able and willing to spend before you shop around for a community.
  3. Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 3
    Choose the features and services you desire in a community. Take the following into consideration:
    • Support staff. In addition to your healthcare needs, you should also think about what other services you would like to receive from on-site staff. Your options may include things like maid service, transportation and personal shopping.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 3Bullet1
    • Culture. Each retirement community has its own culture, and it is important that you find one that is well-suited for you. For example, you may prefer an upscale, formal environment, or more relaxed, casual surroundings. Additionally, you may favor a very social lifestyle, or value privacy instead.

    • Activities. Many communities offer a range of activities designed to enrich retirement living. These may include sports, social gatherings, games, classes and clubs.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 3Bullet3
    • Facilities. Decide what you want your community to have in regards to on-site amenities. Retirement communities may offer gymnasiums, pools, shops, restaurants, clinics, libraries, community centers, salons, churches and more.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 3Bullet4
  4. Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 4
    Visit all of the retirement communities in your desired area. Stay the night, if possible, in order to get the full experience. Take note of the following:
    • Cleanliness. The communal areas, medical facilities, administrative offices and restrooms should be neat, clean and well-stocked.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 4Bullet1
    • Residents. A great way to gauge the quality of a community is to pay attention to how its residents seem to feel about living there. Spend some time walking around, and stop to talk with the locals.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 4Bullet2
    • Staff. The staff should be friendly, helpful, accessible and knowledgeable. There should also be an ample amount of staff members in relation to the size and scope of the community.
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 4Bullet3
    • Contract. Read over the contract while you are at the facility and in the presence of an administrator. Be sure to ask for clarification, if needed.

  5. Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 5
    Ask the right questions. Here are some basics you should know about any retirement community you are considering:
    • Accreditation. Make sure the community you choose is accredited with the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC), also known as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
      Image titled Choose a Retirement Community Step 5Bullet1
    • Refund policy. Some retirement communities will refund your entrance fee if you change your mind about living there, while others keep the fee regardless.

    • How they handle those who can no longer afford to pay. Although most communities run thorough financial screenings before approving your application, it is inevitable that some of their residents may eventually fall into the predicament of running out of money. Some communities have special fund reserves in the case of such circumstances, while others will simply evict you.


  • Don't wait until you have a health crisis to apply at a retirement community, as many communities reject applicants who suffer from serious health conditions like cancer, Alzheimer's and heart failure.

Article Info

Categories: Healthy Aging and Senior Lifestyle