Choosing the right independent living community can be one of the most important decisions you will make as a senior. The location, amenities, dining, pricing, and visitor guidelines can all impact your daily quality of life. Whether you are looking for an independent living community for yourself or helping an elderly loved one find their perfect new home, it’s important to do your research. Visit websites, request brochures, and, most importantly, schedule a tour of any senior community you are considering.
A good independent living community cares that you are a fit and will encourage you to ask all of the questions on your mind. The list below will help get you started. These are the 10 most important questions our team thinks every senior should ask when choosing an independent living community.
1. Is Independent Living the Right Choice for Me?
Before plunging into the search for an independent living community, take the time to understand what independent living means and the difference between independent and assisted living — which is sometimes confusing. Independent living refers to a senior community that lets residents maintain their same lifestyles and enjoy amenities while living among others in their age group. Independent living apartments will also provide services such as housekeeping and groundskeeping, leaving seniors with free time to pursue their interests. In addition, the communities usually offer some emergency and medical services.
Assisted living, by contrast, would provide similar amenities as independent living but with a greater level of support for day-to-day tasks. When choosing between them, it’s important to take an honest look at what you need in order to live a healthy, full life. Ask the community you’re visiting how their services align with the level of care you need.
2. What Costs Go Along with Independent Living?
Cost is often a primary concern for seniors looking for independent living. Independent living communities in Florida vary widely in their up-front and monthly costs, so ask plenty of questions about pricing and payment options. Find out if there is a “buy-in” fee and what is included in your monthly or yearly rent. Depending on the senior living community, perks like premade meals, housekeeping, and activities could all be included in your rent or may be considered extra costs. Whether the community is for-profit or non-profit may affect their rates, too.
3. Is the Staff Qualified and Friendly?
The staff at an independent living community act as an extension of your community. Choose a campus that has friendly staff who are there for you when you need them. Especially in the beginning when you’re getting introduced to the community and its members, the staff should make you feel comfortable while accommodating your needs. Ask about their qualifications to learn whether the community has registered nurses or other medical professionals on-site. You also want to find out whether the food is prepared by a chef who understands the nutritional needs of seniors, and if the cleaning staff takes proper precautions against infectious germs.
4. What Healthcare Services are Available on Campus?
Readily available senior medical care is highly important for leading your best life and preventing health risks. Ask whether the independent living community provides 24-hour emergency services or on-call nurses in case you need them. It can also be convenient if they provide access to medical professionals like pharmacists, dentists, opticians, massage therapists, or hearing aid technicians. Ask about routine services to monitor your health, like wellness assessments and balance checks. In addition, learn whether they provide transportation if you need to visit a doctor off campus.
5. Can the Continuum of Care Serve My Future Needs?
Think about the future when selecting your new residence. Often, needs evolve over time, or one spouse needs a different level of care than another. For example, you may need to switch from independent living to assisted living or memory care, or you may need skilled nursing care or rehabilitation following a surgery or illness. When you can stay on one campus as needs change, you feel more at home and more secure. Choosing a community with a strong continuum of care can ensure that your needs are met no matter what.
6. What Amenities and Activities Does This Independent Living Community Offer?
With the right amenities, an independent living community offers a resort-style living experience. Living in Florida, especially, where the weather is pleasant most of the year, you will want to get out and enjoy it. Some communities feature swimming pools, walking trails, golf courses, salons and barbershops, and even fine dining. Which ones are most important to you? They may also offer structured activities or classes on- or off-campus, which are a great way to get to know your neighbors, stay occupied, and feel fulfilled. Some senior communities have a full calendar of activities, so be sure to ask about this during your visit.
7. Does the Community Empower Seniors to Build Relationships?
This is one of the hardest things to define but one of the most important to get right. Building healthy relationships will help to keep your mind and body healthy and inspire new activities to participate in. You might also look at factors like whether you can dine as a group and whether religious services are offered that apply to you. These activities build a foundation for relationships in independent living.
8. How is the Food Quality and Nutritional Support?
Delicious, high-quality food adds to the enjoyment of life and affects your overall health. The dining experience at your prospective independent living community should be one that satisfies your taste buds and leaves you feeling great. Ask about the variety of options, from casual to formal, and whether someone with expertise in senior nutrition helps to plan the menus.
9. How Will the Community Support My Physical Fitness?
Staying physically active has many benefits for seniors. It can boost your health, reduce the risk of certain diseases, and make you feel great emotionally. Ask whether your prospective senior living community has a fitness center or an onsite fitness coordinator. A professional trainer with experience providing fitness to seniors can help ensure that exercises are tailored to your needs. You might discover activities from water aerobics to weights and bands classes. Exercise classes are also great for meeting friends.
10. What Transportation is Provided?
Sometimes you need transportation to get to the doctor, run errands, or experience a change of scenery. Ask whether the independent living community lets you keep a car on campus or makes sure other transportation is provided so you can get around. Many facilities offer their residents free transportation for shopping, dining, or recreational trips to the golf course, opera, and more. Find out whether transportation is available any time or has to be scheduled, and if the vehicle can accommodate groups when you and your friends want to hit the town.
Bonus Question: Can My Family Visit Me?
One of the biggest apprehensions many seniors face about moving to independent living is the feeling of separation from their family and close friends. Different independent living communities have different guidelines around family visits, especially since COVID-19 became a concern. Make sure your prospective community is as welcoming as you need it to be—safely. Ask about how many visitors are permitted, whether they need to schedule their visits in advance, and in what areas of the community you’re permitted to visit with them. Staying in touch with your family is one of the most important elements of living well in an independent living community. Take the time to get all of your questions on this subject answered.
Discover Aviva Independent Living in Sarasota, Florida
Asking these questions can help you choose the independent living community that best suits your needs. At Aviva, our staff is willing and eager to answer all of your questions to let you and your family feel confident about this decision.
Learn about the advantages Aviva has to offer. Contact us today!
*This post was updated on September 11, 2020.