What Should I Look For In A Retirement Community? | 15 Expert Tips


When you consider moving to a retirement community, you probably ask yourself the question: What should I look for in a retirement community? I share 15 factors that are important to look for in a retirement community. For this article, I interviewed my parents-in-law and their neighbors, who are living in a retirement community. I asked them what made them decide to choose for a retirement community. Ready to learn more? Let’s start! 

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1) Location of Retirement Community 

When you first start looking for a retirement community, the location is the most important factor to take into consideration. What you look for in a location depends on your wishes. Some retirees decide to choose to move to a completely different place. Sometimes even another country! However, most retirees want to stay close to the location they consider to be home and their family members. 

According to my parents-in-law, when looking at the location for your retirement community, the most important thing is that you can feel at home. When they moved to their retirement community, they only needed to move a few blocks further away. They also had the opportunity to live somewhere else or go to a different city. Still, they wanted to stay close to the area where they already lived for over 30 years because they liked it there and they consider that village their home. 

Another important factor is that the place where the retirement home is located needs to be easy to reach. That was especially important for a few neighbors of my parents-in-law. They told us that some of their friends and family members live in cities further away. So if they want to come to visit, it’s essential that they quickly reach the retirement community by car or public transport.  

Weather & Climate

Some retirees think of weather as the most important factor to choose the location of their retirement community. They say that they only want to be in a place where the sun is shining most of the year during their retirement. So, if being in a warm climate is important for you as a retiree, you should consider the weather and location as the most important factor you should look for in a retirement community. 

2) Requirement For Residents 

My parents-in-law mentioned the requirements for residents as an imported factor. They specifically looked for a retirement community where it was only allowed to live when you’re retired and reached a specific age. In their community, the age limit is 55. This means that families with young children aren’t allowed to live in the building. Students and adults who are busy with their careers aren’t allowed to live in that building. 

Age limits are something you see very often in retirement communities. The most significant advantage for retirees is that they will live among people of the same age. 

3) Social Engagement With People Of The Same Age

Living with people of the same age is an essential factor for all the retirees I talked to in the retirement community. They all mention that social engagement with their peers contributes to their happiness in retirement. 

I can understand why this is such an important factor. Often, when we’re aging, our social circle decreases. We have less contact with old colleagues, friends, and family members. It’s also easier to connect with people of the same age. According to this article from Harvard Health Publishing, social engagement is an important factor that’s related to healthy aging.

4) House Rules

Each retirement community has its own set of rules. When looking for a retirement community, it’s important to see if you live with these rules. Suppose you have a dog or a cat, and the retirement community doesn’t allow pets. That could be a reason for you to look for a different retirement community where pets are allowed.

Make sure that you read the house rules of the retirement community before you sign up. It prevents surprises. You know what to expect and what you’re allowed to do when living in the retirement community. 

5) Interior Design & Facilities

My parents-in-law mentioned interior design & facilities as important factors that you should look for in a retirement community. 

Example of things you should look for are; 

  • Doorsteps
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Same level apartment (no stairs)

Even when you’re still fit and healthy, you need to consider aging. Maybe there will be a time when you need some help with things. Your apartment in the retirement community must be designed for accessibility needs.

6) Maintenance 

The apartments and houses in retirement communities are, most of the time, fully equipped. This means that there’s a complete kitchen with a fridge, dishwasher, and cooking area—a bathroom with shower facilities and other standards amenities. It’s essential to learn if maintenance for these products is included. If not, you might want to save some additional money for when you need to replace some essential products. 

However, when everything is standard included, often maintenance for the amenities is included as well. You may pay a monthly fee for this, which usually is a part of the service costs. 

My parents-in-law say this maintenance service is ideal. The retirement community where they live has a maintenance service that works efficiently. They only need to contact the service desk if they want something to be replaced or fixed. 

7) Medical Care

It’s important to know if the retirement community offers some sort of medical care. Maybe it’s not the most fun thing to look into. However, when we’re aging, we often need more medical help than when we’re younger. So, for your convenience and safety, it is essential to know what to expect. 

Examples are general practitioners, physiotherapists, long-term care, etcetera. 

You also need to learn if there’s a hospital nearby the retirement community when you need emergency care or other medical care. 

My parents-in-law’s retirement community is a large community where many professions of medical and healthcare are combined. Their community offers general practitioners, physiotherapists, mental care, but also long-term care if needed. They also offer sports facilities for seniors so they can stay fit. 

Knowing that all the (medical) care is located within the community is especially helpful when you’re getting older, so everything is close to your home. 

8) Family Focused & Visits

Retirement communities are focused on seniors, but it is important to look for a family-focused retirement community. What I mean by that is that it is allowed to have friends & family over, that your family have the possibility to stay the night when needed. 

An important factor for my parents-in-law to choose for a retirement community is the fact that they live with people of the same age. But they love the fact that their grandchildren can stay for sleepovers. This way, they have the best of both worlds. 

Things to look for if you want to know if a retirement community is family-focused are, for example, the presence of a guestroom—also, the community rules for tenants. You want to know what these rules say about having your grandchildren stay the night. 

9) Community Center Activities For Social Engagement

Social engagement and staying socially active are essential when it comes to healthy aging. When older adults have broader social interactions, they are more active. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, having a strong social life is related to many health benefits, especially when getting older. 

So, you should look for the presence of a community or activity center within the retirement community. A place where everyone can come together to enjoy themselves, play games, maybe having lunch and dinner together, etcetera. 

The retirement community where my parents-in-law live has a very broad activity center. Many different activities are organized throughout the week, and as a tenant, you only need to sign up for an activity. Some of the activities are arranged outside the community, like visiting a museum. 

It’s also possible for seniors who are living outside the community to join these activities. So their community centers focus also on the elderly who live close. An exciting extra, which helps seniors to be even more socially active! 

10) Community Center Activities For Health & Wellness

One of the best things you can do when it comes to healthy aging is to stay active. According to the CDC, regular physical activity is an important factor for healthy aging. When we think of physical activities, we often refer to sports activities. 

Sports are essential to stay active. Aerobic intensity workouts and muscle training are the exercises the CDC recommends for seniors when they talk about physical activity. However, these exercises can also be done in different activities. So, when you look for a retirement community, you should look into their activity program and what they offer when it comes to health and wellness. 

You want to know if there’s a fitness area where you can follow different sports programs for muscle training and yoga, meditation, etcetera. 

Also, many retirement communities have a community garden, where you can start gardening with other community retirees. Did you know gardening is the perfect activity for the body and mind? When gardening, you easily reach the minimum standards for physical activity, but it’s also related to being healthy for your brain. You can read more in my article What Are The Benefits Of Gardening After Retirement?

Other fun activities you should look for are the possibility for group activities like walking, playing boules, playing tennis, etcetera. Later I’ll tell you more about those activities in part 12, Services & Amenities. 

11) Housing Utilities

It’s important that you learn more about the housing utilities in the retirement community. You often pay an all-inclusive price where you pay for all the extra’s, such as electricity, gas, telephone, internet, water, etcetera. 

Knowing the price of the housing utilities is important to avoid unnecessary surprises. 

12) Services & Amenities

We already discussed a few things about services and amenities that are important when you look for a retirement community. There are still a few things we didn’t mention yet. 

Make sure to get a complete list of all the services and amenities that are available in the retirement community. This way, you can easier compare different communities before making a choice. 

When it comes to services and amenities, you should look for things like maintenance, medical and health care, groceries, laundry, transport, and food. Often maintenance, medical, and health care are standard included in retirement communities. But services like grocery shopping, laundry, etcetera are extra services. 

My parents-in-law live in a retirement community where they can use services like laundry and grocery service, but they need to pay a little extra for this when they want to use it. For them, it is ideal because they don’t want to use this now. They’re still very active and independent. In fact, they often do groceries for their neighbors as well! But, when they like the idea of having this possibility when in need. 

13) Parking & Transportation

If you own a car and love to get out once in a while for a drive, it’s important to know where you can park your car. Some retirement communities have a private driveway. When you’re living in a skyscraper, you often need to park your car in a parking garage, where you’ll get your own parking spot. It’s even possible that there isn’t a specific parking spot available, and you need to use public parking to park your car. 

It’s important to look for the possibilities of parking, so you know what to expect. 

Transportation

When you’re not driving a car yourself, but you want to get out to other places, you should look for transportation services and nearby public transport in the retirement community. 

Transportation services are often private or group taxi services specifically for members of the retirement community. And public transport speaks for itself. However, you want to know which forms of public transport are closely located in your retirement community so that you can easily plan your trips. 

14) Living Costs

Money is always an important factor. You want to know what you need to pay for your living costs. It’s just as simple as that. 

When you look for a retirement community, you can ask for a quote so that you can easily see how much you’ll pay monthly when renting a place. If you buy a place in a retirement community, you can do the same thing, of course. However, often you pay an amount to buy the house in the community, but you still need to pay a monthly fee for services and amenities. Either way, make sure you know how much it will cost you and decide for yourself if you can pay this and think it is worth the money. 

When you’re not sure what to do, talk to a professional financial advisor. You can easily find an advisor by using JustAnswer, a platform that connects you to professionals within minutes. 

15) 24-hour Emergency Call Service

Emergency call service is especially important when you get older. It’s good to know when there’s someone available for non-life-threatening situations you need help with. Many retirement communities offer such services, but you need to pay extra for them. The service is often used by elderly people who don’t want to live in an assisted home but often need some assistance with everyday things in and around the house. 

The grandmother of my husband lived in a retirement community for many years. She always had an alarm button as a necklace that she could use when needed help, such as when fallen on the floor or when she couldn’t get out of bed or something. The alarm was connected to the assisted living center next to her retirement community. When she pushed the button, a nurse was there in minutes to help her out. 

This easy emergency service helped her to live independently in her retirement home until she passed away at the age of 91. 

Fast Track To Happiness In Retirement

When you’re preparing for your retirement, you’re preparing for a transition in life where many things are going to be different. Many retirees struggle with this transition at first. After doing so much research about retirement lifestyles, I found that there’s a fast-track to happiness in retirement. It’s all about preparing for retirement in the right way. I combined my knowledge and research in my ebook Five Steps To Happiness In Retirement which is available here

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 100+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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