Retirement is also the time to start planning your future living arrangements. The range of housing options for older people vary, and it makes sense to choose your retirement home while you are still independent. Finding the right retirement home can have a wealth of benefits, especially if you choose one that provides continuity of care, catering to your needs as they change.
While searching for a retirement home that best suits your lifestyle, there are several factors to consider including location, levels of care, access to healthcare, security, accessibility, dietary requirements, activities, cost, lifestyle, plus more.
Top features to consider
Housing options for older people
There are a number of housing options for older people including independent living, sheltered housing, residential care homes, dementia care homes and nursing homes. Whilst some retirement housing options offer various services and multiple levels of care as residents’ needs change over a period of time, some may offer one level.
Independent living has been designed for active, self-reliant individuals with communal areas to socialise and connect with other residents. Apartments are available to lease (for individual or shared ownership) or to rent. This housing option is most suited for older people who are capable of managing most of their daily activities on their own.
Sheltered housing offers older people the opportunity to enjoy their own private space, with the added benefit of companionship and peace of mind, knowing that support is readily available for daily activities. Sheltered housing is particularly suitable for older people who may not be able to live completely independently in their own homes, but do not need the full range of services provided in a care or nursing home.
Residential care homes provide a homelike environment for older people who require assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and managing medication. At residential care homes residents have a personalised care plan, 24/7 staff availability, nutritious meals and social activities that have been tailored to the residents’ needs.
Dementia-friendly care homes are specialised care homes that have been designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for older people living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or memory problems. These care homes prioritise creating a compassionate and understanding atmosphere, with staff trained in dementia care. The aim is to enhance the quality of live for older people living with dementia, whilst ensuring their safety and well-being.
Nursing homes provide comprehensive medical care for older people who require round-the-clock medical attention and assistance with daily activities. They are staffed by healthcare professionals, including registered nurses, who offer medical assistance, administer medication, and provide rehabilitative therapies. Nursing homes are suitable for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, or complex medical conditions, offering a higher level of medical care compared to other housing options for older people.
Though you may not need additional levels of care at your current stage of life, knowing that option is available on the premises, can help alleviate future worries.
Find out what you can bring with you
Since the new retirement community is going to be your home for the rest of your life, it should be as comfortable as possible. Consider the various housing options available, like suites, apartments, or cottages, and whether they are comfortable. You should also check if you’re allowed to personalise your room with furnishings and decorations, and if the room has the right amount of space you need – will you have enough storage, and if the layout suits your lifestyle and activities. Above all, can you picture yourself living there?
Cost is an essential aspect of finding a retirement home and its affordability is a major factor. Sit down with your family and a trusted financial advisor to discuss your finances, especially your long-term savings and the recurring interest that will meet your new cost of living. Review your monthly bills and compare them to the retirement home costs, and the services it includes. Every retirement home has different fees and services. Some housing options can include utilities like gas, water and electric, Wi-Fi, housekeeping, TV licence, food and maintenance, so it’s worth looking around.
When searching for the right location for a retirement home, there are a number of things you should consider including:
Proximity to family and friends – being close to loved ones can provide emotional support and make it easier for them to visit regularly.
Access to healthcare – access to doctors, dentists and medical specialists is important as healthcare needs may increase with age.
Amenities in the local area – Living in a place that offers you a quality life will add zest to your years. The retirement home should be close to nearby activities, libraries, shopping, beauty salons, entertainment, continuing education opportunities, cultural events, and more. Check for nearby recreational opportunities, such as parks, attractions, cinemas, restaurants, picnic spots, or other activities that you enjoy so you do not have to travel far to enjoy such treats. You could also consider what shopping centres, supermarkets or if there is a post office nearby.
Transportation – find out what the local public transport is like to find out how easy it will be get around, as well as the closeness to major roads or airports for travel convenience.
Food and nutrition
Since food is the fuel that keeps you going, and healthy nutrition is as essential in older age, your retirement home should have plenty of food options including that of your taste. To find this out, you should schedule a visit. During your visit you could request to see a sample menu or ask if you can have a meal at the home.
There are a range of dining options that could be available, depending on the type of retirement home. In sheltered housing you’re likely to find communal dining, where everyone comes to together to enjoy shared mealtimes, whereas in independent living complexes, you might find a restaurant or café, as well a small shop which sells some food items.
Talk to the residents and staff
When visiting the retirement home, spend time talking to the residents and staff, so you can find out more about the day-to-day life at the house. You could find out more about the food, what activities take place, or what the residents like about living there.
When you visit the retirement home, watch out for details like accessibility and safety features as they matter a lot. Compare details like widened doors or hallways, if the rooms are all on one level, elevators, stairlifts, and wheelchair ramps as well as installation of safety features like grab bars, handrails, and wet rooms, and whether they are well maintained.
Another important factor to consider while choosing a retirement home is what security measures are in place, for example is there a warden call alarm, pendant alarms, security lighting and cameras, and a check-in area for visitors.
Activities and events
Ask about the activities and events that take place at the house, as leisure activities are an important aspect. Whether you’re a serial hobbyist or not, social activities are fun, provide a sense of community and provide great opportunities to interact and make new friends. When you go and visit a home, you can speak with the residents and staff about the activities schedule.
Lifestyle and culture
Are there any restrictions or rules if you want to keep pets, plant a small garden, want to grill outside, need someone to live with you long-term, or have guests staying overnight?
If you have opted for independent living, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of the available maintenance services and the protocol for handling repairs. Some retirement homes include all maintenance costs within the monthly fee, while others may charge you extra for unit repairs or maintenance. If you are away for a long period of time, your home may be checked regularly, for an additional fee.
Take care to consider all the above features and more before making your decision.
This blog was provided by John, a caregiver and blogger, who likes to write about Senior Care, Assisted Living, and Retirement Life.
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