What to look for in a retirement community

Updated on June 3, 2021

When you are considering retirement community living, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the choices. If you combine the large number of options with the intense marketing efforts from most communities, you may have a difficult time picking the right place. Before you give up on the search, consider the following tips about what you should look for in a retirement community. 

First Impressions 

As a greater percentage of Americans reaches retirement age, they are looking for communities that will let them live their lives in comfort and safety. However, finding the right fit can be a struggle. Whether you have an active lifestyle or need assisted care, first impressions matter. 

Before you even think about visiting, you have to consider the location of the retirement community. Some questions you ask should include: Is this location near your loved ones? Will you be able to reach supermarkets, hospitals and doctors easily? You also want to consider how the community may change or grow over the years. It should be in a place you feel comfortable staying long-term. 

Next, pay attention to the first impression you have visiting the actual community. Does the facility look well-maintained, and is your unit equipped to suit your needs? You also want to ask if it comes with a personal parking space or garage. Another question is if golf carts are available to easily get around the grounds. You want to consider how you feel as you walk around the area. 

After you gather a first impression of the community, focus on the staff. Are they friendly, helpful and caring to residents? You also want to check for licensing and accreditations. Another aspect to consider is staff turnover. You can ask some of the staff how long they have worked in the facility. 

As you collect information, consider creating a spreadsheet or using another way to document what you find. You want to visit multiple communities and gather information about all of them. Then, choose the one that works best for you. 

Other Considerations 

Beyond the first impressions, it is important to look at other factors. First, check the facility’s rules and regulations. What are the community rules, such as guidelines for when friends and family can visit? Another important rule to check is about pets. Some communities do not allow pets or restrict how many you may bring. Also, ask if there is a benevolence policy or charitable assistance for residents who may run into financial difficulties. 

Next, focus on health and wellness in the retirement community. Is there medical staff on hand, and is there easy access to doctors or hospitals? Does the community have a gym or sports facilities with fitness trainers qualified to work with seniors? 

If the community has a gym with personal trainers, it is important to check their experience and certifications. You want personal trainers who have received certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) because it is a trusted organization that has been around for more than 30 years. 

You want to get specific details about healthcare arrangements. If the facility has in-home health services, ask about them. It is important to know what happens if someone has to transition from independent living to assisted or memory care. 

Although there are assisted living apps that can help you find facilities near you, you may not want to move once you are settled in the retirement community. Having access to assisted living care in the same community means you will not have to move to a different facility should you need more help in the future. 

Next, think about the social and recreational activities. You probably want a variety of fun gatherings and activities to engage in, so you have to ask questions. Every community is different, and some offer more than others. 

Finally, think about all the financial considerations that come with living in a retirement community long-term. Entrance or membership fees are common and can be high. In addition, monthly charges can vary, and they may include meals plans, transportation services, nurse or doctor visits, recreational events and other activities. It is crucial to ask what the monthly fees cover in the facility. They may or may not cover utilities, water, garbage and other bills. Also, ask what happens if you ever want to move out.

As you search for the right retirement community, it is important to look at both first impressions and more detailed questions. You want to find a place that will feel like home for many years. Although there are many advantages to living in a retirement community, your individual needs come first. Remember, you have many options, so do not feel pressured to move into the first community you visit. 


Senior Outlook Today is your go-to source for information, inspiration, and connection as you navigate the later years of life. Our team of experts and writers is dedicated to providing relevant and engaging content for seniors, covering topics such as health and wellness, finances, technology and travel.