Choosing a Retirement Housing Community

Prepared by the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss

Before You Begin:

The first questions to ask yourself before visiting any facility are:

  • How much independence do I want?
  • How much care do I require?
  • Am I looking for an independent living retirement community, an assisted living facility or a nursing home?
  • What are my medical needs?
  • Do I want to locate to a continuum care facility, that is a facility where I can start out in an independent senior apartment and then move to an assisted living facility and then to a skilled nursing area if necessary?

It is strongly recommended that you should bring along with you a  sighted friend because you just won’t see, smell, or hear everything when you are contemplating a life changing move like this. Be prepared to take notes (don’t trust your memory) so that you can review and compare the information you gathered.

Listed below are some helpful questions and suggestions on what to look for when you tour a retirement housing community. As you are touring, remember that it is not the decor that counts, but the quality of care you will receive.  

#1:  Location

  • Is the facility located on or near a bus line?
  • Is the facility located near places or people you want to be able to visit?
  • Is the facility located in a neighborhood you feel safe in?

#2.  Physical Lay-out and Getting Around

  • How easy is it to navigate the facility inside and outside?
  • Walk the property and determine for yourself any obstacles or difficulties in getting around.
  • Are there clear pathways?
  • Are rooms, doors and hallways clearly marked?

#3.  Cost

  • What is the monthly cost for your apartment or room?
  • Can your budget afford it?
  • Are there any additional fees for housekeeping, utilities, telephone, the Internet, cable TV etc.? Do you have a choice as to which service you wish to use?
  • Are there any current promotional discounts being offered (such as first month free)?
  • What is their policy on rent increases?
  • Will they pay for any needed modifications you may need prior to moving in?
  • If you should choose to leave or move, how much notice is required?

#4.  Safety and Security

  • Does the facility have a security guard? Security cameras?
  • Are the bathrooms accessible and do they have grab bars in convenient locations?
  • How does a resident contact security staff if they have an emergency in their room or apartment?  
  • What other safety features are available in the apartment and throughout the community?

#5.  Maintenance

  • Are the overall facility, the grounds and the apartment you are shown well kept and clean?
  • How often is housekeeping provided in the apartment or room where you will be staying?
  • What services does maintenance provide?
  • What is their response time if you have a need?  

#6  Community Activities

  • What community activities are offered to the residents?
  • Do they match your interests?
  • How is the community event calendar distributed?
  • How often and in what format?
  • Does it include group trips or outings?  

#7.  Transportation

  • Do they provide transportation to medical appointments, shopping malls, places of worship and entertainment venues?
  • How often can you use it and how far in advance must you make your request?

#8.  Staff Attitude

  • Does the staff appear to listen and answer your questions?
  • Did you feel welcomed during your tour?
  • Did you get to meet the management team and have them explain the policies of the facility?
  • How long has the team been at the facility?  
  • What is their turn-over rate?
  • Do they have any other residents who are blind or have low vision? What accommodations have they made for those residents?  
  • What about medical staff? How many licensed nurses or trained medical staff are available?
  • What are the staffing patterns at night versus daytime?  

#9.  Dining-room and Meals

  • What is the meal plan and how does it work?
  • Is the dining-room easily accessible?
  • Is it buffet style or are you served?
  • What are the dining hours and menus?
  • Are you invited to sample a meal to taste the food and meet some of the residents?
  • What happens if a resident cannot make it to the dining room in time for a meal?
  • Is “take-out” available, can meals be delivered to you and if so, is there a charge?

#10.  Mail Room and Mail Distribution

  • Are mail boxes easy to locate and identify?
  • How are packages (braille books and magazines) or anything too big to fit in your mailbox
  • handled? Is there a front desk and will somebody sign for them?
  • If you need assistance reading mail, writing checks or filling out forms, is anybody on staff
  • available to help or do you need to provide your own readers?

#11.  Emergency Evacuation

  • In case of an emergency and the need to evacuate, what special assistance will be provided to a resident who is blind or has low vision?

 Since there’s no way that you can think of every question you’ll have before moving in, find out who specifically you can go to after moving in if you have questions.  

Here are two examples of national services that offer assistance to seniors considering moving into a retirement community. Both are free for the senior and offer contact with a local representative. AAVL does not endorse or specifically recommend these organizations.
Senior Advisor 800-805-3621 and “A Place for Mom” 866-656-8216.