You have decided it is time to start touring an independent living community for yourself but how do you start your search?

You can begin by thinking about what you are looking for from an independent living community. Most of these communities offer a wide variety of services and amenities that should accommodate your interests and fit your lifestyle.

Then you can determine how much you can afford, as prices, fees, and payment plans can vary from community to community.

Let’s identify some of the questions you should consider when touring an independent living community. 

1. What safety precautions and services are available?

Safety should be the number one priority. You will want to know if there is staff onsite 24/7, and if there is a community emergency plan and what that plan entails.

At Bethesda, each Independent Living community has staff available at all times, including 24-hour emergency maintenance. In addition,  maintenance repairs in apartments can be scheduled during the day.

2. What living space options are there? 

Some communities have full-size display apartments that you and your family can tour. Bethesda will provide you with information about the community and various apartment floor plans. Apartments are available with fully-equipped kitchens and washer/dryers. 

3. What do the common areas within the community look like?

You will want to consider the cleanliness of the community beyond the apartments. Do the lounges, libraries and living rooms look comfortable? Are people using them? Are the grounds outside attractive and well-tended? Do they have walking paths and gardens?

See if there are ramps, wide sidewalks, and short access routes to the common areas like dining rooms, libraries, coffee bars, and activity areas. Also, how long are the hallways, and how close and accessible are the elevators? An important consideration if you have mobility challenges.

4. What activities are available?

You will want to connect with staff and the community through social events and entertainment. As people age, it becomes more important than ever to stay engaged with others. Finding an independent living community that not only offers organized activities but makes an effort to involve all residents is important and something you should witness while you’re touring the community.

During your tour, ask to see the activity calendar or, if possible, participate in an activity to get a feel for the community. It’s unlikely you’ll be told no.

You should also ask what options are available for family to visit during planned entertainment, what types of exercise or fitness programs are offered, and to see the exterior of the community. Is there open space with walking paths, and a courtyard with comfortable seating to interact with friends? 

5. Is the community pet-friendly? 

Pets can be a very important part of an older adult’s life, and many independent living communities promote themselves as “pet-friendly.”  However, guidelines still apply, so ask, early on, about these policies. 

6. What is the visitation policy?

Are visitors allowed at any time? Are overnight guests allowed? 

7. What is the food quality?

This question can be broken down further, such as:

  • How many meals are provided per day?
  • Are snacks available?
  • Can meals be provided at varied times?
  • Can meals be tailored to dietary restrictions?
  • Does a dietitian oversee nutrition?

Many communities customarily allow and even encourage visitors to eat in their dining rooms as part of their tour. However, this practice may be prohibited due to COVID-19 policies.

8. What other services are provided?

The list of other services could include:

  • Transportation to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores
  • Off-campus excursions to restaurants and other entertainment destinations
  • On-site physical therapy services
  • On-site religious services

9. Can your senior care organization provide additional care as needed?

You may need additional care and services as you age. As an Independent Living resident, you should ask management whether there is assistance available for residents through a private duty program. Ultimately you might need to transition to assisted living for 24/7 support, but both programs can help you with your everyday activities.

As your needs progress, you may require skilled nursing, which involves 24/7 additional care and treatment. Also, if dementia becomes an issue, memory support care may become essential.

Bethesda provides all three of these levels of care beyond independent living. This is important because you will not be required to leave the organization; rather, you can transition as your care needs increase.

For more tips on what to look for in a retirement community, visit Bethesda’s Lifestyle blog.