What is a Retirement Community?

It can be confusing to try and determine what types of care a family member requires, especially when different types of care can look so similar.  So, what is a retirement community and how is it different from assisted living?

Retirement Communities and/or Independent Living Facilities are most appropriate for seniors who can manage their health care needs on their own or with assistance from family in an apartment type setting. Independent Living does not offer health care services or assistance, but may offer a monthly meal plan, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation.

Some communities will partner with an In-Home Care Agency to provide some services to residents. Services may include Medication Management, Bathing and Grooming Assistance, or Incontinence care.

If additional care services are being provided, at some point the cost of the apartment and care will equate that of an Assisted Living Community. Some Independent Facilities are located on a campus where other levels of care are offered should one need them in the future.

Independent Living costs range from $1000-$400 per month, depending on apartment size, amenities, and meal plan. Some Independent Facilities will provide one to two meals per day and may offer a meal plan if a resident prefers to cook occasionally.

Only private pay is accepted at Independent Facilities. Medicaid does not cover housing costs for Independent living. Long Term Care Insurance typically does not cover Independent Living, but may cover the cost of outside in-home care services.

Related: What is Assisted Living?

What are the advantages of a Retirement Community?

  • Nutritious Meals, Activities, and Housekeeping offered
  • Maintain Independence in a social setting
  • No upkeep or utilities to manage (except personal phone and cable)

What should I look for when searching for a Retirement Community?

  • I personally prefer retirement communities to be adjacent to another level of care, most commonly, an assisted living or residential care facility. If a move occurs in the future, it is much easier to move across the courtyard instead of the other side of town.
  • What amenities are offered? Are the activities varied? Is an exercise program offered?
  • If your loved one is driving, is there reserved and covered parking available for residents?
  • Are pets allowed? Is smoking allowed on campus?
  • How involved is the management staff in the lives of the residents? Will they notify you if they see changes in your loved one?
  • How often are meals served? Is there a flexible meal plan option? Is the cost of meals included in the overall price?
  • How is the food? Invite yourself for lunch (most will offer)- observe staff interacting with the residents. Is there a social atmosphere in the dining room or are residents keeping to themselves. Do residents seem happy? Do the staff know the residents by name? The dining room is a great indication of the “mood” of the building.
  • How does the physical building look? Is it well kept? Are repairs needed? Ask about the maintenance response time. How available are they for minor repairs for the resident's apartments (light bulbs, hanging pictures, etc…)?

When is it time to transition to higher level of care? First, I would suggest that if a resident requires care to begin with, a retirement community will only be a temporary solution. If a resident has lived in a retirement community and is requiring more supervision, can't safely manage daily activities, and requires frequent checks from staff, a higher level of care or private caregivers are needed.

We cover lots of topics  like this, see other posts about senior housing.

8 Tips to Consider when Choosing where to Retire:

Choosing a retirement destination is a big decision. Moving is expensive and rather stressful, so naturally, the goal is to find a nice community to settle down to enjoy life, hobbies, and time with family or friends.

There are many factors that make a location an ideal match for your retirement, or not. By taking them into account you can make the best choice for yourself and look forward to a bright retirement.

8 Tips to consider when choosing where to retire.

Cost Of Living

This is a big consideration. You’re looking for a place where you can retire comfortably and have a nice standard of living without struggling to make ends meet.

Before you start scouting out places, have a serious look at your budget. Know what you’re going to have coming in from pensions or other investments. Write down the amount you’ll have to live on.

Check out the cost of living in the areas you’re interested in and pick one that fits with your budget and leaves you enough for saving and an emergency fund.

Related: 1 in 3 Plan to Work During Retirement

Local Amenities

Which amenities do you need? This is different for every person. Nearby shops, a doctor and a dentist are pretty standard, but what else do you need at hand?

Perhaps having a community center, a golf course, or a place of worship nearby is important to you. Some people really like to be close to nature walks, a farmer’s market, or plenty of restaurants and a theater.

Think about how you like to spend your days, and choose a place that has everything you need (and easily accessible) to make your life comfortable.


Climate is an important consideration, and one which is often overlooked. Everybody has their own climate that they thrive best in, along with a climate that really doesn’t suit them.

Related: Cost of Retirement in the Philippines

If you love hot weather and like to relax on the beach, the Pacific Northwest is not the ideal choice for you, but California might be perfect. On the other hand, if you love seasonal weather and are comfortable with cold winters, New Hampshire is a better choice than Florida.

family's and caregiving

Proximity To Family and Friends

If you are close with your family, staying near them might be an important part of your decision. Often as we get older, we need our family around us not only for support but so we can share in their lives, too.

Likewise, if you have a close support network of friends you might like to consider staying within easy reach of them so you are not cut off from your nearest and dearest.

Health Care

Health care is important at any age, but especially as we grow older.

Before you move to a place, check out the doctors, dentists, and emergency clinics and hospitals in the area. Find out what kind of facilities are available (for example specialist diabetic clinics if you need them, or podiatry or cardiac care, or anything else you need.)

Ideally, the facilities you need should be easy to reach using public transport or a ring and ride service so you do not have to drive if you don’t want to, or are no longer able to.


The taxes in each area can make a real difference to your life.

Do a little research about taxes in your proposed new home. You might like to look at:  Sales tax, property tax, inheritance tax, vehicle tax, income tax, and taxes on gas, alcohol, tobacco and travel.

Related: Most Expensive Areas to Retire in the USA

Higher taxes aren't always a bad thing. In some cases, higher taxes also means great public facilities. However, taxes will make a difference in your budget, so find out about them before you make a decision.


Don’t overlook transportation. You might not need it every day, but reliable transportation will undoubtedly come into play at some point.

Start by looking at public transport around the area. Will you be able to get around easily by train, tram or bus if you don’t have a car?

Look at out of state travel, too. How easy will it be for you to go on a vacation? How about if friends or family come to stay – can they get to your new destination easily? Check out bus stations, rail stations and airports nearby.

Political Climate

Political climate can make a real difference to how well you settle into your new home. If you choose a town where most people more or less share your own political views, you’ll find it easier to fit in to your local community.

Being with people who share your values makes you feel like you belong and eases the transition into your new town or city.

Finding the perfect place to retire is an exciting time. When you find a place that is a good fit, you can look forward to settling in and enjoying a new phase of life.

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  1. I’m a 61 year old female that is looking for a 1 bedroom apt My belongings are in storage and looking for a washer and dryer hook up in the apartment.
  2. I’m looking for an apt. I am a senior and I want to work. I live at Home with my family whom I’ve giving al my time for last forty years. They are al active and just the dishwasher.zItd fine but zi need a job that makes real money. So I’ve decided to work and live in an apt. My retirement money only covers emergency expenses .The house is full of the whole families stuff. My room is to is also in need of renovation Too much housework. Work would be a better way to get older with some monies.I work in retail. I’m not married and I’m wanting to take classes at college.cost of living is high and a job would fill the Gap
  3. Thanks for the tips. My aunt is getting to the point that she needs to have a little assistance with day to day life. Keeping up a house is getting to be too much for her. I really like the idea of an independent living center. I like that we can get her meal plans, and she won’t have to worry about upkeep. I will have to start looking around. Maybe my aunt and I can make it a thing of going around and trying our all of their meal plans.

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