How to Find a Community with Good Culture
When shopping for senior housing, it’s especially important to find a community that has residents who share your interests and activities. While you might worry that you won’t be able to truly experience a community until after you move in, here are a few things that you can do to learn more about the potential communities on your list:
First, eat lunch with residents. Marketing agents will bend over backwards to get you to hang around for lunch. They’ll usually recruit some of their most outgoing residents and ask if you would like to eat lunch with them. Most people already have plans or feel out of place when accepting a free meal with strangers, so they tend to decline the offer. This is a big mistake. For one, it pays to know what the food tastes like. But, eating with current residents (especially if the marketing agent isn’t around) is a very good way of getting to know the community’s culture.
So, when the marketing agent offers you a free meal at their community, take them up on that offer. Insist on eating lunch with current residents, and don’t hesitate to politely ask for another meal if you want more time to get to know your new friends.
Second, try the facilities on for size. Marketing agents will promote different parts of the campus based on your stated interests. For instance, if you like exercising, they’ll show you the fitness center and the pool. If you like crafts, they’ll show you the painting studio. If you’re big into church, they’ll talk about their on-site chapel or their large Bible study group.
This is a great opportunity to ask if there are scheduled events related to your passion. Ask politely if you can join in and meet some of the residents who are engaged in that activity. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to get a better feel for how things operate and whether or not you’d like participating if you were to become a resident.
Finally, pay attention to the happiness levels of the staff. Given that I’ve spent most of this post talking about meeting residents, it seems sort of counter-intuitive to suddenly focus on a community’s staff. But, a community’s employees make a huge difference in how residents experience living there.
Inept management will spill over into staff morale, and, eventually, will impact residents. If you notice that maids, front desk staff, or janitors aren’t happy in their positions (or worse, if they’re angry or disgruntled with the management), take that as a big warning sign. Negative energy can infect the whole community, and management that doesn’t do a good job of motivating employees is bad news altogether.
When shopping for senior housing, it’s important to find a community that best fits your needs, and culture should be near the top of your list when it comes to selecting your new home.
Virginia Traweek owns SeniorHousingMove.com, a website dedicated to helping seniors, their families and their advisors make the best decision regarding CCRCs. She has written several books for seniors, including: Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All, The Financial & Estate Planner’s Guide to Retirement Communities, and UnSCAMable: How Seniors can Protect Themselves on the Internet.