When Is The Right Time to Start Looking For a Retirement Community and What Should You Prioritize?

December 12, 2022


Finding the right retirement community involves a slightly different process than finding the perfect house, although some of the things on a soon-to-be retiree's checklist will remain the same. A typical checklist will likely include must-haves such as a good location, well-maintained grounds, and an attractive interior. However, what else should you look for in a community and when should you start looking?

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When Should I Start Looking? 

If you're even considering moving into a retirement community in the future, it’s a good idea to actively start looking now. Even if you decide to physically move-in later, at least you'll have a good idea of what the process involves, meaning you'll be that much further ahead than many others. Many communities have waiting lists, along with qualifications you need to understand to be able to make an informed and timely decision. This could include an age requirement, minimum income/asset requirement, or even medical (both physical and cognitive) requirements. If you get an understanding of the process early on, you won’t be racing against the clock when you decide you are ready to move in. Or, worse yet, discovering at the last moment that your top choice has no availability.

What To Consider About The Community?

Before you ultimately decide on a community, there are some additional factors that may impact your choice. 

Is The Community A For-Profit Or A Non-Profit?

Both for-profit and not-for-profit retirement communities must meet state regulations. A for-profit, however, primarily answers to shareholders and investors, whereas a not-for-profit typically answers to a board comprised of local civic leaders who volunteer their time, along with resident board members. This difference in structure leads to significant differences in how a community is operated. When researching communities, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • Is your parent company a for-profit or not-for-profit?
  • Who is on the board and where do they live

Is The Community Financially Stable?

It's important to know that the community you want to join is financially stable. This may seem like common sense but it will help determine how the community is run long-term. Knowing the financial standing of your future community will allow you to confidently make the move and focus on the enjoyment of your retirement. To gain a better understanding of the community’s financial strengths ask:

  • What is your Fitch rating?
  • What is your Standard & Poors rating?
  • How many days cash on hand do you have?


Is Their Healthcare Sufficient For You Now And In The Future? 

People move into retirement communities for a variety of reasons, including the potential need for future assistance related to their health and/or mobility. It's important to consider whether a community can provide the quality of care you are looking for you or your loved ones and can meet your needs, not just now, but in the future as well. If someday you require additional care, do they offer that, or do they at least make it easy to transition to a place that will provide you with a higher level of care?

For example, most people prefer to know that all of their future health needs will be taken care of, thus, you should insist on a Type A or Type B contract (which includes guaranteed future healthcare in your contract), as opposed to a fee-for-service contract (which requires you to pay for all of your healthcare out-of-pocket). To gain a better understanding of the community’s ability to take care of your future health needs consider asking:

  • What type of contract do you offer? A Fee-For-Service (no healthcare service included), a Type A (assisted living, skilled care, and memory care included), or a Type B (assisted living and memory care included)?
  • Is your assisted living, memory care, and skilled care on-site?
  • Does your community have concierge physicians and are they included in your contract?

Where Do The Board Members/Executive Team Work From/Reside? 

Retirement communities are always better maintained, and issues are more quickly resolved when the board members and/or upper executive team work at the community (this is VERY different than the community’s local executive director and management team). Why? Because when the organization’s top management is on-site they see the issues first-hand. They are also able to meet and talk with the residents on a daily basis to make sure that the community is running smoothly and efficiently. Ask:

  • Where do the organization’s CEO, CFO, and COO live?


Will The Community Fit Your Lifestyle? Does It Offer The Amenities You're Looking For?

Last but not least, consider whether the overall atmosphere of the community speaks to you. If you like to have opportunities to be social or participate in group activities, make sure you find out what programs they offer. If you like to stay active, see what fitness options are available, such as group classes or walking trails. Overall, make sure the community provides the amenities, environment, and experiences you’ll need to enjoy your retirement years to the fullest. To understand their commitment to wellness, ask the following question:

  • Is your community a member of The International Council of Active Aging? And if so, how did your community rank for wellness?

Next Step?

Start your retirement homework by touring your top choices. 

When you set up your appointment with one of our Moorings Park’s Retirement Counselors they will explain the finances, the waiting list, and tour you throughout the community and residences of your choice.

With a 40+ year tradition of excellence that is complimented by A or A+ ratings by Fitch and S&P Global Ratings, Moorings Park Communities enables you to live a longer, healthier, happier life while at the same time ensuring that your future health concerns are taken care of on any one of our three campuses. To find out more on Moorings Park Communities, click here for our complimentary information kit or contact us today.

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