John Lubbock, a 19th Century English politician, philanthropist, and polymath, wrote that “what we do see depends mainly on what we look for.”
Elaborating on the point, he explained that “in the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”
This concept is something to keep in mind when you schedule a tour of a Life Plan Community that you’re considering. After all, the things that are most important to us are naturally the things we look closest at. When making a decision as important as choosing a Life Plan Community, though, it’s necessary to look closely at all parts of the whole.
There are certain things you can only learn about a Life Plan Community by seeing them firsthand. To help you feel confident that you’ve checked for everything on your next Life Plan Community tour, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 things you should look for and ask about when you visit.
1. Are the grounds and buildings well-maintained?
Pictures and videos online are a wonderful way to get a feel for the physical layout of a Life Plan Community (also known as a continuing care retirement community). The problem is, you have no guarantee that the photos aren’t dated or that they truly reflect the community.
One of the first things to look for when touring a Life Plan Community is the exterior appearance. Is the landscaping well-maintained? Are the buildings and grounds kept in good repair, or can you see dirty windows or peeling paint?
If the grounds and buildings are not kept in good order, this can be a red flag about the quality of the senior living community.
2. Does the community meet safety standards?
Although it is standard for Life Plan Communities to be designed with senior health and safety in mind, it never hurts to check. You will rarely find anything amiss as Life Plan Communities are held to the highest possible quality standards, but look around and take note of the physical layout of interior spaces.
Are exits properly marked? Could someone using a wheelchair easily navigate common spaces? Are there loose rugs that could cause a fall? Are the entrances to the community secure? You should feel confident that your safety and health has been made a priority.
3. Would you use the community areas, amenities, and programs that you see?
Included in monthly service fees at Life Plan communities are a wide array of amenities and programs. Residents also have free reign of community spaces to make use of them as they please.
Different communities offer different things. As you tour, ask yourself how often you can picture yourself utilizing the different spaces and whether the programs you see scheduled during your visit are ones that you would be interested in. Ideally, you’ll find a community that’s the best match for your specific areas of interest.
4. How would your possessions fit in the residence you are touring?
Downsizing is an important part of making the move to a retirement living community. In all likelihood, you won’t be bringing all of your furniture to your new residence.
“It’s like clothing. If you haven’t used it in a few years, does it still have a use for you? Otherwise, you’re just holding on to something that someone else could put to good use,” Andre Walker of Walker Simmons Designs advises.
However, you should still be able to get a feel for whether the residence you’re viewing is a good fit for you and your favorite pieces. If you can’t visualize yourself in the space with the furniture and decor you wish to keep, or if it doesn’t spark new ideas for a fresh design, it may not be a good fit for you.
5. How do staff members interact with residents?
While you tour, watch how staff members interact with residents. Are they polite and courteous? Is there a genuine warmth in the interactions? Do they seem to treat them as individuals as opposed to faces in a crowd?
If you choose to live at the community, you’ll be interacting with staff each day when you take advantage of dining venues, enriching programs, and more. Staff members who are friendly and attentive make a world of difference.
6. How do residents interact with each other?
In the same vein, observe how residents interact with one another. Some communities may have a warm, friendly vibe with residents frequently stopping to chat with each other. Others may be a bit more formal, with residents who are more reserved.
Both can make for a wonderful community. It simply comes down to your personal tastes.
7. What is the dining experience like?
Pictures of delicious food on the community’s website only tell half the story. While you tour, pay special attention to the dining areas to see how residents are served and what options are available. Variety is key, so take a look at the menu to see if you’ll have plenty of mouth-watering options to choose from should you choose to live there.
8. What are the assisted living and skilled nursing areas like?
Life Plan Communities offer a continuum of care through independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation. Many seniors who move to a Life Plan Community enter into independent living residences as opposed to assisted living or skilled nursing apartments.
When you tour, the focus will be on independent living residences and services if that is your area of interest. You’ll likely be shown the assisted living and skilled nursing areas as well, but if not, it’s a good idea to request that those be included in the tour.
Should you ever need those levels of care, you’ll want to be in a modern, home-like space with quality care services in place.
9. Are social events and programs well-attended?
One of the benefits of living in a Life Plan Community is the access they offer to lifelong learning resources and increased social opportunities. When you tour, you may get to take a peek at a class, lecture, or social event that’s going on during your visit.
Is the event well-attended? If so, that’s a good sign that not only are the residents active and engaged but that the programs are popular and well-suited to residents’ interests.
10. What is the surrounding area like?
Location, location, location. When you go to visit a community, take the opportunity to explore the surrounding area, as well. Before or after your tour, you can get a feel for the greater area.
Schedule a Tour of a Chicago Area Life Plan Community
At each Presbyterian Homes Life Plan Community in the Chicago area, you’ll find upscale amenities, as well as close proximity to your favorite Chicago attractions like Northwestern University’s campus, golf courses and country clubs, places of worship, museums, shopping, dining, and more.
You can schedule a tour at any time and use this list of what to look for to make the most of your visit.