What to Look for in a Retirement Community

How do you identify your ideal retirement community, the one that will best support your quality of life well into your golden years?

Whether you’re looking for a retirement community here in Charlottesville, or somewhere further afield, here are eight key features to help you pick out your top prospect for happy and healthy senior living.

1. Thoughtful Design

The community’s design should be thoughtful at all levels, fostering beauty, safety, and connection.

Look for light-filled and spacious apartments, with all the little touches which support confidence and safety, such as safety cords, shower bars, and handicapped accessible bathrooms.

The building’s layout should offer each resident both privacy and easy access to the community. Pay attention to the relation between apartments and common spaces and look for a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for interaction and relaxation. It should be easy and natural for residents to gather outside for a barbecue, meet for a game of bridge or a movie, or otherwise take part in the life of the community.

For higher levels of care, such as those provided to residents with memory loss and cognitive challenges, you should seek out design elements which support comfort and dignity, in addition to higher levels of security. (For a more in-depth example, read about the intentional design of our Memory Care residences.)

2. Location with the Best of Both Worlds

We’re lucky at Branchlands. With plenty of trees and no through-traffic, our residents enjoy peace and safety. The tree-lined paths invite morning strolls, and the gardens and courtyards provide many spaces for enjoying the natural world.

At the same time, we have easy access to route 29 and all the enticements of Charlottesville. Downtown is only four miles away, and plentiful options for shopping begin only half a mile from our doors.

It won’t surprise you to hear that we recommend a location that offers both peace and connection. A community right beside a big road will give you access but also a busy and noisy surrounding where you won’t feel safe venturing outdoors (or will have nowhere to go if you do.) Meanwhile, one far from town will provide seclusion and natural beauty at the expense of isolation.

Don’t settle for one or the other. Just as your residence should allow you both private comfort and easy access to community interactions, your neighborhood should offer the best of both worlds.

3. Chauffeured Transportation

To take advantage of a good location, free and flexible local transportation is a must. As much work as we put into making Branchlands a comfortable and engaging environment, we know that our residents are best served by having ready access to the world at large.

We arrange regular group outings, and we offer chauffeured transportation for any local trip: whether meeting a friend for lunch, attending a class at The Center, or simply going shopping.

Look for a retirement community that does the same. And if you’ll continue to use your own vehicle, check that there’s also accessible parking available to you.

4. A Continuum of Care

As you age in your new community, your healthcare needs might change. If they do, would you want to start a new search for a home? Or would you prefer to move to a higher level of care within the same community?

At Branchlands, for instance, we have three levels of senior living. The Manor House Independent Living at Branchlands occupies one building. Right next door is Linden House Assisted Living & Memory Care. While a move from Independent to Assisted Living would entail a move into the building next door, the neighborhood, the high quality of compassionate service, and the shared community events all stay the same. A continuum of care offers continuity of life and community.

5. No Downpayment

Senior living involves a big financial decision. It shouldn’t involve financial uncertainty and stress. Find a community that is transparent about costs and that uses a simple monthly rent payment which includes all the core services and amenities.

Unfortunately, some retirement communities ask for a large up-front payment. They might promise it will save you money in the long-run, or that it gives you “priority access” if your care needs change to a spot further along their continuum of care. However, the fact is that they’re asking for a large sum of money, which you often cannot get back, irrespective of how long you end up staying in the community.

6. Full-Service Care

At Linden House Assisted Living, we provide or coordinate personal and health care services, 24-hour supervision, and assistance to residents. As needed, compassionate caregivers assist with activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing. On-site physical, occupational and speech therapists create individualized plans for each resident, to restore, maximize, and maintain the highest level of independence.

Healthcare and daily assistance are an essential foundation, but there’s much more required for a high-quality life. You should also expect services that empower you to make the most of each day.

For instance, with housekeeping, transportation, and meals included in the rent, both Independent Living and Assisted Living residents have plenty of time to engage with one another, enjoy our on-site amenities, and partake in the diverse menu of events, programs, and activities arranged by Branchlands’ full-time activities coordinators.

7. Varied & Meaningful Activities

One of the best things about senior living is the chances it gives you to be active. You have daily opportunities to spark new interests, pursue old passions, or simply spend pleasant time in the company of others.

All great retirement communities will be focused on delivering an array of options. Any given week at Branchlands will include:

  • Fitness classes
  • Arts and crafts activities
  • Movie and game nights
  • Happy hours
  • Outings (such as to a concert, play, restaurant, winery, or museum)

In a memory care community, the focus should be on finding what gives residents pleasure without overwhelming or frustrating them, and may include sensory stimulation, simple baking, or working in the garden.

Ask any prospective retirement community for their activities calendars. When you tour, check out the activities spaces, and see if you can peek into the room of any currently scheduled activities.

8. Visitor & Pet Friendly

Senior living lets you connect to new opportunities and new relationships. The last thing it should do is impede old ones. The right community will make it easy and appealing for friends and family to come spend time with you.

At Branchlands, we encourage all ways of staying connected. As well as private visits in the comfort of your rooms, loved ones can join you for activities and meals. They are also encouraged to attend community events—which we put on, in part, to provide wonderful occasions for friends and family to come enjoy in the company of residents.

If you count a pet among your family members, look for a retirement community where you can keep your cherished furry companion with you. As we see it, pets bring harmony and joy, and so not only do we make them welcome, but in Assisted Living we offer optional pet care services for those residents who may not be able to attend to their pet’s every need.

At Branchlands Senior Living, we work hard to provide high-quality, full-service care in an atmosphere of warmth and congeniality. We’re dedicated to aligning all the features of the Branchlands’ experience with the highest possible quality of life.

Our final piece of advice is to talk to current residents at your prospective retirement home. Schedule a tour, and take the opportunity to ask residents about their lives and how they feel about their community.