By Army CW4 (Ret) Gordon Shults

I have lived in a continuing care retirement community since 2007 and offer the following items for consideration.  This checklist is general in nature and intended to provide a framework for your use in developing your own list incorporating your personal needs and desires.

Remember when visiting any retirement community, especially one with vacancies, the helpful person conducting your tour may be a professional sales person with the primary objective of closing the deal.  Also carefully evaluate resident recommendations from friends, acquaintances, or those you meet during your tour especially in group settings.  

Prior to visiting any retirement community you may want to request information from them, review their web site, Google local news media web sites to determine if there is any coverage of the community, etc.  I also recommend anyone considering CCRCs read Vera Wilson's timely article  Will your retirement community outlast you?, and the GAO's 2010 Report on CCRCs.

The Checklist

1. How accessible are things you visit on a regular basis, e.g. medical offices and facilities, military bases, recreational facilities, shopping facilities, entertainment facilities etc.?   

2. What type of neighborhood is the community located in, e.g. inner city, suburban, rural, etc., and what are the crime rates in the area?

3. What is the average age of new residents and existing residents?  NOTE:  Residents average age may have an impact on future turnover of residents.

4. Do you meet community admissions requirements?

5. What is the occupancy rate?

6. Who owns the community, and how is it managed?  NOTE: Results of this may provide some insight regarding the future of the community.

7. Have there been any recent changes in community ownership, board of director membership, and/or management?

8. Is the community for profit or nonprofit?

9. Is there a sponsoring organization and does it provide financial support for the community?  NOTE:  Sponsoring organizations may be involved in operating the community or provide oversight of those who operate the community.

10. Who serves on the board of directors and how are they selected?

11. Are their resident board members, who are they, and how were they selected?

12. Are their groups of residents involved in day to day operations and how are they involved?

13. Is the community accredited and who provides accreditation? 

14. Are their areas of the community that are state regulated, inspected, and/or monitored?

15. Who is responsible for the communities finance and accounting operations? 

16. Is there a long term strategic plan and what is the term of that plan?

17. Is there long term debt and is it planned to be repaid or refinanced?

18. Is the community operating within its annual budgets?

19. Does the community provide group and individual transportation services and what is their cost? 

20. Is public transportation available with easy access from the community?

21. What maintenance services, e.g. residential unit equipment maintenance, maid service, etc. are provided and is there any additional cost associated with these services?  NOTE:  Observe the condition of public spaces, residential units, grounds, etc., during your visit.

22. Are community services contracted out and who are the contractors?

23. Is the community upgrading residential units, healthcare facilities, etc., to a higher level?  NOTE:  This may create higher fees for all residents and involve increased activity by workers and contractors.

24. What is the hourly employee turnover rate?

25. What type of security and emergency services are provided?

26. What food service programs are provided, their costs, and any options available to residents?

27. What long term care is available, e.g. assisted living, skilled nursing care, dementia/Alzheimer's care, and what is its cost?

28. How old is the community and what renovation/updating has occurred, is occurring, and/or planned for the future?  NOTE:  Older communities may be facing major renovation and updating.

29. Does the community provide basic activities, e.g. fitness rooms, dedicated activities spaces, meeting spaces, outside trips to events/restaurants etc?

30. Does the community allow organization chapters to base themselves and meet in the community?

31. Does the community allow residents to be directly solicited for money?

32. Are religious services available in the community or nearby?

33. Does the community allow pets and are there any restrictions if pets are allowed?

34. Does the community have guest rooms, what is their cost, and how are they operated? 

35. Is there an arrangement with local motels/hotels for discounted rates for guests of residents?

36. Are marketing personnel informative, knowledgeable, helpful, etc?

37. Did you interact with other residents, employees, etc.?  NOTE: Carefully evaluate information obtained during conversations with friends who live in the community, residents you encounter, and from group meetings provided during your visit.

If you find a retirement community that appeals to you, request copies of financial statements, contracts, and any other information you wish to review or have professionally reviewed.  I recommend that you defer making any final decision regarding any retirement community until you evaluate this information. You may also want to visit and compare at least two communities before you decide.