You Are Unique and So Are Your Needs!

Your unique needs will determine which are the best retirement communities for you. I will attempt to list every amenity available. You decide which ones are important.

I'll start with the biggest decision, then move on to important, but lesser choices. Of course, location is the first on the list. See Best Cities and Best States for information regarding finding the best location for you.

Crime statistics suggest that, if you can afford it, a gated community with 24 hour security is best. A guard at the gate to greet you and to verify the need for others to enter is important. A "panic button" in your unit is ideal. You can use it anytime you think you need help.

Food and Dining!

Everything is important when selecting a retirement community. So, it was a challenge to select what to list first. But, since we all need to eat I've given this some priority.

In many retirement communities you do your own food preparation. A restaurant on the premises, for your convenience, is a plus. It also makes it easier to entertain guests if you can take them out to lunch or dinner.

In other communities, all food is prepared for you by professional chefs - three healthy delicious meals every day. Meals for guests are often available at a nominal cost.

Independent Living, Assisted Living & Staying Health!

At any age, staying healthy should be a primary concern. The emphasis should be on retaining a healthy lifestyle through mental and physical activities that are both challenging and enjoyable. Preventive health care is important.

I would not consider a retirement community without a fitness center. You may only need a workout center with a universal gym, free weights and a "lap pool". However, a facility with certified trainers to lead group exercise or aerobic classes would be preferable.

A heated pool, steam and sauna rooms, and a hot tub may be indispensable for some residents. Be sure to check the locker/dressing room and the presence of private showers during a "walk through".

The best retirement communities will have lectures and seminars motivating retirees to stay active. Emphasis will be placed on the many health advantages of walking, swimming, yoga, etc.

For most retirees there will be the inevitable transition from independent living to assisted living and beyond. The best retirement communities will help with that evolution.

Also, transportation to convenient and accessible health care services could be important. A bus with a wheelchair lift may be important now or in the future. Remember to ask about transportation costs.

Activities, Activities and more Activities!

This is the big attraction to the best retirement communities. The best way to get a feel for the activities available for the residents is to view the newsletters. Every community has a newsletter listing each day's events. View several months of activities as they may change from time to time.

The larger communities, generally have more activities. Many retirees live at golf and tennis resorts. "Resort" may be a bit of a stretch, but that is the way they are portrayed.

Some communities have educational as well as recreational events such as: lectures, live music performances, tournaments, mixers, game nights, card games, "Singles Socials", "Coffee Socials", bingo, dance classes, bible study, etc. The list is extensive. (See their newsletter.)

Party rooms are usually available for gatherings of family or friends. These rooms are also used for meetings and card games.

Of course, retirement communities will have shuffleboard courts and a game room. Many have a library and a movie theater. Some have a chapel, an arts & crafts room and even gardening.

"Downsizing" (Purchase or Rent?)

Housekeeping services may be provided or are available ala carte. Weekly housecleaning and laundry services are typical. Some communities offer a semi-annual thorough house cleaning.

Your unit or apartment or condominium will typically not be as spacious as your previous home. That's because you are "downsizing". Several floor plans will be available. Ask about smoke detectors and a sprinkler system. Remember, health and safety first.

When selecting your unit you may have the option of a full kitchen, fireplace, garage (with room for a golf cart) and a washer and dryer. One and two bedroom units are common.

Common areas, such as lawns, shrubs, flower gardens and roads are serviced by management.


Anyone who has lived in a retirement community for awhile will have some concerns or complaints. Ask a resident, "If you could change one thing about this community, what would it be?" Ask five people and you will probably get five different answers.

Besides the included utilities (water, sewer & trash removal), the best retirement communities are likely to include cable TV, free WiFi, an ATM, a business center, and accommodations for guests. They may even be pet friendly and have a "pet park".

Communities that provide concierge service and valet parking at the clubhouse are not going to be affordable for most retirees. But, cart service from your condominium to the clubhouse could be a valuable service.

Note: One of the retirement communities that I researched had "Respite Care", i.e., short-term assisted living so caregivers could have time for a vacation or just a few days of freedom.

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