QUESTION: I am retired, living alone and thinking about moving to some type of congregate living. I am looking for information on types of facilities and what accommodations are offered. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: You will find that these type of facilities are referred to as retirement facilities, retirement communities, independent living, congregate living and continuing-care residential communities.

No matter what the title, these accommodations are designed specifically for independent senior adults and provide apartment-like living with a 24/7 on-site staff. Services usually include meals, housekeeping, laundry, social activities and transportation.

You definitely should plan to visit all of the facilities in your area. It is the only way you can determine what services are included in each facility. Plan to tour the entire facility so you can compare what is offered. There always will be pros and cons and your selection should be made on the one facility that best meets your needs.

While touring a facility, ask many questions. Ask about the rules and regulations they have in place. Inquire about the cost and exactly what is covered with that cost. Checking meal services is very important. What time are meals served? How many meals are included in the basic monthly fee? If not three meals per day, how would the cost of additional meals, if needed, be covered? Can you have guests for meals? Can special diets be accommodated? Is tray service available in case of illness and at what cost?

If you still drive, what type of parking is available — a space, carport or garage? Is there an extra charge for a parking space? If you no longer drive, what, if any, transportation is available? How often, to where and covering what areas?

Are residents allowed to have small pets? If so, is there an extra charge? If you have out-of-town guests, does the facility offer guest accommodations? Check on laundry facilities, availability of extra storage and other services that may be available.

Look into the type and frequency of social activities. Are they the kind of events you would be interested in joining? Also, are trips away from the facility offered?

Since you will be living in much smaller quarters than you are accustomed to, make sure you look into the types of public rooms available for your use and enjoyment. Is the dining room pleasant? Is there an activities room? If so, what type of activities can it accommodate? Are activities planned for both daytime and evening hours?

Is there an exercise room? What type of exercise equipment is available? Can you use it on your own or must you be part of a group? Is there a staff member who oversees an exercise program?

Is there a small, private dining room where you could host a small get together for family or friends? Would it be required that the food service be provided through the facility or could you order in from an outside restaurant?

Ask to have a current resident act as your tour guide and, if possible, try to have a meal as part of your tour.

Take some time after your visit to consider whether that particular facility is designed to allow you to live as easily and independently as you would like. If you have more questions do not hesitate to ask them.

When you make a decision, make sure you read the contract completely. If there is something that you don’t like or don’t understand ask for an explanation. Have someone you trust review the contract before you sign it and never sign a contract that is not completely filled out.

Good luck on your search. I am sure there is a facility out there that will meet your desires.


Thursday, 1:30-3 p.m.:  “The Four Federal Programs You Should Understand” seminar by the Senior Advocate at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 381-2744.

Tuesday, 5:30-7 p.m.: “Consider the Conversation” at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 497-0189.

April 9, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Community garage sale at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. Buyers, mark your calendar now. Vendors, some spaces are still available. For information, call 381-2744.

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