By Betty Berry, Tuesday, June 15, 2010  Q: I’ve been widowed for almost two years and am considering a move. My home and yard are more than I want to continue to take care of. However, I am active and independent. I don’t need to be taken care of but at times am very lonely. I’m considering what they call retirement living. Can you provide any guidance about this?

A: I’d be delighted to tell you what I know about retirement living. It is one of the numerous alternatives the retirement housing industry offers seniors. You’ll find this type of accommodation referred to as a retirement community, a retirement facility, or independent or congregate living. These accommodations are designed for independent senior adults and provide apartmentlike living with 24-hour on-site staff available should a problem occur. Services usually include meals, housekeeping, laundry, social activities (entertaining and educational) and transportation.

Plan visits to all the retirement facilities available in your area so you can compare.

Some facilities offer the opportunity to stay for two or three days so you can experience what it’s like to live there. If you are offered such an opportunity, I encourage you to take it.

During a tour, ask about rules and regulations, such as whether residents are allowed to have a small pet in their apartment.

Find out about the cost and what is included in the monthly fee. Checking on meal service is very important. How many meals per day are included in the basic monthly fee? If you have special dietary needs, can they be met? If you are ill, is tray service available and at what cost? If you no longer drive, is transportation available, and if so, how much and how often? If you still drive, is parking available? Check on laundry facilities, and the availability of extra storage and on premises services as a barber or beauty shop. If you have out-of-town friends or relatives who might visit, does the facility offer guest accommodations? Look into the type and frequency of social activities. Do the events interest you? Are trips away from the facility offered?

Because you would be living in much smaller quarters, be sure to look at the public rooms available for your use and enjoyment. Is the dining room pleasant? At what times are meals served? Is there a small private dining room where you could host a family get-together? What kind of activities does the activities room accommodate, if one is available? Are evening as well as daytime activities planned? Is there an exercise room? If so, what type of equipment is provided? Do residents appear to use these rooms?

Ask a current resident to act as a guide for your tour. If possible, try to have a meal as part of your visit. Be aware of how friendly the staff members are to residents. They should treat the residents with respect and know the residents by name. Take time after your visit to consider whether the facility will allow you to live as easily and independently as you would like. Good luck on your search.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; call 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number).

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