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Checklist for Finding the Right Retirement Community

An expert weighs in with the top 3 considerations

By Emily Wilson and LeadingAge

(This article appeared previously on LeadingAge.)

“Deciding where to live in retirement is one of the most important decisions that seniors will ever make for themselves and their loved ones,” says Michael Smith, corporate director of public relations at ACTS Retirement-Life Communities. 

First Things First

With so many choices and things to consider, Smith recommends focusing on these three criteria first: 


1. Proximity to family members and friends

2. Services and amenities

  • Consider present and future health needs. Not all communities provide medical care. CCRCs (continuing care retirement communities) offer a continuum of care.
  • Consider your current and future financial situation.
  • Ask who owns and manages the community.
  • Look into the community's track record. Visit to find a list of accredited communities by state.
  • Review the financial record of the community.
  • Get detailed information about fees and find out what fees do and do not cover.
  • Meet with residents and tour the community.
  • Review pricing as it relates to the amenities offered.
  • Ask about recreational and social activities. Is transportation available for them?
  • Consider the location, including proximity to family and friends, access to health services and community resources. 
  • Ask if there is a waiting list. If so, how long is the list and how does it work?
  • Talk to residents. Ask if they enjoy living there and why. 
  • Sample a meal in the dining room. 
  • Ask about amenities and social activities. Do they meet your interests? 
  • Visit the fitness center, check out the equipment and ask about classes. 
  • Ask about access to medical care. Is there a wellness center? Is there a doctor-in-residence or an affiliated hospital nearby? 
  • Notice how the campus is maintained. Is there security? Adequate parking? Are the grounds well kept? 

For More information

This list is a good starting point. But you should also write down your own list of criteria and questions to ask. For more information, listen to the full interview with Michael Smith here.

Here are additional resources from LeadingAge: 

Emily Wilson is communications associate for LeadingAge

Emily Wilson lives in San Francisco. She writes for a number of outlets including Smithsonian.comDaily Beast48 HillsHyperallergicLatino USAWomen’s Media CenterCalifornia Magazine, and San Francisco Classical Voice. For years she taught adults getting their high school diplomas at City College of San Francisco. Read More
By LeadingAge
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