How to Assess the Quality of Retirement Communities You’re Considering

Now more than ever before, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips to help make decisions—from simple purchases to major life planning choices. Finding your “perfect fit” retirement community certainly falls into the latter category of decisions, and if you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably right in the thick of it.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Unfortunately, that’s a typical response to “information overload.” And there certainly is a lot of information to sort through to help you make the right retirement community choice!

Today’s article breaks down some of the essential resources you should look to when comparing the quality of retirement communities. Though, we also want to remind you that “hard numbers” on quality assessments and official ratings aren’t everything. In fact, this type of data often only covers the healthcare offerings at a given community—and modern retirement communities are so much more—including proximity to excellent golf courses, on-campus activities, and anything else you can imagine to help you keep up your active lifestyle!

Always Visit Communities in Person

You will need to rely a little bit on intuition and pay attention to how any given retirement community you’re considering makes you feel—either from the look of their website and marketing materials or when you’re visiting campus for a tour.

Remember helping your children or grandchildren choose a college? This process is not unlike that one. The easiest way to get to know different communities is to visit their campuses and facilities—and on multiple occasions—to truly explore retirement living “up close and in person.”

Look at Compliance Scores, Reports, and Ratings for Healthcare Services

One of the key reasons many adults begin considering retirement communities, either for themselves or for a senior loved one, is the healthcare resources they offer. While the term “nursing home” doesn’t really fit most modern retirement communities anymore, the government agencies that license and oversee the healthcare services available often use that terminology.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Facilities Licensing

As we covered in our previous blog post about long-term care planning in PA, several large agencies provide helpful information, as well as consumer advocacy and guidance when it comes to aspects of long-term care.

However, it is the PA Department of Health that actually licenses the facilities on retirement community campuses that provide 24-hour, long-term nursing care and short-term options for older adults following surgery or hospital stay. You can find monthly survey reporting on how well these healthcare organizations are doing on the Department’s dedicated website.

CMS Ratings

If a retirement community’s healthcare facility is Medicare-certified and not strictly private pay-only, as some are, you may want to look at their Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating. features an easy look-up feature that gives you everything you need to know about their five-star system to rate nursing care. You’ll also find information about any deficiencies or penalties.

For private pay communities that are not Medicare-certified, you won’t be able to use CMS. However, checking with the state licensing agency noted above and following the other ideas in this post will give you a lot of information.

Ask About Accreditation

Researching which—if any—accreditations a community has earned is always a good idea to help you assess quality. A CARF accreditation, which is granted by the independent, nonprofit Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)—is one you should be on the lookout for when exploring retirement communities.

Accreditation from CARF signals that a retirement community or other care facility is dedicated to providing the highest-quality care. Many of our ERL-affiliated communities are proud to be enhanced senior living communities with CARF accreditation.

Get Reviews From Current Residents

Accreditation, industry ratings, and government data have their place, but you also need to look at some other factors to determine if a given retirement community is right for you. One of those factors is resident satisfaction.

Many communities are excited about how happy their current residents are and will be happy to share survey data or testimonials with you—likely without you even having to ask! However, you may need to do a little legwork and connect with current residents yourself.

Have friends that already live in a community you’re considering? Invite them to have coffee and get their perspective on all the things they love—and maybe some they don’t—about living there.

Consider the Format of Particular Communities

Many of our Lancaster County retirement communities—and all of those affiliated with Explore Retirement Living—follow the Life Plan or CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) model. This means that various levels of healthcare will be available within the community if you need it.

Campus-based CCRC and Life Plan communities offer what’s known as a continuum of care, which allows you to access care without leaving the community. Additionally, some communities now have programs that provide care within the living accommodations you’re already in on campus. So, if you do require more in-depth care at some point as you age, you won’t need to make a physical move to another location—even on campus—like a personal care wing or memory care unit.

Ask Yourself: “Where Do I Want to Live in Retirement?”

Would you like to be closer to your family when you retire? This is often a significant decision point in the retirement community choice. And this is where we’ll tell you that Lancaster, PA, is a fantastic retirement destination for anyone with family in the northeast or the mid-Atlantic United States!

Not only does our area consistently rank in the top five retirement destinations in America (U.S. News), but we’re physically located close to some of the biggest metropolitan areas, like Philadelphia, NYC, and Washington DC. Whether you prefer planes, trains, or automobiles to get where you’re going, Lancaster’s location makes it easy.

Ready to Explore Retirement Living in One of America’s Best Destinations?

If you’re considering retirement in Lancaster County, we invite you to contact us here at Explore Retirement Living. Our goal is to help take the stress out of choosing the right retirement community—and maybe even make it fun!

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