Social Services: Is a retirement community on the map of your future?

Source: NYSUT Social Services

This column examines ways in which New York State United Teachers' Social Services Department helps union members with decisions about counseling, elder care and other social issues — including tapping into networks of services in communities around New York state.

The advantages of a retirement community can be countless — expanded social, recreational and cultural opportunities as well as substantially reduced expenses.

Nonetheless, selecting the community that best fits your needs and predilections is a pivotal and sometimes irreversible life decision. Fortunately, you can avoid the common pitfalls by doing your homework.

Begin by clarifying your own values and priorities. For starters:

  • Is remaining in your current community your first priority?
  • Are you drawn to a new lifestyle, different location or change of climate?
  • Do you prefer privacy or an active social life?
  • What are your main interests and activities?
  • Do you enjoy city, suburban or rural living?
  • Is proximity to your children important?

Ask the crucial questions and develop a checklist of priorities. Use it rigorously along with financial worksheets to compare different communities.

Consider which style of housing will meet your immediate and long-term needs. Conventional options include spacious homes or condominiums and apartments with amenities like housekeeping, maintenance, planned activities and, sometimes, meals.

Alternatives like shared housing, an in-law unit, modular home communities or co-housing might pique your interest. If health is a concern, some communities offer a continuum of care, including private cottages for the independent, assisted living and skilled nursing services.

By moving to a nearby community, you can right-size your lifestyle while maintaining friendships and access to familiar places and services. An out-of-state move provides new horizons, but requires planning. As such, it is prudent to visit the prospective area for several weeks or months, particularly when the climate is at its worst.

Investigate the regional culture, transportation, safety and medical care. If you are moving to be near your children, be realistic about their availability and determine if the area has other activities to sustain your interest.

Scrutinize costs. Compare the community fees to your present housing costs item by item. If you are moving out of state to reduce your taxes or cost-of-living, look carefully for hidden costs. Are pensions taxed? Will your health insurance transfer? Explore other costs like additional insurances, health care, and day-to-day living.

A wealth of information on retirement living — in and out of state — is available from the staff at NYSUT Social Services. We would be happy to connect you with a spectrum of resources that will help you make the best possible decision.