Independent Living: When is the Best Time to Move In?

Nov 12, 2020

Sunset’s Life Plan A Continuum of Care

The question of when you or a loved one should move into an independent senior living facility doesn’t have a quick or easy answer. At the very least, it will depend on age, health, finances, and current living situation—although there are many other small details that may impact the timing of your transition.

The average age of senior living residents across the country is 84 with most residents moving in between the ages of 75 and 84. However, there are definite benefits to moving into an independent living home sooner rather than later. Here are some things we’ve learned at Sunset Senior Communities since welcoming our first residents in 1973.

1. Start Looking Before You Need To

Moving into a senior living community can take months or years of research and planning before the actual transition takes place. We strongly encourage anyone considering a senior living community to begin looking at options well before you need any extra help. Making a list of your top community choices, touring the campus and independent living homes, talking through financial details with an admissions counselor, and joining a waitlist are all preliminary steps you can take. Many senior communities are more than happy to answer questions and show you around without requiring a definite commitment from you. It’s better to begin looking now and avoid the possibility of having to move during unexpected health changes or in the midst of a crisis.

2. Consider Moving Sooner Rather Than Later

Moving in sooner can be a benefit especially if you’re considering a life plan community (or continuing care community). With the available levels of health care, residents do not have to leave the community or make another disruptive move if their needs change.

Moving into an independent living community sooner also gives you more time to enjoy your retirement years without worrying about home maintenance or yard work. You have plenty of time to settle into your new community and form connections with residents and staff. Most independent living communities will have more than enough amenities and activities to fill your social calendar.

Moving sooner could also have long-term financial benefits. After paying a one-time entrance fee, most independent living residents pay a simple, bundled monthly rate that includes all utilities and other costs usually associated with homeownership. Residents can consistently plan on one monthly expense while still having priority access to onsite amenities and health care options within their community.

3. Carefully Research Your Options

Before making any major decisions about senior living for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to carefully research your options. Each senior community offers different services, levels of care, and financial options. We strongly encourage you to reach out to the admissions office and ask lots of questions. Here are a few items to keep in mind as they may affect the communities you’re considering or the timing of your move:

Waiting Lists. Some communities have extensive waiting lists with potential residents waiting years for a particular style of home to become available. Communities under expansion may have many new homes available and potential residents need only wait until construction is complete before moving in.

Financial Specifics. Senior communities will have a variety of financial options. Most independent living homes are private pay and will even assist in selling your home before moving in.

Levels of Care. If the community you’re considering is a continuing care or “life plan” community, ask about the levels of care you’ll have access to. Some have different plans with different care options built into the monthly rate.

For-Profit versus Nonprofit. While there’s nothing about for-profits or nonprofits that makes one inherently better than the other, the financial structure of the organization can have an impact on the overall culture, on the staff, and the leadership teams. It’s worth considering as you conduct your other research.

Amenities and Services. Be sure to find out which amenities and services are included in the monthly rate. Most communities include utilities, maintenance, phone, cable, and internet. Other inclusions might be meal plans, parking, and onsite amenities like pools, shuffleboard courts, libraries, and more.

Benefits of Community Living

Moving into senior living “early” can sometimes make potential residents feel like they’re giving up their independence or quality of life. However, independent living residents have the freedom to come and go as they please and maintain their lifestyle without giving anything up—except maybe mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. Both residents and their families often comment on the richness of life at senior living communities and how they feel more at ease and free to pursue activities they enjoy.

As one of the largest Christian-based nonprofit organizations in West Michigan, Sunset Senior Communities provides trusted, high-quality senior care and living facilities. We welcome everyone into a family-like living environment and provide a full continuum of care and services that focus on residents’ total well-being. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d love to answer your questions and walk you through our services.