Retirement community choices: Aged-care expert Phil Usher of Odyssey Lifestyle Communities tells us what to look out for when choosing to right-size into a new home.
We all want to love where we live, at the end of the day, it is the place we will call home. When you start looking into a retirement community, whether this is for yourself or a senior loved one, it’s important to understand there are many factors to consider.
Think about when you moved into your first home. There were many aspects you weighed up, thought about and sought advice for that brought you to the decision of whether to purchase or keep looking. Relocating into a retirement or aged care community is similar, but the questions and considerations are a little different.
Retirement Community – WHAT TO CONSIDER
It doesn’t matter how old you are, location is still an incredibly important aspect when moving from one place to another. Most people want to remain in an area that offers familiar surroundings, places and faces. And of course, being near popular shopping hubs is a major draw card! It’s a misconception to think retiring in the outer suburbs is cheaper. And while this can be a factor, if affordable, most people want to be in the thick of it. Living near family and friends is another aspect as we all want to see our kids and grandchildren as we age.
When looking at a retirement community, it’s important to see what kind of environment and social setting is offered. We all need real social interaction, especially as we age. Find out if the location has a varied calendar of events and outings to participate in or, if you or your parent are not social butterflies, check and see if there is a good library or areas to simply sit and enjoy watching the world while engrossed in a good book. Select a community that suits your needs and profile.
A great question to consider: can you stay at your chosen community for life or will you need to move again if you or your partner’s care needs change? This point needs special consideration, as many operators claim to have a true ageing in place model, where you can live life your way without moving again, but few actually deliver this.
Ask what level of care is available on-site and not coordinated via an outsourced group or person that sets it up. Also ask if there is real 24/7 care at the community that, if needed, can be ramped up until life’s end without having to move again.
4. KNOW THE COMMUNITY RULES
Even in your senior years, you’ve got to pay attention to the rules. Common rules to look out for are, can the grandchildren stay over? Can you entertain in your new home and utilise common areas? And, can friends join you for a meal? Can you bring your pets? Can you call the shots, always? All these things really add up to ensuring you retain your independence and that you can and should have the final say.
5. IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD
Food is such an important part of our day as we age, so it needs to be delicious and nutritious! Check to see whether the community has a chef (Odyssey has three!). And, check what their qualifications are. Peruse the menu and enquire how often it changes and whether it is à la carte. The days where you are expected to accept what you are given are over. Mealtimes are great for socialising, so the atmosphere needs to be ‘restaurant’ rather than ‘dining room.’
6. CHAT WITH STAFF
Conversing with the staff is the perfect way to find out what a place is really like. Ask questions about all the above points and be certain they are genuine answers and not just lip service. Be confident and inquire about the employees, their training and their requirements for working there. Look into whether the care staff are qualified or whether they work for the community or for a subcontracting entity. Ask about how the community is run and what services are on offer or at hand. These are all fair questions to ask, especially when it comes to nursing qualifications.
7. WHAT ABOUT SECURITY
It doesn’t need to be Fort Knox, but you want to know the place you live offers a secure community. Check to see whether there are physical security gates that close at night, 24/7 staff in case of an emergency or if care is required, CCTV to monitor common areas and whether the community offers technology aids to assist with your security. Technology is becoming commonplace, even in the aged care sector. There could be an Artificial Intelligence system designed to assist in monitoring all manner of things. Check the communication system, particularly given the pandemic, and make sure you have access to video calls and telehealth. You want to know that all these things are in place and there for you in order to feel safe and secure.
8. RETIREMENT COMMUNITY: SPEND TIME THERE
To get a real sense of the place, you need to experience it beforehand. Make some enquiries to see if you can come along for morning tea and chat with the residents. This way, you’ll get the scoop on what life is really like in the community firsthand. Take a stroll around the grounds and make sure they are in good condition, that way you know your community is well kept by people who care.
9. RETIREMENT COMMUNITY CULTURE
This is a really important point – the community needs to ‘feel’ right for you. Does it give you a sense of home and can you see yourself there? Listen to your heart and make sure you tick this box, because it will make all the difference. Chatting with staff and residents will help you with this point and you can also jump online and read reviews.
10. ASK ABOUT THE FINANCIAL OPTIONS
Another important aspect of retirement is understanding how the financials work. It’s best to compare apples with apples. Make sure you take into account what quality of life you want, as it has a value that should not be ignored. Make sure you compare what you want across all prospects and then determine what you are prepared to pay.
PHIL USHER – RETIREMENT COMMUNITY CARE EXPERT
Phil Usher has been part of the aged care sector for almost 20 years. He has a keen understanding of what seniors want when it comes to living out their twilight years on their own terms.
Phil’s Mum, who passed away from dementia-related complications, was the driving force behind why he’s created an alternative to traditional aged care. When considering aged care for her, Phil couldn’t find a place that offered her the kind of life she wanted. So he made improving aged care his odyssey. If it’s not good enough for the people Phil loves, it’s simply not good enough.
Phil’s determination to create the best alternative to aged-care led to a fresh, heart-centred approach known as a Lifestyle Care Community. At Odyssey the power is given back to residents. People are put first, they have their own home in a lifestyle-orientated community, couples stay together, pets are welcome, grandkids have sleepovers and most importantly – comfort, dignity and independence are the first priorities.
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Editor for Silver Magazine Gold Coast