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When looking for an Arizona retirement community that offers modern lifestyles and care practices, understanding a few key indicators can make the selection process a little bit easier. It culls the truly progressive from the so-so.

And if you are already living in a retirement community, rather than shopping for one? Where it falls within these indicators can be telling.

Arizona’s retirement transformation

If you were to come up with two or three words to describe retirement communities in the year 2000, “sterile facility“ or “depressing cafeteria food” could have been what most people said. Perhaps even “waiting for time to pass” or “out to pasture.”  

Today it’s a different story… Arizona’s retirement communities are expanding amenities and services like never before. Leading retirement destinations like Sun City Grand, Surprise, Litchfield Park, Sun City and Sun City West are some of Arizona’s best places to retire because they’ve reinvented retirement, now drastically different from their previous selves. Cities and the individual communities have modernized.

Retirement living has transformed into comfortable, livable environments that use space to reflect a deeper understanding of those living within their walls. They’re focused on lifestyles of health and wellness, vibrant social engagement and quality of care that ranks alongside the best in the country.

Especially when it comes to Life Care communities and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called life plan communities)! They’re all about living life to the fullest while being prepared for anything the future might bring. Independence first, then seamless care if it’s needed later on.

Recognizing top retirement communities from their less progressive competitors is important and they often stand out in these specific areas: dining, fitness, décor and memory care. It’s not limited to them, of course, but they’re an excellent place to begin.

Robust dining options

As we age and find it more difficult to go to the grocery store or make impromptu trips to our favorite restaurants, the quality of dining within a retirement community becomes more and more important. For some, it might eventually become where you eat every meal.

More progressive communities will offer an interesting menu that frequently changes, with creative and even multi-ethnic or gluten-free food choices. Larger retirement communities often offer multiple dining venues within one campus, ranging from casual to a more formal restaurant approach.

Look for chef-inspired menus packed with healthy, flavorful options you’d like to try. Who needs a bland, cafeteria style approach?

Top-of-the-line fitness amenities

Fitness amenities are a priority for most modern independent living retirement communities—especially Life Care communities, where a focus on wellness helps their residents remain independent. Health and wellbeing are essential to their core philosophy of healthy aging.

To learn more, you might like this article: Independent living: does it really matter where I live?

The most progressive communities offer upgraded amenities, such as indoor walking tracks, indoor swimming pools and unique fitness programs. The on-campus gym will have current, easy-to-use equipment and are likely to have a fitness trainer who coaches residents and provides group workout classes.

Modernized décor

Attractive surroundings are important, too, and progressive retirement communities are likely to invest money in aesthetics when building or renovating. Modern color schemes, lobbies and community areas that showcase interior design expertise, and living spaces that leverage trendy materials and upgrades are positive signs of a forward-thinking community.

Reassuringly, that same attention to detail showcased in the décor is likely to be mirrored in the quality of services they provide. They’re outward signs of the community’s financial success and stability.

Current memory care practices

The levels of care and related techniques followed by a retirement community are often a solid indicator of how progressive it might be. Using words like “evidence-based” and “continuity of care” can indicate familiarity with the newest care tactics proven to be effective.

Use of current best practices show attention to the senior care industry, and a dedication to performance.

Communities with a memory care component can be a great opportunity to see those techniques firsthand when walking the site, since simple visual cues speak volumes. Is there an effort to help easily confused residents feel at home, such as “front porches” and entry doors to each residence that can be easily distinguished from each other, even familiar to a home they might have left behind? Does it reflect the use of modern techniques like music and art therapy, perhaps through art on the wall, a craft area or a music room? Is there a unique community feel that encourages socializing, even though it’s a micro-community insulated from the larger campus? Is there a memory garden where residents can get their fingers dirty, grow herbs or vegetables and connect with the past?

The quality of care and use of obviously newer techniques are symptomatic of what’s offered throughout the community in many ways, but innovation can be easier to spot in the memory care area than a more general care center. For example, it’s easier to recognize front porch areas than a current x-ray machine or highly skilled nurse.

Still not sure as you tour a community? Ask questions… lots of questions. While it’s perhaps easier to only look at the lifestyle and fun activities, you can also get a strong sense of just how progressive a retirement community is by its care services, equipment and staff.

Sun Health Senior Living offers three impressive independent living communities in the West Valley: Grandview Terrace in Sun City West, La Loma Village in Litchfield Park and The Colonnade in Sun City Grand (Surprise). Contact Jackie Lusson, our corporate director of sales, at 623-236-3767 to learn more or schedule a tour.

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