Great Expectations: What To Look For In A Senior Living Community

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Great Expectations: What To Look For In A Senior Living Community

There’s a saying that life is not about the destination, it’s the journey. In senior living, it’s about both. To end up in the best destination — a community that fits your wants and needs, you need careful planning along the journey. In making the decision that it’s time for senior living, you’ve taken an important first step. Next stop, setting your expectations as you begin your search. Here’s what to look for in a senior living community.

 Types of Senior Living

Before we talk expectations, it’s important to identify the type of senior living community that would work best. Luckily there are plenty of options from which to choose depending on your specific needs.

Independent Living is ideal for active seniors who require little daily assistance as onsite medical care is not typically available. You will find a range of accommodations, housekeeping, laundry and transportation services along with amenities such as concierge services, a pool, fitness center and library.

Assisted Living provides housing; onsite care and support with daily activities such as bathing and dressing while helping residents maintain their independence. You can typically expect a comfortable, homelike setting without the worry of home upkeep, cooking and cleaning along with 24-hour supervision and daily social opportunities plus amenities.

Memory Care is designed to nurture and support those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with specifically trained staff and 24-hour supervision along with therapy, structured activities and programs with social opportunities. Amenities include easy to navigate layouts, housekeeping and laundry as well as emergency call systems.

Skilled Nursing offers 24-hour supervised care and assistance with daily activities, a licensed physician or nurse on site, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapists in a comfortable environment with exercise programs, social opportunities and activities. It’s ideal for those with chronic health conditions or incontinence, who require intravenous medications and/or who are recovering after a surgery or hospitalization.

While communities that stand alone as independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing are available, keep in mind that some communities offer a full continuum of care all on one campus.

Your Must Haves

Not only do you have options in terms of types of communities. There are also a range of services, features and amenities from which to choose. Making a list of what’s important to before you begin your search can help keep you from being overwhelmed.

This want list should include:

  • Non- negotiables for the family and your loved one
  • Location preferences
  • Lifestyle preferences
  • Wish list of nice-to-have features, amenities and/or services
  • Budget

5 Things To Look For In A Senior Living Community

Ready with your understanding of what you need and want, it’s time to tour. Be sure to keep these things in mind and compare them to your lists during your visit.Accommodations and Property

  • Are the living spaces private or semi-private, and what are the differences in cost for each?
  • Can you tour the different types of spaces available?
  • Can residents personalize their space?
  • How well-maintained is the property?
  • How do you feel about the appearance and comfort of the dining, common and outdoor areas?


  • Is there a dedicated chef and wait staff? What are the dining hours?
  • How appealing is the menu? Can you sample the food?
  • Do they accommodate special dietary restrictions or requests?
  • What programs (exercise, wellness, enrichment, social and other activities) are offered?
  • How often do residents leave the community for outside activities?
  • How often are housekeeping and laundry service provided?
  • Are there enough amenities available?
  • How often can friends and family visit? Are there common and private spaces to gather with them?
  • Is the community pet friendly?

Staff and Care

  • What level of daily assistance can residents expect?
  • What are the qualification requirements for the staff?
  • Are staff members offered additional and/or continuous training opportunities?
  • What is the staff-to-resident ratio both day and night?
  • How does the staff interact with residents?
  • What’s the best way for friends and family to receive updates on our loved one’s well-being? How quickly can we expect a response to questions?
  • Do they accommodate special needs, such as diabetic care and/or mobility issues?


  • How do they handle medical emergencies?
  • How is the community secured?


  • What are the monthly costs for housing and care, and what services are included in those costs?

Don’t forget, those who’ve had firsthand experience with these communities know them best. Try to talk with residents themselves while on tour. In addition, seek feedback from trusted advisors, friends and check review websites as well. It’s an often overlooked step that can give you deep insights.

For more information on choosing a senior living community, check out our Complete Guide to Senior Living Options!

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