Tips on How to Start Your Senior Living Search

Your search for senior living answers starts right here with these 12 tips. For yourself or a loved one … whether you’re simply curious, you’ve got a situation or a need, or you just feel like it’s time to make a plan, these tips will get you headed in the right direction. 

Where It Begins: The Search for Senior Living

Start your search with these top 12 tips:

Know What You Need. Make an objective list of services and support needed – both current and anticipated. Maintaining independence, getting help with bathing and dressing, managing medication, maximizing safety – knowing upfront what’s needed can help define budget and choice.

Establish a Budget. How much can be spent on senior living each month? Many of your current homeowner expenses will be included in monthly fees – meals, utilities and taxes, for example. And as you’re planning, be mindful of other financial resources that can help, such as long-term care insurance, or the Aid & Attendance benefit for veterans and their surviving spouses. Don’t overlook any resources that can help you and your family.

Determine a Location. The real estate mantra – location, location, location – applies. Is it meaningful to stay close to the current neighborhood? Is being close to a major medical center important? Or is a move in order to reposition seniors for the sake of adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? Which location is “it”?

List Desires. What are the “must-have” services and amenities? Your list should include whatever is non-negotiable in making this move – a community that accepts pets or offers a comprehensive wellness program, for example. You should also create a “wish list” of everything hoped for, such as an on-site guest suite for visiting family members, a fitness center with pool or an in-house branch of a favorite bank.

Visit Websites. Search online for senior living communities in the desired location. The community’s website should describe services and amenities, the continuum of care available, and life enrichment programs. Some communities also provide general information about successful aging, caregiver support and senior living. Make a list of the communities you’d like to know more about – or visit.

Read Online Reviews. Find a community you’d like to know more about? Check, and even Angie’s List for reviews that can tell you what current and previous residents and families have to say about the community you’re interested in.

Don’t Forget About Facebook. Look up the Facebook page for each community that interests you. Read the comments. Look at the photos. See what you can learn about lifestyle, residents, activities, programs – even the quality of dining.

Ask Around. Anyone who’s been through the process – whether it was for themselves or on behalf of a loved one – can usually offer helpful insights. Similarly, you can often find good information and advice from a trusted family physician or clergy member. Ask friends, family, colleagues – and you may discover ideas you haven’t thought about … and information you need to know.

Make Preliminary Contact. Shorten a long list of potential communities by phoning or emailing. Prepare a list of questions, based on the identified needs, desires and budget. Preliminary contact can trim your list, while also making it clear which communities will be important to visit in person.

Go Visit. An in-person visit pays huge dividends when it comes to making an informed decision. Here’s what to watch for: How do residents and staff interact? What’s the mood of the community? Are residents actively engaged, sitting quietly or out of sight? Do you see safety features such as handrails, grab bars and emergency call systems? Is it clean? Is the decorating up to date? Does it feel like a place you could call home? Are you greeted promptly and with friendliness? Ask questions and take notes – and consider bringing along a friend or relative so you can join forces to observe everything.

Review and Revisit. After completing the initial round of community visits, review your notes and observations. Narrow your list a little more by identifying which communities are good options and which you’d like to eliminate. Schedule a new round of visits to your shortened list of communities, making sure you return to each community at a different time than your last visit – even consider visiting evenings and weekends. It’s helpful to see the community during the times when senior management isn’t on site.

Consult an Attorney. Seek professional advice. Don’t go it alone … mistakes here can be very expensive, both financially and emotionally. Retirement community contracts can be long and complicated. So make sure you understand the ins and outs of everything before you sign anything.

You can do this. Take your time and you’ll soon find what once felt overwhelming has become a decision-making process about which you feel empowered.  But you have to make the first move – learn more today at or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more, visit or connect on Facebook and Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Tips on How to Start Your Senior Living Search

  1. Thanks for your tip to choose assisted living communities that have good online reviews. I also like how you said that they should have visiting hours too. My husband and I want to find a good community for my grandmother to live in.

  2. I liked what you said about going on another round of visits after eliminating a few based on your notes. I have been trying to find a good place for my grandma to stay, but haven’t really found any success. I think that this process would definitely be more efficient.

  3. A friend of mine told me that they might have to take their grandparents to a senior living center because they don’t want them to be left alone in their house when they are at school or work. They think that it is also best for them because their medical needs will be given to them properly. To help them find the best facility, I like that you mentioned that they can start visiting centers and take notes about the things that they have observed in the place. It’s also great that you suggested bringing a friend to have someone to help them evaluate their facility and their services. Thanks!

  4. There are a lot of factors that you can start looking at when choosing the assisted living community that you want to live in. Fortunately, the article goes over several of these different factors and even lists which ones might be more important. For example, you will definitely want to have a list of your desires that you can look at when choosing the facility so that you know you’ll actually enjoy living there.

  5. My grandma is getting older and she is having difficulty living on her own and taking care of her house, so I am trying to find a great assisted living center where she could move. My favorite part of this article is when you say to consider the location of the center because I want to make sure that my grandma is close to her children and grandchildren so that it will be convenient for us to visit often. Also, it would be great to find a facility that has many different activities and amenities so that my grandma can stay active and social.

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