Skip to content
Caregiver giving a senior resident woman a haircut

Having “the conversation” with a parent or loved one about looking into senior living isn’t easy. Even when your parent or loved one isn’t opposed to the idea, it’s still a sensitive and emotional topic that most adult children and caregivers don’t want to have.

  • What if you approach it the wrong way? 
  • What if you say the wrong thing? 
  • What if you do the wrong thing?

The right and wrong things to do can be subjective, but if you are unsure about how to communicate with your loved one about senior living, you’re not alone. That’s why we put together this guide so you can prepare and make the conversation healthy, loving, and productive.

Download a PDF version of this guide by filling out this form, or keep scrolling to read.

Having the Conversation: Talking to a Parent About Senior Living Guide Thumbnail
Senior couple kissing and smiling

Recognize When It’s Time for a Conversation About Senior Living 

The only thing that all seniors have in common is their age group. Other than that, everyone really is a unique gem. That means that while some seniors may require significant levels of care, other seniors are still every bit as independent as they were 20 years ago.

Is it time to talk about independent senior living?

Even if you, your parent, or your loved one require no special care at all, independent senior living is still an ideal option for many.

Why would someone who doesn’t need assistance with daily activities move into an independent living community? Because independent living in senior living communities is just awesome! Picture it: 

  • No household maintenance
  • No yard to landscape
  • No housework (unless you want to)

On top of these perks, add in tons of fun new activities and opportunities to grow your circle of loved ones, and what you have is a life well lived. Independent seniors can shed the hassle of maintaining a household and just do whatever they want. Even if they want to still clean their own apartment or drive to their own errands, independent senior living is all about choice and truly embracing an active life.

Is it time to talk about assisted living or memory care?

When most people think of having “the conversation” with a parent or loved one, they’re thinking of assisted living and memory care. While seniors who choose independent living don’t need a high level of care, seniors who do require more care can benefit from assisted living and often memory care services.

Ideally, the conversation starts far before the need arises. In a perfect world, the conversation about senior living is an ongoing one, where adult children and their parents agree about what is going to happen when one parent dies or gets sick, or how they’ll choose to downsize once they reach a certain age.

The reality is, most people prepare for the conversation after they notice a sign that it’s time, including: 

  • Behavior that becomes withdrawn after a period of living alone
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • A fall or other incident where the loved one’s health is put in jeopardy
  • The parent or loved one starts letting grooming and hygiene go
Resident smiling and reading in a chair

Prepare for the Conversation

At this stage, you still have time to gather all the right people and information to prepare for the conversation. This includes bringing in advice and support from healthcare and senior care professionals, along with family and loved ones. The more support you have and the more prepared you are with information, the more productive the conversation can be.

The specifics

You’ll also want to have specific senior living communities and care levels in mind when you talk to your parent or loved one. There are different lifestyles for different levels of need, from independent living to assisted living and memory care services.

First, ask around about good senior living communities. Ask your loved one if they’ve visited friends in communities, and what they’re like. If you know anyone with a loved one living in a senior living community, ask general questions about what’s good and bad. Touring communities in person or virtually is the best way to really get to know what a senior living community offers

RELATED BLOG: What to Look for During an Assisted Living Community Tour

While you’ll want to make sure your parent or loved one gets the care they need and still gets to do things they love, you also want to make sure the place you choose shows all the signs of a great place for seniors to live, like:

  • Delicious food
  • Caring and qualified staff
  • Lots of great amenities and services
A resident couple smiling and playing darts

Start the Conversation About Senior Living

If you’re reading this and thinking, “You don’t know just how strong-willed my mom can be when she’s made up her mind,” we actually do. Getting older doesn’t make someone less sassy or strong-willed. This can make the conversation about senior living difficult if your loved one is refusing to listen to you at all. But don’t just give up—there are things you can do. 

If you haven’t started the conversation about senior living, and you think it’s going to be a sensitive one, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re understood.

Choose the right person to lead the conversation

First, ask yourself whether you’re the right one to start the conversation

Can things get a little emotionally charged between you and your loved one? If so, is there someone else who may be a better bet to start the conversation, such as another family member or even a close friend of your parent? Is there a sibling who always seems to be able to get through best to Mom, or a cousin your dad always relates well with? 

Different personalities may have different approaches to this discussion topic, but the message should be the same. Sometimes the messenger just needs to be a neutral party your loved one will listen to. 

If things have dissolved into unproductive arguing every time you’ve broached the topic with your loved one, think of the one person they’ll listen to, and ask them to lead the discussion. That means the immediate family may need to take a backseat during the conversation. Instead, consider reaching out to trusted people such as a family pastor or priest, your loved one’s physician, or long-term friends. 

Keep the conversation positive and as comfortable as possible.

Make sure your conversation doesn’t look like an intervention—keep it positive and comfortable. Take your loved one’s fears and anxieties into consideration, and validate their feelings.

When you have the conversation matters. A quiet afternoon on neutral territory works best—do not save this for cousin Emily’s wedding or Uncle Marvin’s retirement party. When strong emotions and family are involved, it can get complicated.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of a private conversation vs. a team effort. 

Although you should involve other family members and experts in the overall decision about whether senior living is desired or necessary, the conversation may need to be more private—and it definitely needs to be respectful. 

Your parent or loved one may express a readiness for senior living, but they still can’t seem to make the change. This is where a private, one-on-one conversation may be most appropriate. They want to make the decision, but they don’t want an audience. You know your loved one—if they are adamant about privacy, make the conversation private.

On the other hand, if you know a conversation will only be effective as a group effort, gather your troops and make a plan, including:

  • Deciding who is the best person to lead the conversation to make it most productive
  • Getting everyone to agree to not waver from the bottom line
  • Preparing reasonable answers for reasonable objections

No matter whether you choose a private or a group conversation, make sure you keep it as positive and as comfortable as possible.

Residents smiling and enjoying breakfast together

Know What to Say (and When to Listen)

So ... what exactly do you say to even start the conversation?

Firstly, don’t start off by saying, “We want you to move into a retirement home.” Today’s senior living communities don’t bear much resemblance to the old stereotype of a “retirement home.” Senior living now happens in living, breathing, vibrant communities where people thrive.

Break the ice and warm up the conversation. 

Start by asking questions that reflect your concerns, such as:

  • How’s it going taking care of the house?
  • How did your last visit with the doctor go? What did she have to say?
  • Making meals for yourself every day is a lot of work, isn’t it? 

If your parent or loved one has already expressed that they don’t want to talk about this topic, start off by recognizing that it’s hard to talk about by saying things such as: 

  • I know this isn’t something any of us like to talk about, but we really should. Your needs are the most important here—let’s discuss them.
  • I know this isn’t a fun conversation for you, but I need to make sure you’re happy and safe.
  • Can we talk about senior living again? I recently toured a community I think you’ll love.

If your parent or loved one previously talked about senior living but now has cold feet, warm up the conversation with the following:

  • You loved the idea of not having to worry about the yard and the gutters. Do you really want to go through another fall with all of the leaves?
  • I remember how much you wanted to downsize last year. We can be with you in finding the perfect senior living apartment to help things along.
  • You always told me that if it wasn’t safe for you to live by yourself, you’d consider senior living. Are you still thinking about that?

And then … listen. 

Listening is key. Let your parent or loved one know that you understand this is a hard decision. Deciding what to do for this next exciting stage of life is a big deal. 

Listen to their concerns, and actually hear them. Validate their fears and concerns—but let them know that the fears and concerns you and other family members have are also real, and that checking out a senior living community can’t hurt.

Listening is the best way you can truly understand where your loved one is with their decision about senior living, so you can go through this journey together. 

Resident couple smiling and gardening

Respond to Common Objections with Compassion, Understanding, and Reality

Your parent or loved one might not be receptive to hearing about senior living even if their need for assistance becomes undeniable. No matter what, they may have a lot of objections, so it’s good to have responses ready.

When someone is apprehensive or getting cold feet, it’s usually caused by fear of the unknown and anxiety that goes along with any major life change. Your parent or loved one’s objections are valid and real, and they should be listened to and met with understanding paired with a gentle reminder of reality.

For example:

Objection: I want to stay in my house.

Response: I can understand you wanting to stay here. There are so many memories, and you’ve always loved this house. But we know that it’s not safe for you to be here by yourself, and home care gets expensive and doesn’t give you the opportunity for more social activities. I think you’d really be happy in senior living. It would be an adjustment, but you’ll do great.

Objection: I can’t leave Fido.

Response: Of course you can’t leave your dog! We’d never even consider a place that doesn’t take pets. I’ve talked to our local Cedarhurst community, and they’ll welcome Fido to live with you, don’t worry! Fido is family!

Objection: I don’t want to miss out on family events.

Response: We’d never let that happen! At a senior community, not only can our family visit often, but we can also make sure you get to attend all the family events you want to. You’ll never have to miss a birthday party, even if we bring the party to you. 

Objection: I’m fine here. I’m still safe.

Response: You’re still tough and can still do so much, but you keep falling asleep on the chair because the stairs are too difficult. This house would be too much for me at my age. If you had an apartment where assistance is available, I think you’d worry less and sleep better. 

Caregiver painting with a woman resident

Get Your Parent or Loved One Excited About Senior Living

The interesting thing about the senior living conversation these days is that seniors often wind up going from “I don’t think so” to “Why didn’t I do this earlier?” 

Once your loved one agrees that senior living is probably a good idea, all they have to do is take a tour to see how much fun they could be having while feeling safer and more supported on a daily basis. They’ll get excited about having someone else to hand off home maintenance to, delicious food and plenty of company to share meals with, enriching activities galore, and all the necessary amenities. 

The best part is your loved one can rest assured knowing they’ll be safe and get the care they need while also living as independent a lifestyle as possible.

The approach to independent senior living is a little different.

We’re talking a lot about having the conversation with loved ones who need certain levels of assistance, like those provided in assisted living and memory care services. But independent senior living has its own major perks for active seniors who are showing no signs of slowing down.

When your super active parent or loved one no longer has to worry about household maintenance or chores, they get to focus 100 percent on what they love to do. That means hobbies, cultural events, family celebrations, hanging out with friends, traveling, and trying all kinds of new things. That’s the beauty of the independent senior living lifestyle: Seniors can make it what they want.

RELATED BLOG: Is Independent Living Right for You?

Given the perks, seniors may even plan ahead to move into independent living communities, right up until they get to the age where it’s time to make the change. Even with all of the perks and being able to still do everything you love, sometimes getting past the personal stigma of being “old enough” to qualify for senior living is a huge hurdle.

If you find yourself in a situation where your parent or loved one has decided to back out of their independent living plans, first take a moment to figure out why they got cold feet. If it’s just a matter of not feeling like they’re ready to change, have a candid conversation about what they fear most about the change. Remind them of why they decided on independent living in the first place, which is usually: 

  • More time to do things they love
  • Freedom from household maintenance
  • The practical benefits of downsizing or rightsizing

This, along with touring communities to see the apartments, perks, and amenities for themselves, can usually get a parent or loved one back on track with their independent senior living plans.

LifeStyle_800x800-1 1 (2)

Cedarhurst Can Make the Conversation Easier

If you really want to make the conversation as easy as possible, talk to Cedarhurst.

Our communities are dedicated to giving seniors a place to truly be themselves and make the most of this next stage of life.

Cedarhurst residents not only get top-of-the-line amenities and a bevy of enriching activities and services, but they also live in a space where unique people continue doing the unique things they love—like raising butterflies. We go the extra mile with our Pair to Prepare™ program that offers extra new resident support, and our Cedarhurst Promise™, which is a 60-day money-back guarantee. We really do understand and respect how our residents like to live.

Learn more about what Cedarhurst has to offer by chatting with us today, and see how we can help you get ready to have the conversation.

Questions about senior living? Contact us to learn more. >>

Download & share a PDF version of this guide by filling out this form:

Having the Conversation: Talking to a Parent About Senior Living Guide Thumbnail