Planning Ahead: When to Start Looking into a Senior Living Community

Retired residents of a senior living community are enjoying wine during a social event.

Senior living communities have come a long way from the clinical view of senior care in the 1950s. Modern senior living communities are comfortable, vibrant communities that focus on empowering residents to live life to the fullest while providing the exact amount of support and care needed. They’re designed to help each resident thrive and build a lifestyle of their choosing by offering amenities, socialization opportunities, wellness resources, fitness classes, and more. 


A variety of modern senior living options are available, which means that no matter what care needs your loved one has, you’re likely to find the ideal community for them. When you and your loved one have discussed their preferences, toured communities, and planned a senior living budget, you’ll be equipped to make a confident decision. 

Let’s dive into some information and tips to know when it’s time to start researching senior living communities for your loved one.

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What Is a Senior Living Community?

A senior living community is designed just for older adults. Residents enjoy perks with community living, like friendly neighbors and helpful staff members, as well as amenities that vary from community to community. Not all senior living communities are the same; each is as unique as the residents who live there.

Senior living communities offer a variety of care options that can include independent living, assisted living, or memory care. Some communities provide more than one of these levels of care, but not all of them. It’s important to understand the types of options available—and their associated costs—so you can choose a senior living community that meets your loved one’s needs now and in the future.


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Assisted Living

Providing around-the-clock caregivers who are ready to assist with daily tasks and lend a helping hand when needed, assisted living communities are best for older adults who could benefit from the reassurance that comes with always having support nearby. Residents in assisted living communities also often enjoy chef-styled meals served in a social dining room, events and trips that promote overall wellness throughout the day, and caregivers who are happy to help with tasks such as bathing, dressing, or incontinence management. 

Memory Care 

Memory care communities are designed for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These specialized communities are staffed with caregivers accustomed to serving residents with memory loss, and residents enjoy activities that mimic natural daily rhythms. If your loved one is receiving memory care services, you can sleep better knowing that professionals are looking out for their safety and best interests while they enjoy things they love. 

Independent Living

Ideal for older adults who are tired of maintaining a large home or who are looking for more social opportunities, independent living communities offer private apartments and communal amenities. These communities often provide chef-styled meals in ambient dining areas, planned events and trips throughout the week, and friendly neighbors who are always ready to catch up over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Residents also enjoy easy access to wellness resources, transportation services, and other perks. 


Is It Time to Start Looking

Senior living works best when residents can take advantage of all the services and amenities available. Residents thrive when given the opportunity to get to know their neighbors, participate in interesting clubs, attend fun events, and get to know their caregivers. 

In order for your loved one to enjoy all the advantages of a senior living community, it helps to begin the planning process before a crisis or emergency occurs. Decide ahead of time what your family will do if your senior loved one is involved in an accident. Become crystal clear about what your loved one needs in a community—including things like green space, entertainment, and staff support—and make decisions that take away stress from everyone. 

Here are a few signs that it could be time to begin looking for senior living solutions for your loved one.

1. Your loved one has fallen in the past few months.

A fall at home can be dangerous and scary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly one in four seniors fall each year, though this number is likely higher due to falls that go unreported to loved ones or physicians. Senior living can provide extra emergency support, as well as consistent check-ins, that keep your loved one from falling again.

2. Your loved one has a complex medication regimen.

Medication errors or mistakes are more common as we age because of a higher number of prescriptions and more complex instructions. If your loved one is frustrated or overwhelmed by their medication regimen, a senior living community can provide support via medication management services.

3. Your loved one lives with chronic pain.

Many older adults live with conditions that can lead to serious pain throughout the day and night. Not only do senior living community staff members help with medication management, but they can also help with physician communication and providing assistance with tasks that may cause pain.

4. Your loved one has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Dementia is a progressive disease that can make living at home alone dangerous and unhealthy. Specialized memory care communities can give you reassurance that your loved one is safe and healthy, no matter what challenges dementia brings.

5. Your loved one struggles with personal hygiene or other daily personal care tasks.

Caregivers provide residents with friendly and personalized assistance that preserves dignity and independence. Independent living communities typically do not offer around-the-clock caregivers, but you can find this type of assistance in assisted living or memory care.

Choosing a Senior Living Community

Deciding on a senior living community takes a lot of research to make sure it meets your loved one’s budget, needs, and preferences. When researching options, think about your loved one’s future needs as well—both in terms of finances and the type of care they may need. If possible, find a community where your loved one can age in place as their needs change over time.

The first thing you’ll want to research is the desired location and type of care your loved one needs (assisted living, memory care, or independent living). Make sure the community is in your loved one’s preferred neighborhood or in a convenient location for family to visit. Then, start setting up tours.

During your tours, make observations and ask plenty of questions to ensure that your loved one will thrive in the community. Don’t forget to involve your loved one throughout the research, tour, and decision-making process so they have a voice in deciding the next step in their life.

Feeling overwhelmed about the process of sifting through senior living options near you? Empower yourself with reliable information. Learn more from our experts by downloading our free guide, 5 Steps to Choosing the Right Senior Living Community.

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*Originally published February 2021. Updated June 2023.

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