When you think of senior living, what springs to mind? Many people hold outdated ideas of senior living, a stereotype likely influenced by memories of visiting our own grandparents years ago and unrealistic scenes in movies and television.
Modern senior living communities are almost nothing like they were just a few decades ago. Today’s senior living options are much less like a sterile hospital and much more like a friendly apartment complex, complete with on-site amenities and innovative approaches to overall wellness. In fact, senior living culture is all about community. It’s no wonder older adults are enthusiastically including senior living communities in their retirement plans—they provide plenty of convenience and require less household maintenance.
If you’re helping a loved one find a senior living community, then you know that today’s older adults have numerous options when it comes to senior living. Although a variety of choices can feel empowering, too many can also be overwhelming or even confusing. How can you help your senior loved one decide which community is best for them?
Best Senior Living Questions to Ask During a Community Tour
Fortunately, you can help your loved one find a senior living community where they can flourish, provided you know the right questions to ask. Consider the following insightful senior living questions to narrow down options as you begin your research and schedule community tours.
1. Where are you located?
Let’s start with a basic question—one that covers more than just an address, neighborhood, or city. Just like any real estate purchase, the location of your loved one’s senior living community matters. You want to pick a community located in a desirable town or neighborhood, one that can support a good quality of life and maximize family visits.
Look for an area that suits your senior loved one’s needs in addition to yours. For example, you might choose communities in a favorite city or neighborhood that your loved one has ties to, or you might opt for one that will make quick visits easier with your commute. Although you won’t always find a community in the exact location you desire, you can narrow down your choices based on how close the location matches the needs of your loved one and family.
2. What senior living lifestyle options do you offer?
Once you’ve narrowed down locations, find out whether the community can provide the assistance your loved one needs, both now and in the future. Not all senior living communities are designed to serve every senior’s specific needs, and that’s okay.
Communities offer different levels and types of care solutions so they can best serve their residents. Many senior living communities offer more than one lifestyle option at a single location, providing continuity of care and enabling your loved one to age in place as their needs change over the years.
Independent living is tailored to serve active seniors who are ready to let go of home maintenance chores and discover more time to pursue their passions or hobbies. These communities usually have team members available around the clock for security or emergency purposes, but they do not have on-staff caregivers who provide daily assistance with personal care tasks.
Assisted living offers maintenance-free amenities and services like independent living communities do, but with the added assistance and reassurance that around-the-clock caregivers offer. Residents who thrive in assisted living often need some type of assistance with one or more activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, or showering.
Memory care is specifically designed for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Innovative environmental touches and specially trained team members meet the ongoing daily challenges that accompany memory-related conditions.
Not sure which option is best for your loved one? Consult their physician with senior living questions. Your loved one’s doctor will have a unique insight into their current and future care needs and may be able to offer a solid recommendation. In addition, senior living community staff can also provide information and advice on the appropriate care level for your loved one, depending on their needs.
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3. What are the monthly and additional costs?
Next, review how senior living fits into your loved one’s budget. Senior living communities may be more affordable than you expect, especially when compared to the cost of caring for your loved one at home. This is a pleasant surprise to many family members, but you must still ensure a community’s fees work for your loved one’s financial situation.
Begin by asking the senior living community’s representative about monthly fees and precisely what those fees cover, as well as any additional costs that could arise if your loved one’s care needs increase. Explore other options to offset costs by inquiring if the community accepts long-term care insurance, VA benefits, and Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
4. What does your activity calendar look like?
Investing in senior living means your loved one can enjoy the amenities and activities that come along with the community, including socialization opportunities. Research shows that seniors who feel lonely or are isolated from peers are more likely to suffer negative health outcomes. Some of the biggest perks of senior living are easy access to friendly neighbors in the same age group and regular interactions with team members.
Exceptional senior living communities encourage interpersonal growth by curating an activity calendar that appeals to various interests. To determine if the senior living community features interesting events and programs, ask for a copy of the activity calendar. Take note of any social or learning opportunities your loved one may be interested in.
Keep an eye out for activities that enhance different dimensions of wellness and are the hallmarks of a well-designed activity calendar, such as:
- Exercise groups or sports teams
- Spiritual or religious activities
- Excursions into the community
- Volunteer opportunities
- Trivia and team-building games
- Live concerts or shows
- Fun social events and gatherings
5. What can you tell me about the meals you offer?
For many older adults, preparing meals for themselves three or more times per day is overwhelming. When it starts to feel like a real chore, the quality of nutrition they eat can decline. Senior living communities offer a variety of dining options and plans to provide residents with healthy, nutritious meals.
Although some people still harbor the stereotype that senior living food mirrors “hospital food,” in most cases, the culinary teams employed by senior living communities take pride in preparing delicious meals for residents. Get to know more about the dining program by asking to see a copy of the community’s weekly menu and looking for delicious and varied options. Menus should be seasonal and offer a mix of comforting favorites and new dishes to try.
During your tour of the dining room, ask about the kitchen team and their commitment to serving residents. The dining room should feel comfortable, welcoming, and social. The dining team should be friendly and committed to excellent service for everyone, no matter their care or nutritional needs. If your loved one requires a specialized menu or dining adaptations, inquire if those can be easily met in the community.
6. What kind of training do caregivers receive?
When seeking out the right senior living community, pay attention to the team members who work there. After all, these team members are the ones who will be getting to know your loved one and caring for them daily. For assisted living and memory care communities especially, the foundation of service lies with the caregiver team.
Assess the quality of the team by inquiring about training. Ask if the community provides caregivers with a thorough orientation as well as ongoing education about senior health topics and interventions. If the answer is “yes,” this can indicate a well-educated and empowered team.
7. Do you encourage family involvement in community life?
Superior senior living communities encourage family members and friends to do more than just visit their loved ones on occasion. They want family members and friends to be regularly involved with life in the community.
Look for communities that encourage family members and other loved ones to visit often, as well as those that offer special family events. If you’re interested, inquire about family support groups that would meet your needs and confirm that family involvement is encouraged in the care planning process. These observations can determine if leadership at the senior living community values and seeks family input.
8. How do you make the move and overall transition easier?
Ask about the transition or moving process, even before you make your final decision. Moving to a senior living community can be stressful, just like any other move. Exceptional communities will have a plan in place to make your loved one feel comfortable, welcomed, and settled in.
Explore how the move-in process is organized and if there is a specific person to walk you and your loved one through it. Also look for special events that may make new residents feel welcome, like a community welcome committee or a new resident lunch.
Find the Right Senior Living Community with Cedarhurst
These are just a few questions to ask senior living communities as you begin your search, but there is always more to learn. When you’re ready to begin exploring exceptional senior living, ensure a Cedarhurst community is on your list.
Our communities offer a variety of senior living lifestyles, and residents enjoy exceptional care and a diverse list of amenities. We give new meaning to senior care because our communities provide not only residential care but also a supportive, welcoming environment. Helping your senior loved one make the transition to a senior living community is easier when you’re equipped with the right information and a team of professionals to guide you.
To help your loved one navigate their senior living journey and explore the next steps, take a look at our all-inclusive guide, Moving to Senior Living: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Move.
This post was originally published in April 2021 and updated in December 2023.