After nearly 30 years in the senior living industry, I’ve seen hundreds of people looking to find the right community. Adult children hoping to move their parents closer. Widows seeking friendship in the midst of grief. Couples building a new life after retirement. 

Whatever brings you to look at a senior living community, there are a few things you need to think about during the process. You need to know what you’re looking for, and, just as importantly, what you’re not looking for.  

Factors to consider: 

1.    Location

Before looking at a community itself, look at the surrounding areas. This will be your new home, so you want your existing life to fit. Is there easy access to your local bank, church and grocery store? Can you maintain your normal routines? If you’re moving closer to family or just looking for a change of scenery, make a list of these kinds of places you’ll need and make sure they’re within close proximity. 

2.    Continuum of care

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) offers more than one area of living and care, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing. Some people choose stand-alone communities that may offer only one of these living or care areas, but having all of them available provides incredible peace of mind. Plan now to make your life easier should additional care needs arise. 

3.    Staff dynamics 

What is the staff like? Are they friendly? How much interaction do they have with residents? Some staffs see the community as an employer, others see it as a family. Decide which best fits your personality and desired lifestyle.  

4.    Faith-based

Whether you’re a person of faith or not, decide if you want your community to be faith-based. While faith-based communities don’t push their beliefs on residents, they do offer more religious programming, such as prayer gatherings and chapel services. 

5.    Verbiage 

How do the website, marketing materials and staff members refer to the community? Do they call it an available “unit” or available “home”?  A dining “hall” or dining “room”? These little nuances speak volumes about the community’s overall atmosphere and approach to life. 

Questions to ask:

1.    Can you join a resident for lunch, or attend an event at the community, before making a decision? You’ll want to get as much of a “day in the life” feel as possible. 

2.    What is the typical fee increase, and how often does it increase?

3.    Is there a full-time life-enrichment director on staff? What kinds of activities are available?

4.    What is the average age of residents in independent living?

5.    Are visitors welcome any time?

Be sure you visit the community more than once. Talk to the residents each time. They won’t be shy about sharing their opinions, and you can learn a lot about a community by talking to those who live there. 

If you use this guide to find the right community for you and your lifestyle, I guarantee you'll be changed for the better. You'll find a renewed sense of purpose, a more positive outlook and more fun than you ever imagined. And, if you’re like most, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.  

Dida Horton serves as the Senior Director of Marketing and Sales for Buckner Retirement Services. She’s been with Buckner since 2002.

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