Senior living isn’t what it used to be. Seniors now enjoy a range of options for an active next chapter of their lives, regardless of their health needs. Even seniors who require memory care or other forms of intensive support should expect active communities filled with engaging activities. If you’re ready to make the switch to a senior living community, choosing the right community for your needs, lifestyle, and personality is key. Here’s how to make the right choice.
Identify the Type of Care You Need
Senior living communities include a wide range of care options, from independent living for healthy seniors to memory care for seniors with advanced dementia. The right community for you hinges on the type of care you need—and whether you need care at all.
Our interactive quiz can help you make the decision. Be honest about your health needs. Seniors sometimes worry that admitting their limitations will lead to a loss of independence. Today’s senior living communities are specifically designed to maximize independence. Even if you need 24/7 care, you’ll have plenty of access to friends, family, and activities.
It may also be helpful to consider your long-term health needs. For instance, if you've been diagnosed with dementia but are healthy now, it’s a wise idea to choose a senior living community that offers memory care. This helps make the eventual transition to more support less stressful.
Begin Your Search
One of the best ways to get a lead on a quality senior living community is to ask a friend or loved one for a referral. This strategy can be particularly helpful if you can get a referral from someone who likes their senior living community, and whose needs and lifestyle are similar to your own.
If you don’t have someone you trust to discuss this with, here are some other ways you can start cobbling together a list:
- Ask your doctor for a list of recommendations.
- Talk to community leaders who work with seniors. A pastor, volunteer coordinator, or activist may have a great recommendation.
- Search online. Make sure you tailor your search to your specific needs.
Know How to Evaluate Senior Living Communities
Once you have a preliminary list of options, it’s time to begin evaluating them. There's no senior living community that will be perfect for everyone, so evaluate each community against your needs and lifestyle, and ignore opinions from well-meaning outsiders. You don’t have to love a community just because everyone else does.
One strategy is to make a list of your goals for the next chapter of your life. What’s most important to you? Are you concerned about safety? Socialization? Independence? Making new friends? Narrow down the list to only the communities that can fully address your top two or three needs. Then rank the communities based on how well they meet those needs.
The next step is to visit the communities that top your list—because no matter how great a community seems on paper, you really can’t accurately judge it until you tour it yourself. Marketing materials can’t capture a community’s culture or tell you whether you’ll like the residents, so start calling around to schedule visits.
Ask Lots of Questions
Moving to a senior living community is a lot like buying a new home. You’re going to be here for several years, so you must take time to ensure you've chosen the right place. Ask to schedule your visit during a busy time, so you can meet the residents and get a feel for the community’s culture. Consider also eating a meal on campus. You won’t know if you like the food until you try it—and for many seniors, meals are a dealbreaker.
Don’t shy away from asking lots of questions. You should have a clear idea of what community life will be like and whether you’ll fit in. Some good questions to ask are:What are the meal plan options?
- Can I see a unit that is currently available?
- What specific activities are available? Do activities change? Is there an activity fee?
- What happens if I need emergency medical help?
- Is there a staff member available 24/7?
- What specific needs can the community handle? If my needs change, will I need to move?
- Is there transportation available? How does transportation work?
- Can I get help scheduling doctor’s appointments or going to the doctor?
- Is there a waiting list? How soon can I move in if I decide I want to live here?
Location is everything. It doesn’t matter how wonderful a community is; if it’s three hours from town and two hours from your nearest loved one, it might not be the best choice. Consider whether the community you’re considering will amplify your time with loved ones or make time together more inconvenient.
Another thing to consider is whether the community has opportunities to experience life outside the community. Is it near a theater you’ve always loved? Are there chances to volunteer? Or is the community fairly isolated? There’s nothing wrong with a community located far away from town, but isolated communities must offer more to ensure residents enjoy their lives.
Take Your Time
A rushed decision is a recipe for disappointment. There’s no need to commit to the first community you visit, even if your family loves it. Don’t allow concerns about getting a unit or long waiting lists to sway your decision either. This is a major decision and one that demands time and careful consideration.
This is why it’s wise to begin your search well before health or financial concerns necessitate a move. If you wait for a crisis, that crisis can force your hand. Instead, take your time.
Arbor is ready to help you choose the community that’s right for your needs. Contact us if you’re ready to see what the next chapter of your life can offer.