Top Things to Consider When Choosing a Senior Living Community

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Choosing the right senior living community is a big decision for both seniors and their families. To make the best choice, it’s essential to consider several factors. These include your loved one’s needs and preferences, different levels of care offered,  amenities, costs, and the overall feel of the community.  This guide will help you navigate these important considerations, ensuring you find a place where your loved one can thrive.

Identifying Needs and Wants

In 80 words, explain that first, you need to determine what your parent or grandparent needs. There are four different levels of senior care to consider. After deciding the level of care they need, then you decide which factors are non-negotiable.

Levels of Senior Living Care

Independent Living Communities

Independent senior living communities are perfect for active seniors who want to shed the burdens of homeownership without sacrificing a vibrant lifestyle or sense of community.

It’s the best of both worlds:

  • Maintenance-Free Living: Say goodbye to yard work, housekeeping, and those nagging home repairs. Independent living communities take care of all that, freeing up your time.
  • Resort-Style Amenities: Think fitness centers, pools, libraries, beauty salons, and maybe even a putting green! These communities are designed for fun and convenience.
  • Social Connection at Your Doorstep: From organized activities and clubs to casual get-togethers, there’s always something to do and someone to do it with. Loneliness is a thing of the past.
  • Dining Made Easy: Enjoy delicious, restaurant-style meals without the cooking or cleanup.

Is Independent Living Right for You?

It’s a great fit if they…

  • Are healthy, active, and need little to no help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing.
  • Crave a simpler life where daily chores are no longer a burden.
  • Want a vibrant social life with more activities and companionship within easy reach.

Independent living may not be ideal if they…

  • Need regular assistance with daily living activities.
  • Have significant medical needs requiring onsite care.

Choosing independent living for seniors with a full continuum of care offers peace of mind. They can age in place within a familiar community, knowing their needs will always be met, even as they change over time.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living communities strike a perfect balance between independence and support. They’re designed for seniors who need some help with daily tasks but still want to maintain a fulfilling, engaged life.

Here’s what sets them apart:

  • Personalized Care: Assisted living residents receive tailored support with activities of daily living (ADLs) including bathing, dressing, eating, medication management, and more. Onsite care ensures they have the right level of assistance at all times.
  • Home Away from Home: These communities offer spacious, comfortable accommodations while taking care of chores like cooking, cleaning, and home maintenance. This lets residents focus on what truly matters to them.
  • Safety and Convenience: Assisted living provides round-the-clock supervision, security, and transportation services for residents’ safety and peace of mind.
  • Community and Connection: From planned activities and outings to fitness centers and beauty salons, these communities offer endless opportunities for friendship and fun.

Focus on Independence: Assisted living communities empower residents to live their life to the fullest, providing the perfect amount of support to help them maintain their independence.

Is Assisted Living Right for Your Parent or Grandparent?

It’s a good fit if they…

  • Need assistance with some, but not all, activities of daily living.
  • Value their independence but would benefit from a supportive environment.
  • Crave social connection and a richer variety of activities.
  • Want to free themselves from the burdens of homeownership.

Assisted living might not be ideal if they…

  • Require round-the-clock medical care or have severe cognitive decline that necessitates specialized memory care.

If your senior family member has Alzheimer’s, dementia, or chronic health issues, be sure to ask about the specific care services provided by the communities  you consider.

Memory Care

Memory care communities provide a safe, compassionate, and specialized environment for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.  They are designed to enhance the quality of life for those with memory-related challenges.

Here’s what you’ll find in a memory care community:

  • Expert Care: The staff is specially trained in dementia care, understanding the unique needs and behaviors associated with memory loss. They provide compassionate, person-centered care around the clock.
  • Safe and Secure Environment: Memory care communities feature layouts designed for easy navigation, minimizing confusion and promoting a sense of security.
  • Meaningful Engagement: Structured activities, therapies, and social programs are tailored to support cognitive function and provide opportunities for enjoyment and connection.
  • Comfort and Support: These communities offer comfortable rooms (private or semi-private), housekeeping, laundry, emergency call systems, and health monitoring. This creates a worry-free environment for residents and their families.

Is Memory Care the Right Choice for Your Parent or Grandparent?

Memory care can be a great option if they:

  • Have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
  • Struggle with memory loss to the point where daily life has become difficult or unsafe.
  • Wander or display behaviors that pose a risk to themselves or others.
  • Would benefit from specialized activities and a secure environment that caters to their cognitive needs.

Memory care assisted living programs are designed to nurture residents, help them find moments of joy and purpose, and alleviate the stress that dementia can bring to families.

Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing care communities offer round-the-clock medical attention and specialized care services for seniors with complex health needs or those recovering from surgery or hospitalization. These communities stand apart by providing:

  • 24/7 Medical Expertise: Licensed physicians and nurses are on-site at all times, along with physical, speech, and occupational therapists. This provides a higher level of care than assisted living or memory care communities.
  • Comprehensive Support: Residents receive constant care and monitoring, along with assistance with daily living activities, medication management, and individualized treatments and therapies.
  • Focus on Rehabilitation: Exercise and therapy programs are designed to help residents regain strength, mobility, and function after an illness, injury, or surgery.
  • Comfort and Convenience: Skilled nursing communities offer comfortable rooms, housekeeping, laundry, meals, social activities, and typically amenities like a beauty salon. This eases the burden on the resident and their family.

When is Skilled Nursing Care the Right Choice?

Skilled nursing may be a good fit for your parent or grandparent if they:

  • Have chronic health conditions requiring ongoing medical attention and supervision.
  • Need help with daily living activities and medication management beyond what can be provided at home or in an assisted living setting.
  • Are recovering from surgery, an illness, or hospitalization and require intensive therapy and medical care.
  • Need intravenous medications or other specialized treatments.

Skilled nursing care can be a short-term solution for rehabilitation purposes or a long-term option for those with ongoing complex medical needs.

Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-Haves: What are Your Priorities?

When making any major life decision, it’s helpful to figure out your non-negotiables and those things that would be lovely to have.  Senior living is no different!  Understanding the difference between your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” can make your community search much more focused, helping you find the best possible fit.


These are the features that are absolutely essential for your parent or grandparent’s well-being and safety. Consider these non-negotiable:

  • Medical Needs: 24-hour nursing care, memory care programs, specialized diets
  • Lifestyle Needs: Specific accommodations (full kitchen, washer/dryer, etc.)
  • Safety/Comfort: Emergency call systems, front desk coverage


These are the “extras” that would significantly enhance their lifestyle and happiness, but shouldn’t make or break your decision. Think of features such as:

  • Dining & Amenities: Multiple dining venues, spa services, fitness centers
  • Social & Recreational: Art classes, outdoor spaces, intergenerational activities
  • Convenience: Pet-friendly policies, on-site Wi-Fi

Most senior living communities already include basics like meals, transportation, housekeeping, etc. Focus on those features that truly address your loved one’s unique needs and preferences!

During your guided tours in senior living communities, you might also realize that some nice-to-haves are actually non-negotiables for you — like well-rounded senior living facilities. After all, some extras like planned excursions, theaters, or senior-friendly exercise classes can really improve the quality of life for you or your family member!

Senior Living: Where Lifestyle Meets Comfort

Choosing the right senior living community means finding a place that offers more than just care. It’s about finding a place with enriching amenities and a vibrant atmosphere. Modern senior living facilities provide a wide range of options designed to enhance well-being, community, and purpose.

Let’s explore some of the exciting possibilities:

  • Staying Active and Engaged: Fitness centers, pools, walking paths, exercise classes – these all promote physical health and opportunities for social connection.
  • Entertainment and Enrichment: From libraries and theaters to art studios and lifelong learning classes, there’s always something to stimulate the mind and spark new interests.
  • Relaxation and Rejuvenation: Beauty salons, spas, and beautifully landscaped outdoor spaces offer moments of pampering and tranquility.
  • Convenient Dining and Socializing: Restaurant-style dining venues and casual cafes make mealtimes enjoyable and foster a sense of community.

Key Questions to Ask

When touring communities,  focus on what matters most to the seniors in your life. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What types of fitness classes and programs are offered?
  • Does the community have a pool or dedicated walking paths?
  • How often are movies, concerts, or special events scheduled?
  • Are there opportunities for hobbies, such as gardening or creative arts?

The ideal senior living option will align with the senior’s passions and lifestyle preferences. The right community will offer opportunities for connection, personal growth, and a fulfilling daily life.

Apples to Apples: Finding the Perfect Senior Living Community

Picking the right senior living community is a big decision – you want to get it right! It’s tempting to compare communities based on price alone, but that’s like comparing a Granny Smith to a Red Delicious – both are apples, but the experience is vastly different.

Here’s how to ensure a true “apples to apples” comparison:

Beyond the Price Tag

While cost is an important factor, focusing solely on the bottom line can lead you to overlook a community that’s the perfect fit. Here are critical areas to consider:


  • What’s their reputation? Look online or ask for referrals.
  • Resident-to-staff ratios matter for quality care.
  • What are the staff’s qualifications? What kind of ongoing training is provided?
  • Pay attention to your first impressions – are staff friendly and helpful?


  • Do the offered activities spark your parent’s or grandparent’s interests?
  • Are amenities important (pool, gym, etc.)?
  • Is the dining program appealing? Are there multiple venues or flexible mealtimes?
  • Is transportation provided for errands and outings?
  • Do the community policies (pets, visitors, etc.) align with your loved one’s needs?


  • What security measures are in place?
  • What apartment styles are offered? Is there enough space?
  • Does the overall community feel clean, well-maintained, and inviting?
  • Is the location convenient to doctors, shopping, or places you visit often?

Questions to Ask Communities During Your Visit

Your visit to a senior living community is more than just a tour. It’s a chance to gather crucial information that might not be in the brochures.  Be prepared with a list of thoughtful questions to ensure the community can truly meet your senior parent’s needs – both now and in the future.


Here are key areas to explore:

  • What levels of care are provided (independent, assisted, memory, skilled nursing)?
  • How are additional care costs calculated if needs change?
  • Are there trial stays or respite care options?
  • What’s the process for handling medical emergencies?
  • How are dietary restrictions or special needs accommodated?
  • Can residents have input into activities and menus?

Don’t hesitate to ask anything that’s on your mind! A reputable community will be transparent and happy to answer all your questions.  The more information you have, the more confident you’ll feel about making this important decision.

Resident Insights: The Secret Ingredient

Don’t just rely on the brochure!  Talk to current residents about their experiences. Are they happy? Do they feel like part of a community?  Their honest feedback is invaluable.

It’s About the FEELING, Too

Pay attention to how the community makes you and your loved one feel.  Is it warm and welcoming?  Does it feel like a place where they could thrive? Trust your instincts.

You’re not just buying a place to live –  you’re choosing a lifestyle and community for your parent or grandparent. If you find a golden apple among the apples, you’ll know!   Take your time, ask all your questions, and trust your gut.  Finding the right fit brings peace of mind for everyone.

Budgeting for Senior Living

When comparing senior living costs, many families initially focus on the sticker price of the community vs. their current mortgage or rent. However, aging at home comes with substantial hidden costs that can significantly impact your budget.  To get a realistic picture, consider these ongoing expenses:

  • Home Maintenance & Repairs: From leaky faucets to roof replacements, home upkeep adds up quickly, especially for older homes.
  • Utilities: Electricity, gas, water, trash – these monthly bills can fluctuate with the seasons and changing energy costs.
  • Property Taxes & Insurance: These costs often rise over time.
  • Lawn Care & Yardwork: Mowing, weeding, upkeep… these can become burdensome or require hiring outside help.
  • Caregiving: If assistance with daily living is needed, in-home care costs are considerably higher than most people anticipate.

But what’s the value?

Even if senior living appears more expensive,  the positive impacts on quality of life are immeasurable.

Consider the freedom from daily chores, the built-in social network,  the array of activities, the safety net of care, and the overall peace of mind it brings to both your parents or grandparents and to you.

Funding Options if Budget is a Concern

If finances are tight, explore these potential resources:

  • Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefit: Assists wartime veterans and surviving spouses with limited income.
  • Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance: Helps cover care costs not typically covered by health insurance or Medicare.
  • Life Insurance Conversion: Pre-funds an account to help pay for long-term care needs.

There are measurable and immeasurable benefits to senior living care and communities. That’s why it’s important to identify early on your priorities, must-haves, and nice-to-haves.

Finding the ideal senior living community takes careful planning and consideration. It’s about more than just cost – it’s about finding a place where your loved one feels safe, supported, and genuinely happy.

By understanding their needs, researching your options, and asking the right questions, you can discover a community that provides the perfect blend of care, comfort, and a fulfilling lifestyle.

At 12 Oaks, we’re committed to helping families find the best possible fit.  Let us help guide you through this important decision.

Discover the Perfect Fit at 12 Oaks

At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we understand choosing a community means finding a place where the senior in your life will truly thrive. That’s why we focus on creating a nurturing and fulfilling environment.

Our compassionate team tailors care from daily living assistance to specialized memory programs, ensuring the right level of support is always there.  We believe in vibrant days – our Symphony of Life® program sparks connection and purpose through physical, social, and intellectual activities.

With exceptional amenities like our fitness center, pool, and restaurant-style dining,  we make life convenient and enjoyable.  Most importantly, we’re committed to partnering with you.

We’re here to support you and the senior in your life every step of the way, offering a seamless transition and lasting peace of mind.

If you have questions about the things to consider when choosing a senior living community, connect with us and learn more. 

At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.

For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us. 


Searching for senior living help? At 12 Oaks Senior Living, we would love to learn more about your unique needs and the opportunity we may have to help you meet them. Our blog is one of the valuable resources we provide to inform and encourage seniors to lead fulfilling and thriving lives. Contact us today to schedule a visit.

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2 Responses

  1. I think it’s smart that Grandpa has decided that he is not going to live a retired and boring existence. Instead, he is searching for an active adult community where he can develop new interests, and social skills, and swap his rocking chair for something more stimulating. He envisions himself becoming socially engaged, forming friendships, and perhaps even establishing a weekly card game ritual. Knowing how to schedule visits to see the finalist senior living places will be helpful to him. It also makes sense to invite a friend or member of your family to accompany you on appointments that you aim to schedule early in the day when you are still feeling fresh.

  2. My grandma’s been feeling a bit overwhelmed at home lately, and after she mentioned struggling with stairs and loneliness, I thought it might be time to look into senior living centers nearby to give her a better, more supportive environment to enjoy. So, I’m on a mission to find her a cozy spot where she can make new friends, ditch the stairs, and have a blast in her golden years. As you reminded me here, while it’s wonderful to find a senior living community that meets physical demands, it’s equally critical to take lifestyle, cultural, and spiritual requirements into account. Thanks.

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