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When It’s Time to Transition: What to Look for In Senior Living Facilities

Author: Jackie Muhlethaler

Updated: 04/28/2020

This time in history has made it easier for seniors to live and age in place. Homes can be outfitted, updated, and enhanced to make aging in place easier for seniors. But sometimes aging in place is no longer a viable option. As difficult as it is to leave home and move into a senior-specific or assisted living facility, sometimes it is the best decision for the senior.

Such a transition can be exacerbated by a bad experience with a less-than-ideal living facility or home. Seniors want to feel comfortable and at home wherever they are, and their loved ones want to ensure they are given the best care and attention possible. Choosing a senior home or assisted living facility is often uncharted territory for families. It can be confusing, expensive, and nerve-wracking when making the decision. Oftentimes it’s helpful to understand what to look for and how to choose what’s right for you or your loved one. We’ve laid out some helpful advice for seniors and their families as they search for the right living situation for them.


Type of Facility

The type of facility or senior living home chosen depends heavily on the needs of the senior. Some require little aid and simply need a safety net to make it easier living on their own. Others need more concentrated and increasing care, which is more akin to a true assisted living facility. Rather than going into depth regarding the pros and cons of each, let’s simply list the types of facilities and who they’re meant for.

            Age-Restricted Communities

            Age-restricted communities are simply residential communities that limits the age of inhabitants who live there. Typically for those 55+, these communities are more geared towards seniors who are looking for lifestyles and amenities that appeal to them in their stage of life (more on the amenities below). These communities would not be for seniors who need any kind of additional care, as no medical aid is provided. These communities would be more closely related to a general retirement with some extra perks.

            Independent Living or Senior Apartments

            Independent living is similar to age-restricted communities. The biggest difference between the two are the amenities offered. While age-restricted communities are typically perceived as more luxurious, independent living communities are simpler and have a greater focus on aging in place. Independent living facilities are great for active seniors who are able to live on their own and are looking for social interactions with others in the same life stage.

            Continuing Care Retirement Communities

            Continue care retirement communities, also known as CCRC’s, are for seniors who want to have a seamless transition throughout the aging process. These facilities provide long-term living for seniors who will need continued medical care, and often transitions into assisted living or nursing homes. CCRC’s are perfect for seniors who can start out living independently but will gradually transition to assisted care over time.

            Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities are residential living facilities combined with healthcare for seniors. They can vary in level of independence, but many include an environment similar to living in a residence rather than a nursing home. These facilities are for seniors who live alone or independently but require additional personalized healthcare, safety services, and general aid.

If you or your loved one are going to be moving into an assisted living facility or living on their own in any other capacity, it’s important to consider getting a medical alert system as well. It’s useful for even the most active seniors; unless they are getting true round-the-clock care, seniors are at risk for falling while on their own, one of the many dangers that require medical attention. Check out our recommendations here, and see why adding a medical alert system to the care found in these facilities can be life-saving.

            Nursing Homes and Other Medical Facilities

Nursing homes and medical facilities including hospice provide live-in 24-hour medical care. Rather than simply providing for safety with part-time help for living independently, these facilities are typically permanent. They would be geared mostly towards seniors who cannot live on their own at all, and are dealing with medical needs that require consistent and around-the-clock supervision.



Although amenities may seem low on the list of importance when deciding on an assisted living facility or senior residence, they can make a major difference in the comfort of seniors. Depending on the type of facility or residence chosen, there are different amenities and conveniences to look for when conducting research and touring the facilities.

Age-restricted communities are often gated and have lifestyle-related amenities, such as golf courses and sports facilities, an on-site gym, community center, game rooms, and indoor/outdoor pools. They may also have other services including landscaping and maintenance. Again, these facilities are more geared towards general retirement, and lack the medical care aspect of assisted living.

Senior or independent living apartments may have some similarities to age-restricted communities, but often cater more towards providing support for seniors as they age. These features may include landscaping, housekeeping and laundry services, meal plans, and even exercise and other learning classes.

CCRC’s and assisted living facilities can offer similar amenities, but with the added benefit of medical care and assistance. Seniors can take advantage of getting assistance with personal care, rehabilitation, memory care, and other measures to aid with the aging process. These centers don’t often have the same aforementioned luxuries of the other residences and facilities. But the most important aspect is the aid they provide seniors as they age.

It’s vital to consider the available amenities when choosing an assisted living facility or senior residence, because they will be important for the physical or mental well-being of you or your loved one.



            After deciding what kind of senior living fits best for you or your loved one, the next step is determining where that facility should be located. The initial inclination is to live in a facility or living residence in the hometown of the senior. But there are a few considerations that should be made.

If there isn’t the desired living circumstance in you or your loved one’s hometown, that obviously poses an issue. If there is such a residence or facility in the area, it should be judged on other factors beyond simply that it’s located somewhere comfortable. Depending on the needs of the senior, it may be important to be in a facility or residence in close proximity to a hospital, which may require looking outside of the hometown.

Another element to consider is whether it’s important to live close to family or loved ones. Although family and friends may not be able to care for seniors in their home, having them close by for regular visits can greatly impact both their physical and mental health.

For many, the fact of that matter is that living with family isn’t an option. But having ways to stay in touch and keep tabs on the senior can help bridge the gap, whether their assisted living facility is down the street or halfway across the country. Medical alert systems, which we’ve ranked here, can provide that through their GPS tracking and caregiver updates, and knowing that seniors have an additional layer of protection brings greater comfort to both them and their loved ones.

Even climate can often be an important element when deciding where to move, particularly for seniors moving to senior living residences or assisted living. It may be wise to choose a place with milder weather, particularly if there isn’t family around. Milder or warmer climates can improve health and be beneficial for seniors who struggle with chronic illnesses, arthritis, or seasonal affective disorder.



Of course, assisted living and senior facilities don’t come without a price. Pricing of a living facility is multi-faceted, and it’s important to understand what kinds of fees go into it. Typical age-restricted communities require purchasing property, whether it’s a small apartment or a luxury home. It functions as a normal property purchase, but then often includes monthly fees or dues for the luxuries offered.

As for the rest of the options, including assisted living facilities, senior apartments, CCRC’s or nursing and hospice homes, the fee structure can vary greatly. Some require flat monthly rates in the same vein as rent. Others ask for a large payout up front (up to $100,000), and then monthly fees after the initial “buy-in”. There are some that could be categorized as “a la carte”, where packages can be shaped and created to fit the need of the senior.

Naturally, these fees can add up rapidly. Depending on budget and level of care required, it’s important to ask questions and receive clarity on pricing. Always check the fine print for unexpected costs, such as move-in fees, adding an occupant, or potential cost increases, and budget appropriately.


Reviews and Testimonials

            As is true for any product or service, finding out how others’ experiences have been with the facility can be extremely helpful when choosing an assisted living facility or senior residence. Finding out the experience of friends, family, or even strangers can provide the peace of mind both seniors and their loved ones need when making the transition.


Assisted living facilities, senior residences and independent apartments can be an adjustment for seniors and their families, and choosing the right one is important for the well-being of all involved. But they can be excellent ways to make seniors feel at home, have access to excellent care, and live with the safety and security provided by these accommodations.