What to look for when you tour a senior living community

Jeff's picture

What to look for on the tour

If you are at the point where you are ready to tour a senior living community with your parent, they have probably accepted that living at home may not be the safest environment for them, and they are willing to look at their options.  

From the list of facilities that you’ve carefully researched, set up tours with your top choices. Try to spread them out a bit so you don’t overwhelm or exhaust your parent.

When you come to the community for a tour, here are some things you can both look for:

In the staff:

  • Do they have time to speak with you or does it feel rushed?
  • Do they appear genuinely interested in you?
  • Do they interact warmly with current residents?
  • How do they handle emergencies?

In the residents:

  • Do they appear happy?
  • Do they enjoy interacting with one another?
  • Do they seem like people whom you’d enjoy getting to know?
  • Are there hobbies or groups on site that look interesting?

In the environment:

  • Is it clean and well organized?
  • Does it look comfortable and well-lit?
  • Does it have effective security systems?  
  • Are residents able to bring furniture from home to make their surroundings familiar?

Just like when you look for a new home or apartment, you will have a gut feeling when you walk into a community that will give you a sense if it’s a good match for your parent. Pay attention to that feeling, but also closely observe the staff, residents and environment to confirm your first impression. Once you visit your top choices, it’s time to start the decision process moving.


KD's picture
Submitted by KD (not verified) on

We currently reside in a beautiful Retirement/Assisted Living property (we're in Assisted Living), have been here for nearly 3 years. One really needs to be a "detective" in many areas when visiting and talking with agents. There are many "hidden" things that go on which a "first time" visitor would never know about or know to check into, and they pertain most importantly to the Health & Wellness Departments, Med Aids, and staffing. Check with the county and state for 'violations"., are there numerous "grab bars" and no "lip" showers; is the bathroom large enough for a resident to maneuver their walker or wheelchair in; Is there a nurse on duty either 24/7, or days, and on call; How "extensively" are med aids and care givers trained - this is "crucial"; What is the employee retention ratio (or turn-over); Do they speak clear English; Does the H&W staff seem friendly and relaxed, or.. hurried and stressed; For those living alone in AL, how much time do the staff have to do a short visit daily, for those more "shut-in" their apartments; Ask the representative if you may knock on someone's door and have a brief visit alone, to listen to their positive and/or negative issues.

These may seem unimportant, however had I done this after 9 months living here, I would have sought a different facility. That old saying; "All that glitters isn't always gold", applies greatly when on a search. We are "not" negative seniors, however where we reside, corporate took over completely, and the deterioration in the dining room, and especially Health & Wellnes arena's has sunk to an all time "low", and we're attempting to relocate. "Now".. I know how to do my own homework, and what things to delve into or ask about. There are no "perfect" places,, maybe there are, it's an "industry", and be careful of the "greed" factor presently, and in the future.

Thank you for allowing folks to make comments. These help "me" on my current search:)
Sincerely, and Best of Luck to anyone going thru this process:)

Linda Hicks's picture
Submitted by Linda Hicks (not verified) on

Looking at is not the same as living at. Everyone is on their best behavior during the looking process, both the facility and the potential resident. This is not a criticism, just an observation from going through the process. There is a honeymoon period and an adjustment process that takes time to work through. In our case, it all worked out happily for my mother, who is the most important person. I feel we all worked together to make it successful.

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