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Traits to Look for in a Senior Community

Explore the traits you should look for in a senior living community with tips from Seniorly. Keep an eye on these aspects of a community when you're touring it.

By Arthur Bretschneider Updated on Jul 10, 2023

You’ve decided it’s time to move to a senior living community. Now what? Costs and financing aside, there are a number of things to consider when looking for the right place for you. 

Finding the right new home means something different to everyone. And when it comes to finding the senior housing community that fits your needs, the variety and abundance of choices available means there’s a place that will suit you perfectly.

But where do you start, and what kinds of options are there?

With thousands of senior residences popping up all over the country, chances are there is one in your area that offers just what you’re looking for. Here are ten traits of senior residences that will give you a great place to start as you ask yourself the question: “What’s most important to me?”

Green and Organic Residences

If you value conservation, recycling and eating local, organic and sustainable food, as well as preserving the planet for your grandchildren and future generations, you’re in luck.

More and more senior residences and communities are moving toward an eco-friendly way of life. Besides offering just basic recycling programs (probably the bare minimum of sustainability) many residences now use recycled materials in more innovative ways. Like long-lasting decks and benches made of recycled plastic to recycled paper in administrative offices.

In addition to offering organic beef, chicken and produce, some communities have gardens. Residents can grow and care for produce, which they can cook themselves or use for community gatherings. Leftover foods can then be composted and used as fertilizer for on-site gardens.

Some residences may also use alternative energy sources and maintain energy efficient appliances throughout the community.

Smaller-Sized Communities

Some people thrive in a larger residence. Others would prefer a smaller home with a more intimate feel. It really comes down to personal preference.

Smaller facilities can have more of a “bed and breakfast” feel to them. And with fewer residents, some feel they get more personal attention and are able to get to know other residents much better and experience a more “family” oriented environment.

Of course, like with larger communities, smaller ones have down sides too. Most don’t have the deep financial pockets of larger, nationally run facilities and may not be able to provide many services and amenities beyond day-to-day care.

The most important thing to do when considering a smaller retirement home is to ask a lot of questions. You will need to think about what needs you have now, as well as those you may have down the road.

Pet-Friendly Senior Homes

Research shows that having pets can help people decrease cholesterol levels, fight depression and even protect against heart disease and stroke.

With this in mind, many senior communities now integrate animals into their regular therapy as well as allowing residents to bring their beloved pets along with them to their new home.

Some even have a pet coordinator on staff to help residents care for their pets.

Religious-Affiliated Communities

For many people, faith is a big part of their lives.

Many of today’s senior communities accommodate residents of all faiths, whether it’s a residence that serves one particular religion or a secular community providing services for residents of all different backgrounds. And some studies show that faith and religion can help the elderly heal or at least cope with the effects of aging better.

If faith and religion is a priority for you, you’re sure to find a senior residence in your community with others that share your faith.

Active Senior Residences

Do you like to stay active? Are you up for trying anything new? There are senior communities that have just what you’re looking for.

Independent living communities are designed for the active and healthy senior who is able to live on their own. In many, you can live in a home, condo, townhouse or apartment complex.

They are the same as a traditional residence, but with age restrictions — usually 55 and older. Many of these communities offer amenities like gyms, clubhouses, laundry services, group meals, and social activities.

If you are healthy, active and like to stay connected to other people, this could be the perfect place to find your new home.

“Aging in Place” Communities

Have you been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s? Are you afraid that you, or a spouse or partner, may need more care down the road? An “aging in place” home or senior community is definitely something to consider.

“Aging in place” means you are able to stay in the home you choose even as your health needs increase. If you have arthritis for example, your new residence would be able to assist you as your disease progresses, without the need for another move.

Many senior retirement communities offer the opportunity to increase care as needed. Be sure to ask the community director if they have the ability to allow you to “age in place.”

LGBTQ-Friendly Senior Homes

LGBT advocates say: “Discrimination is more pronounced for the elderly. In testing of elder housing in 10 states, 52% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual applicants faced adverse treatment, including being shown fewer rental options and being quoted higher rents than heterosexual couples shopping for apartments, according to a 2014 study published by the Equal Rights Center in Washington, D.C.” from USA Today.

Focus on the issue comes at a time when the elderly LGBTQ+ population is growing. About 3 million Americans 65 or older identify as LGBTQ, and that number is expected to double by 2030, according to the Equal Rights Center

There is progress, but it is coming slowly. Currently, there are only about 500 LGBT-friendly senior units in the country.

Minimal and High-Level Service Communities

When it comes to the cost of living in a senior community, a lot has to do with the kind of services and amenities a particular community provides.

If you aren’t interested in a residence with a lot of amenities, including meal preparation, outings and physical assistance, there are many active senior communities that offer retirement living for healthy seniors.

Seniors needing more assistance can choose facilities that often charge you only for the amenities you need but also letting you increase them as time goes on. Be sure and give thought to what kind of community would suit you best.

Socially-Active Communities

There are senior communities that offer more social activity and outings than others. Many even offer volunteer opportunities and ways to stay connected to your local community.

If a strong social connection with other residents and the community is important to you, be sure to ask the director of the residence what kind of activities and/or volunteer opportunities they have organized.

If you’re wondering how social the residents are, ask the director to invite you to have lunch or dinner, and talk to some of the residents yourself. You’re certain to get a feel for the kind of community and environment they provide.

Age Diversity in Senior Communities

Some senior residences have more of a mix of age groups than others.

If you’d like to be in a community that has a wide variety of ages, be sure and ask about the average ages on your tour. Many people find an environment with age diversity more to their liking.

written by:
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Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly. As a third generation leader in the senior living industry, Arthur brings both deep compassion and a wealth of practical experience to his work at Seniorly. Arthur holds an MBA from Haas School of Business and has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as a thought leader in the senior living space. Arthur is a passionate and vocal advocate for improving the lives of older adults through community, and believes strongly that structured senior living environments can positively impact the aging experience.

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