Senior Communities Tour Checklist

You’ve worked a lifetime to retire. Now, it’s time to focus on where you’ll live during those golden years. You still have many options, just as you did in your younger years. You can stay in your current home, buy a smaller one, or rent. Also, you can choose some level of senior living. Senior living communities are designed for active adults, independent living, assisted living, continuing care, or a nursing home. In all cases, it’s important to be smart about your options. Use this checklist to guide you through the process.

Path to improved well being

Plan a tour of the neighborhood or senior living community you are considering. Make a checklist with these positive considerations for enjoying life:


  • Safe neighborhood.
  • Close to family and friends.
  • Nearby shopping and business services.
  • Curb appeal.
  • Clean and odor-free inside.
  • Cozy inside.
  • Number of people in the building or community.
  • Senior-friendly floorplan.
  • Common areas for socializing.
  • Outdoor areas for gathering.
  • Freedom to come and go at will.

Visit more than once at different times of the day. This will give you a better feel for the neighborhood or community.

Residents appear:

  • Happy and content.
  • Friendly.
  • Engaged with one another.
  • Regular participants in organized social activities/outings.

If you are permitted, talk to some of the current residents about how they like the community.


  • Maintains appropriate staff-to-resident ratio.
  • Exhibits patience and kindness.
  • Doesn’t appear overworked.
  • Positively engages with residents.
  • Treats other staff courteously and professionally.
  • Appears to be well-trained, educated, and licensed.
  • Handle resident concerns swiftly and effectively.


  • Different unit types and sizes.
  • Units with kitchens.
  • Ability to store food in the unit.
  • Private units and bathrooms.
  • Wheelchair and walker accessible.
  • Telephone, cable, and internet access.
  • Furnished or unfurnished.
  • Handle resident concerns swiftly and effectively.
  • Rules for changing interiors (paint and wall hangings).
  • Smoke-free building.
  • Meal plans, menus, dietary requests, snacks, and schedules.
  • Common dining areas.
  • Laundry facility or service.
  • Transportation and rules for your own car.
  • Onsite worship services.
  • Pets.
  • Onsite salon, barber, and banking services.

Things to consider

When doing your homework, there are many serious things to consider. These include safety, medical, and financial considerations.


  • Well-lit stairs and hallways.
  • Oversized hallways and doorways for walkers and wheelchairs.
  • Non-skid floors.
  • Emergency call buttons installed in rooms and bathrooms.
  • Bathroom handrails.
  • Smoke detectors.
  • Clearly marked exits.
  • Safety locks on doors and windows.

Contact the Better Business Bureau and your Area Agency on Aging to research the residence. Have there been any complaints? Is the facility licensed? Are financial and inspection records available?

Services and Medical Care:

  • Availability of personal care services (eating, bathing, dressing).
  • 24-hour-day access to staff assistance.
  • 24-hour-day medical or physician access.
  • Regular visits from health care providers onsite (doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.).
  • Onsite treatment.
  • Collaboration with family and health care team.
  • Periodic assessment of resident needs (medical and non-medical).
  • Availability of different care levels and changing the level of care at the same community (for dementia, for example).
  • Written care plans and updates.
  • Medicine policies and oversight.
  • Response to medical emergencies.

Costs and Contracts:

  • Signed contract detailing costs, fees, services, entrance fee, discharge policies.
  • Resident rights.
  • Unplanned move.
  • Being asked to leave the community.
  • Impact of prolonged hospital stays on keeping your unit.
  • Transfer and discharge decision-making.
  • All costs (entrance fee, monthly rent, utilities, services, etc.).
  • All services provided in return for costs.
  • Security deposit and return of deposit.
  • Monthly, quarterly, or annual payment.
  • Acceptance of long-term care insurance.
  • Financial assistance.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • When is the right time or age to move into a senior living community?
  • How will I know when to transition to another level of care?
  • What if I deplete my savings while I’m still living there?
  • How can I cut costs in a senior living community?
  • Will my health care decline or be ignored in a senior living community?
  • What if I don’t get along with other residents?