Considering a Move to Senior Living? 2 questions to ask

June 1, 2024 at 12:00 a.m. Michelle Roedell, Editor, Northwest Prime Time

Part I in a Series

Perhaps you've been contemplating moving to senior living for a while, and the idea has been intriguing... as long as it's "sometime in the future." 

But if the future has arrived and you realize the time is right to buckle down, then you've already made the most difficult decision. Making this decision BEFORE it becomes an urgent medical situation will benefit you greatly. If you wait, your options may become far more limited. 

Choosing to move before circumstances dictate allows you the time and space to make an informed, leisurely decision. Keep in mind that some retirement communities have long waiting lists. Plus, deciding in advance allows you to make the downsizing transition easier: deciding what to keep and what to donate or give-away is a daunting challenge for many. If you have enough time, you can make progress in small steps: start with a drawer, move up to a closet, and so on.  

There are many considerations when planning a move into a senior living community. Whether you have been looking forward to it or not, making a move into senior living may improve your physical, emotional, and mental health because it can reduce some of the stress and uncertainty of growing older. In addition, senior housing offers the types of activities that keep the mind and body in shape -- to say nothing of the enhanced social opportunities and support that community living provides. 

Reasons to move into senior living may include:

1. Wanting to leave behind the maintenance and cost of owning your own home. 

2. Some people move when they no longer drive.

3. The idea of moving may arise when someone loses a spouse. 

3. People can look to senior housing to make new friends and increase their social circle. 

4. A plethora of recreational and fitness activities right at your doorstep. 

5. The desire to feel secure, which may include wanting your children to know that you are in a safe, supported situation.

6. Health concerns and the need for assistance with everyday tasks may be the driving force behind the decision to move

Once you've made the decision to move, two of the first questions you have to ask yourself are what area or region you want to move to, and what type of senior living community best fits your needs and circumstance. 

This article explores first steps in making a decision of where to move. To get started, ask yourself two questions: 

QUESTION #1: Do you know what location/neighborhood you want to move to? 

Some people are looking to stay as close to their current neighborhood as possible. Some want to move closer to family; some may even want to move back to their childhood hometown. Some may be looking to move to a better climate or a less expensive region. Many people want to live in a walkable community with parks and near the services and amenities they care about

If moving to be closer to loved ones, consider where your power of attorney lives or the friends and family members who will visit you most often. 

Perhaps the best services at the best price will be your deciding factor, no matter where the location.

QUESTION #2: What type of senior living community will you choose?

Question # 1 is essential, but often easier to answer. Question #2 can be trickier. The type of housing you choose is not a one-size-fits-all situation, and will be dictated by many factors, not the least of which is cost and your near- and long-term healthcare needs. 

Costs, level of support and services, long-term commitment, proximity to your family or desired neighborhood, and other factors will most likely enter into the decision. 

Types of senior living communities include:

Independent Living. This type of apartment (or mobile park) living is for independent and active adults interested in recreation and social opportunities, and who may want to downsize from their long-term home for a more carefree existence. One of the benefits of Independent Living is that you don't need to make a long-term commitment and can move with little notice. Residents usually have little or no healthcare needs. Some independent living situations may help you coordinate visiting nurses or home health aides for an additional fee. Some may offer meals, but many are set up for seniors with full independence. Programs differ greatly. Pricing depends on size, location, if the apartment includes meal plans, or if you are eligible for subsidized housing programs. These are most commonly paid for with private funds.

Assisted Living. Some communities offer both Independent and Assisted Living on the same campus. Assisted Living communities are designed for people who do not need care 24 hours a day but require some assistance with their Activities of Daily Living (ADL), which might include getting dressed, bathing or prescription management. The apartments include a bedroom, kitchenettes, living space and a meal plan. The cost for this option depends on the resident's health needs and is significantly higher than independent living. You often have to qualify for assisted living -- too many health issues may preclude you from entering. If you don't require assistance for daily activities OR if you don't meet the health qualifications, some communities offer people in their Independent Living section assistance and support for an additional fee. Assisted Living is paid for most often by private funds or long-term care insurance.

Adult Family Homes. This option is very similar to assisted living communities, but on a much smaller scale. Adult family homes are typically located in residential areas. These single-family homes have been remodeled into a property that will house up to six residents. Typically, there is a nurse or nursing assistant on staff to assist with ADL’s and other health needs. Three meals a day will be served as well as light activities. Prices are typically below that of assisted living facilities. 

Memory Care. Memory care communities can be either free-standing property or a part of an assisted living situation. These will typically offer everything Assisted Living offers but in a much more secure environment and much higher “staff to resident” ratio. When considering a Memory Care situation, safety, supervision and structured activities should be made a high priority. Memory care housing costs more than assisted living, depending on the resident’s needs and level of needed care. 

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer a full range of benefits including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. As an individual’s healthcare needs change, he or she can remain on the property but transfer to the next level of care needed, allowing a person to “age in place.” Even if you make the decision to move into a CCRC, you still have some homework to do because there are different contract levels for CCRCs. This type of community usually has a hefty upfront buy-in and then a significant monthly fee: entrance fees and monthly rates vary tremendously. It is very important to note there is a wide range of pricing for CCRC properties based on services offered, square footage, view and location in the community. Potential residents need to fully understand the range of care and services offered, how decisions are made to move to a different level of care, what is and is not included with your monthly rate, to know what services cost extra (and how much), what rate increases will factor in as time goes by. The upfront investment you make in a CCRC can lock you into a monthly rate at predetermined levels, no matter what type of care you need. For this reason, a CCRC protects your future costs -- even for skilled nursing care -- and that financial security is one of the reasons people choose this option. Because of the significant financial obligation of the style of community, it is strongly suggested that you have an estate attorney review all documents. The most common form of payment is private funds.


1. Find out if the community you are considering will accept Medicaid if you run out of funds. If they will accept Medicaid, is there a minimum number of years you must live there in order to qualify?

This article is Part I in a continuing series.

    The next article will look at local resources to help you narrow down your search and to find communities for your "visit" list. It will also discuss how to look up communities' track records.

    Future articles will include a list of questions you must arm yourself with before you visit and how to prepare for your move.

If you want to receive links to future articles in this series, email

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