How to Find the Ideal Community Culture

Finding a senior living community with the right lifestyle is just as important as finding the right location. 

Choosing the right senior living community is about more than affordability and location—it’s also about finding a place where you can make new friends, be yourself and feel safe and secure. You and your loved ones can narrow down the options by visiting those communities you think will best meet your preferences and tastes.

Follow these steps to examine a community’s culture and find the right fit.

1. Take a personal inventory of your interests.

Many senior living communities offer similar activities, cultural outings and committee groups in which residents can participate. However, a good fit in a specific community depends on how you would prefer to spend your time, the kinds of people you connect with and the type of environment in which you feel most comfortable. For example, if giving back to society through volunteerism is important to you, look for a community that supports these opportunities.

2. Know your future neighbors’ personalities.

If you’re a go-getter who has a lot he wants to accomplish, consider a community where you’ll be surrounded by others who share that desire. A community where your fellow residents mostly take solitary strolls or read in quiet nooks might not be the best fit for you. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

3. Consider environment.

If you are more comfortable in a structured environment with high-end amenities and dining venues, and are happy to be waited on by staff members, you might prefer a more formal community. On the other hand, if you are laid back and don’t mind pitching in, you might thrive in a community with a casual environment where you can help out maintaining things for yourself.

“Ask yourself, ‘Am I the type of person who likes to have things done for me or do I like to go out and do things myself?’” says Bernadette Chang, sales director at Westminster Gardens, a senior living community in Duarte, California.

4. Examine the surrounding town.

 “When it comes to finding a good fit, the cultural fit often revolves around the city and what that city offers,” says Michele Dukes, former sales director of White Sands La Jolla, a senior living community in La Jolla, California. 

For example, if someone enjoys taking day trips to museums or spending an evening at the opera, she would probably prefer a senior living community close to a city with these amenities. An outdoorsy type who enjoys hiking may prefer a community in the mountains, surrounded by nature or next to a large park.

5. Know your level of mobility.

Consider your current ability to get around and how that might change in the future. Some communities require residents to be more mobile than others, often based on the landscape they must navigate. That said, Chang points out that residents with limited mobility can still easily maneuver around a large campus with the aid of a walker or motorized scooter.

6. Ask questions—lots of them.

Once you’ve narrowed your list, visit the communities that most interest you. Get a better feel for the environment by talking with both staff and residents. Many communities offer events or open houses to better acquaint newcomers with the area. An overnight stay allows even more opportunity to determine if a community is a good fit, says Dukes.

While you are visiting, talk to staff about any questions or concerns you have about the moving process, transitioning into the community as a new resident or transferring to higher levels of care in the future, Chang says. Ask residents how they like the day-to-day experience and which amenities they like or wish they had. One of the best ways to do this is to share a meal in the dining room, because that’s often the center of community life.

“Your goal is to get a feel for the energy of the community—and you’ll feel it in the dining venue because that is where the most people gather at once,” Chang says.

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