First Impressions While Touring a Senior Living Community

By Michelle Tobin Woodbrey, CEO, Perfect Placement Solutions

For the last fifteen years I have helped move close to a thousand men, women, and couples into assisted living communities, and I know how incredibly intense the whole process can be. None of it is easy, from the moment a decision is made to consider this option, to the day pictures are hung on the walls.

If you, your parent or a loved one is considering assisted living as a next home there is so much good news. The communities that have emerged to fill the rapidly growing demand for these living environments are often gorgeous and packed with amenities and services and levels of care that were unimaginable only a few years ago. But with so many choices available comes the question; how do I know which one is the right place for me or my parent or loved one?

There is one thing we advise all our clients to do when visiting any assisted living community; learn more about what’s going on in that environment than what the marketing or sales director is telling you by keeping your eyes, ears, and sense of touch and smell on high alert. And here are ten ways you can do that:

  1. What was your very first impression walking through the door? Was there pleasant music playing in the lobby? Were you greeted right away by a receptionist who made eye contact, or were you kept waiting by someone who was on the phone or pre-occupied at a desk.
  2. Were there people sleeping either in the lobby or in other common areas while you took your tour? If so, did you notice whether they seemed to be sleeping comfortably on a coach as you would in your home or, conversely, were they slumped over in a wheelchair? Did they have a dignified appearance; clean clothes? well-groomed hair, etc.?
  3. As you walked through the building were there pleasant smells of fresh cookies, popcorn, potpourri, coffee, flowers, or baking bread for example? Or during certain parts of your tour did you detect heavy handed smells of room deodorizer and cleaningwhich may have been used to cover up unpleasant odors?
  4. Look closely at the activities calendar. If there’s a particular group activity scheduled during your visit (like an exercise class or bridge tournament), ask to see it. Small or lackluster participation may be emblematic of an unimaginative activities program.
  5. Observe the interactions between staff members and residents. When speaking with a resident is the staff member talking down to her if she’s sitting? Or making eye contact at her level? Do they seem rushed and hurried, or patient and respectful?
  6. Do residents make eye contact with you as a visitor? If they smile it usually they’re happy… and happy to see you!
  7. Use the bathroom at some point before you leave! Is it well stocked? Is it clean?
  8. Take a look at the carpets throughout the tour. Are they vacuumed and well maintained or spotted and stained? After all, if a community doesn’t take proper care of their carpets that could correlate to how well they take care of their residents!
  9. Take the elevator test! Are the buttons in the elevator dirty and smudged with the evidence of lots of fingers on lots of buttons? Is the activities calendar taped up sloppily on the wall or thoughtfully mounted along with other important notices?
  10. And perhaps the most important sensibility test of all: Can you see yourself, your parent or your loved one making friends and having conversations with, dining alongside, sharing new experiences, interacting, and generally getting to know the residents of this particular community? After all, it is the friends we make along the way that enrich our experiences, and this is one of the most important moves in our life!

Perfect Placement Solutions is a FREE Advisory service to adult children and clients who are weighing their next living options; including assisted living and memory care communities, at-home services, skilled nursing and short term rehabilitative care.

To learn more about how Perfect Placement Solutions can help you and your family find the right fit for your next stage of life visit us at, or call Michelle Woodbrey, CEO, at 508-564-0192

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