Assessing Senior Living: Uncovering the Essentials of a Quality Residence

When looking for a senior living residence for a loved one, it can be a daunting task to assess the many options available. It’s important to do your research to make an informed decision and ensure the safety and wellbeing of your senior family member. This can be a family project if you have siblings. Research, calling and asking the right questions, arranging visits, getting costs and budgeting can all be split among the siblings, and that way nothing is missed.

Here are some key things to consider when assessing the various options. 


One of the most important considerations in assessing a residence is whether it offers the personal care and supportive services needed to satisfy the senior’s needs. Healthcare is administered at a provincial level so while there may be differences in seniors housing terminology and regulations from province to province, generally speaking seniors residences are characterized by the level of care they provide, and there are three main categories.  First, independent living or supportive living residences refer to those that provide some in-house services such as meals, housekeeping and recreation, but no personal care.  These residences are ideal for someone who is still quite mobile and cognitively high functioning, but no longer wants the stress of managing and maintaining a house or daily chores.  These residences are also ideal for those who could benefit from socialization and having others around for support.

Next, assisted living residences offer all of the above services but also include assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, showering and medication administration.  Lastly, long-term care refers to what is commonly referred to as care or nursing homes, which offer round-the-clock nursing care.  These residences are ideal for those needing dementia/memory care, or have mobility issues requiring transfer assistance.

Once you determine the category of care that your senior loved one needs, there still may be a myriad of options available in their city.  Try narrowing down the options by thinking about what places or people the senior would want to live close to. Is it their family?  Their friends and the social activities they partake in regularly?  Perhaps their doctor? 

Once you’ve shortlisted the options to a manageable few, the next challenge is to get a sense of whether the quality of these in-house services and the culture within the residence suit the senior’s lifestyle and expectations.  Consider touring the residence close to the lunch hour and asking to stay for a meal, or enquiring whether the residence offers a trial stay.  Many residences offer short-term stays in a furnished room, so all one has to do is pack a small suitcase and pretend it’s a vacation!  These trial stays are great for allowing a senior to see if they could imagine themselves living at that residence and making friends with the people there.  


The amenities offered at the residence can make a big difference in terms of comfort and quality of life for a senior. Common amenities  to look at when touring a residence include the dining room, library, fitness centre, recreation areas, and movie/TV lounges..  Take a look at the recreation calendar as well to see whether any of the  activities and outings are appealing.  A bonus would be for the residence to offer activities tailored to the needs of specific seniors and conditions, such as different types of exercise classes, art or music classes. 


Cost is an important factor in determining what is right for the senior based on their financial resources.  We always recommend that seniors sit down with their financial planner and develop a budget and projection through to end of life.  They should plan for increasing care costs as they age, as most people progress naturally from independent living to assisted living to long term care. Consult a care planner to get an idea of the range of costs in each category.  

During your tour of the residences, ask to see a few different floor plans and note down the cost of each.  It is always a good idea to tour a few residences to compare and evaluate costs against the size of the suite, amenities and services.  

We at Home to Home are experts at eldercare planning and transition assistance. We offer care planning services that enable seniors and their families to map out eldercare options and navigate through the various issues affecting their health and quality of life. Let us help you find the perfect accommodation for your senior loved ones.

Ageing is just another word for living.

Cindy Joseph

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