One of the best ways to learn more about a senior living community is to take a community tour – but why stop at one?
See what you need to know before you take a senior living community bus tour in your neighborhood.
A few years ago, my mother took a tour of two senior living communities with my brother and I. Mom wasn’t ready, she said. Since my father passed away in 2016, my mother, 81, was doing well living independently in their home. Then a couple of months ago, Mom surprised me during a phone chat.
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“I signed up for a bus tour of senior communities,” she dropped in between talk of the weather and an upcoming wedding. What?
I’d been telling my mom for some time how attractive many senior living communities are, that they compete to offer the best activities, food and up-to-date apartments. Still, she’d wanted none of it. That is, until she came up with the idea on her own of touring senior living communities on a bus tour sponsored by a local senior magazine in Central Illinois.
“I don’t want anyone else going with me,” my mom proclaimed.
“Okay,” I told her, knowing that I needed to step back and let her do her own thing. Still, I penciled in the tour date on my calendar. It couldn’t hurt to check in after-the-fact.
Consumers living in a mid-sized to a large city can probably track down at least a couple of day-long bus tours of senior living communities.
Tours are often free or have a nominal fee and usually leave early in the morning to visit two or more local assisted or independent living, memory care or skilled nursing communities.
At each stop, passengers disembark for a presentation and tour. Breakfast, lunch or a snack is typically included, served at one of the communities.
For example, the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson paired up in 2017 with the Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) to offer a bus tour of assisted living, independent living and memory care communities in Green Valley, Arizona. Participants received handouts on housing options and services offered by PCOA. Between stops, passengers listened to a highway tutorial from PCOA Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Adina Wingate, on senior communities and what to observe during tours.
“Knowledge is power,” says Wingate. “Overall, the bus tour as a consumer information opportunity can help adults of all ages stay informed. It’s an excellent way to reach consumers by setting up a well-organized visit and sharing accurate information about different types of housing options.”
A one-day senior living community bus tour is the ideal vehicle for consumers who want an overview of what local senior living communities offer. It’s also a way to compare amenities, prices and services. There are a few things you need to know before stepping on the bus, though.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your bus tour experience:
Dress casually and wear comfortable shoes, since you’ll be getting on and off the bus and walking around a bit.
Don’t fill up before the tour if meals are offered. If breakfast is served, eat some fruit, toast or yogurt to tide you over until that meal.
You’ll benefit from a second set of ears and eyes on the tour. A second person may catch important factors you missed while noticing something else.
Do the residents seem happy and well-groomed? Does the staff seem happy? How do staffers interact with residents and each other? Is there adequate staffing? How is the cleanliness of the dining area, floors, rooms and walls? Visit “How to Evaluate Potential Communities” and “Tips for Touring Assisted Living Communities” for more information.
Be sure to leave with contact information for the tour host and each community, since there’s a good chance you’ll have questions later.
A good place to start is A Place for Mom’s “Senior Housing 101 Guide,” which offers a comprehensive overview of different types of senior living communities.
Bring your phone to take notes and photos of the dining areas, grounds and rooms so that you can review them more thoroughly after you return home.
For example, if only you or your spouse needs help with daily living activities, can you both live in the same apartment? If you need assisted living later, is that available? What activities are available and how is transportation scheduled? What is the ratio of staff to residents?
My mom’s tour of five senior living communities started bright and early at 6:30 a.m. My brother Steve dropped her off and shot me a text: “Mom is on the bus. Looks like she’s already made a couple of friends.”
By day’s end, my mom had eaten two tasty meals, won a gift certificate to a local restaurant and invited two women she’d met on the tour to lunch. She wasn’t a fan of all the communities but loved the last stop on the tour, which was surprisingly affordable.
“I’d move there today if I didn’t have a house,” she told me later, during a lengthy review of her adventure. Will Mom be moving to a senior community anytime soon? Who knows? At least if she ever does, she’ll make her decision as an informed consumer.
Have you, a parent or senior loved one taken a senior living community bus tour? What was your experience like? We’d like to hear more from you in the comments below.