A Place for Mom

Virtual Tours of Senior Living Communities: There’s an App for That

Claire Samuels
By Claire SamuelsJune 20, 2020

Nearly 70% of families said an in-person tour was extremely important to their senior living decision, according to a 2019 survey from A Place for Mom (APFM). But in-person tours during the coronavirus pandemic are being avoided as a safety measure to protect residents and staff.

Families still want assurance they’re making the right choice before moving an aging loved one into assisted living or another type of senior living. The answer? An app that allows families to tour communities safely.

Live, virtual tours are helping family members in different locations view communities together. Just like your relatives may celebrate a long-distance birthday or graduation over video chat, you can now explore senior living options as a family with APFM’s new mobile app, Community Tours. It’s available nationwide for families to easily and securely connect with our network of 15,000 senior living facilities.

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“All our questions were answered, and the virtual tour truly helped us in choosing the best location for our father,” says Sean Osaki, a recent APFM customer. 

Learn more about the app’s features and why virtual tours are useful — now and in the future — to help you feel confident you’re selecting the right community for your aging relative. 

6 reasons to take a senior living virtual tour

  1. Virtual tours are accessible
    Time, distance, and extreme circumstances can prevent in-person community visits. Sometimes, a senior moves to a different town to be close to relatives or has mobility issues that could complicate extra visits. Virtual tours make communities accessible to seniors and families in all locations and situations.
  2. You’ll save time
    Families, on average, go on four senior community tours before making a senior living decision. These trips take time and can be difficult to fit into a hectic schedule.
  3. You can try before you buy or decide to visit in person
    A senior living community could be beautiful in photos, but what’s it truly like? Live video tours allow a dynamic window into resident life, complete with visuals of unique activities, food, and amenities. On a virtual tour, you can talk to community representatives and see how residents and staff interact to ensure your loved one will be treated well.
  4. Video tours bring families together
    More than 50% of families need buy-in from multiple family members to make a senior living decision, according to APFM. The Community Tours app allows multiple groups to join across geographies with a secure connection. By touring together, you can prevent future sibling disputes about senior living.
  5. Communities can showcase technology for seniors
    Recently, it’s become clear that technology has a huge effect on senior living. From medical devices to improved communication with family and friends, technology prevents isolation and keeps seniors safe. A good virtual tour demonstrates that the community is comfortable with technology and will use it to enhance your aging relative’s experience.
  6. Virtual conversation helps the community learn about you, too
    Senior living tours are a two-way street. Not only are you and your family learning about the community, but the staff is also paying attention to your loved one’s personality and needs. Unlike a pre-recorded video, a live virtual tour opens up dialogue to help determine if your loved one and the community are the right fit. You can discuss medical needs, dietary preferences, social life, and more.

How is the Community Tours app different from other online virtual tours?

  • Senior Living Advisors
    A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors will schedule everything, giving you peace of mind to focus on your aging family member. Mike Cagwin of Astoria, Oregon, recently worked with a local Senior Living Advisor, Rochelle, to find memory care for his dad. “I spent some time with her explaining our situation, and 20 minutes after we hung up, she sent me three communities that fit Dad’s needs.”

    Cagwin had a conversation with one facility and was ready to tour. “Rochelle checked in to see how it went and offered to arrange a live virtual tour with Dawn, the community representative. We used APFM’s Community Tours app and had a great experience. Dawn walked us around and we were able to ask questions during the tour. It was really nice to be able to see the community since we could not visit in person.”
  • Accessibility
    The Community Tours mobile app is designed specifically for the senior living industry, so it has all the features families need to make informed decisions, without unnecessary extra functions. “The virtual tour app is very user-friendly and the personal interaction was top notch,” said Osaki.
  • Transparency
    Pre-recorded video tours are a great way to get a sense of senior living options, but they can be less personal and interactive. With the Community Tours app, your family can ask to see specific areas and explore what’s most important to your loved one.
  • Singularity
    Traditional video apps — like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime — can lead to frustrations over having to learn, download, and manage a new platform for each virtual tour. The Community Tours app is universal, so there’s only one new application on your phone.
  • Privacy
    Your Senior Living Advisor will provide you and your family with a unique code to ensure a secure connection. This facilitates safe sharing of personal questions and health concerns.
  • Real-time communication
    Your family can ask questions throughout the live virtual tour and have a full conversation with the community representative.

Questions to ask during any senior community tour

Taking virtual tours of multiple senior living communities can feel overwhelming. To see if the community is the right fit for your aging relative, be prepared with questions such as:

  1. What are your favorite things about your community? What sets you apart? (If they mention a certain place or amenity, ask if you can see it on your virtual tour.)
  2. What is your staff-to-resident ratio? What levels of training are required for your staff?
  3. What do the apartments/bedrooms look like? (Eighty-one percent of families surveyed by A Place for Mom said that individual room quality was the most important factor in their decision. Ask to see a bedroom or private space on your virtual tour.)
  4. Do you have experience with the specific care needs of my loved one?
  5. What are your current residents like? Do you offer any particularly popular activities? (See if you can look in on an activity or speak to a current resident during your call.)
  6. What are your monthly costs? Are they all-inclusive, or do families pay for additional services?

Find more in-depth questions in our assisted living tour checklist.

Live video tours are here to stay

Live, virtual tours were born out of necessity for a safe way to explore senior living options during the coronavirus pandemic, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. Even when more in-person visits are possible, virtual tours will be a stepping stone in the decision-making process, allowing families to narrow down which facilities to tour in person from the comfort of their own homes. Alternatively, local relatives can find an ideal fit for their aging loved one, then get input from out-of-town family members via virtual tours.

Claire Samuels
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a content writer at A Place for Mom. She worked with senior living communities throughout the Midwest before pivoting to writing. She’s passionate about sharing ways of living well at any age.

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