Tour and Choose Senior Living From Home With Virtual Community Tours
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 the safety of residents and staff in senior living communities holds top priority during the coronavirus pandemic, making it difficult — or impossible — for relatives to schedule in-person tours.
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? Community Tours virtual experience that allows families to tour communities from home.
APFM launched the first live, virtual touring mobile application uniquely designed for senior care in May 2020. As the pandemic continues and technology becomes more essential than ever in the search for senior living options, APFM has updated the original app and added a desktop-friendly Community Tours experience to make virtual touring even easier.
Nearly 70% of families who moved a loved one into senior living in the fall used a virtual tour, with 84% finding the tour helpful or extremely helpful, according to a recent APFM survey.
You may have celebrated a long-distance birthday or graduation party over video chat this year, and you can explore senior living options together the same way. After speaking with a free, local Senior Living Advisor to choose prospective communities and schedule virtual tours, you’ll receive an email with a tour link. Simply click on the link at your scheduled tour time to connect with a community representative who will escort you throughout the community, talking with you and answering questions along the way.
The APFM virtual touring experience is available nationwide for families to easily and securely connect with more than 6,300 communities across North America. Up to four parties can experience a tour at once.
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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, who used Community Tours to select senior living for his loved one.
Learn more about Community Tours and why virtual visits are useful — now and in the future — to help you feel confident you’re selecting the right senior living option for your aging relative.
6 reasons to take a senior living virtual tour
Virtual tours reduce COVID concerns. Keeping elderly adults safe is a key part of minimizing coronavirus risks. By visiting communities virtually, you reduce potential exposure for current residents — increasing your own loved one’s safety if they move in.
Virtual tours are accessible. Time, distance, and 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.
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.
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.
Video tours bring families together. More than 50% of families need agreement from multiple relatives to make a senior living decision, according to APFM. The Community Tours mobile and desktop experiences allow up to three groups plus the community representative to join across geographies with a secure connection.
Communities can showcase technology for seniors. Up-to-date technology improves senior living. From medical devices to increased communication with family and friends, technology reduces the dangers of isolation and keeps seniors safe. A good virtual tour shows the community is comfortable with technology and will use it to enhance your aging relative’s experience.
Virtual conversation helps the community learn about you, too. Unlike a pre-recorded video, a live virtual tour opens up dialogue to help determine if your loved one and the community are a good fit. 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. You can discuss medical needs, dietary preferences, social life, and more.
How is the Community Tours experience 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 virtual experience is designed specifically for the senior living industry, so it has all the features families need to make informed decisions, without unnecessary extra functions.
Scheduling Community Tours will email you alerts and appointment reminders. It also gives you the ability to schedule or reschedule at your convenience — no need to spend time on the phone coordinating visits.
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 Community Tours, 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. With APFM, your family can choose between an easy, universal mobile application and a desktop version you can access online — no download required.
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.
How can families access Community Tours?
How you choose to tour senior living communities is totally up to you. The newest version of Community Tours offers desktop and mobile-friendly options, which means it can be used on any device. Family members can log on using a home computer, laptop, tablet, or cell phone. This variety of options makes virtual visits more accessible to family members who are less tech-savvy, or may not own a smartphone.
The Community Tours mobile app is a convenient, free option for smartphone users on the go.
The application is available on Apple and Android phones at no charge.
Smartphone tours are portable and flexible, allowing users to join their families anytime, anywhere.
A user-specific code ensures your connection and tour are secure.
The same app can be used for every tour — no need for multiple downloads.
The desktop-friendly version of community tours is an accessible option at home.
Only about 50% of seniors own smartphones, a fact that made the original Community Tours app less accessible for older adults. Now, tours can be viewed on desktops, laptops, and tablets.
There’s no need to download an app — your Senior Living Advisor will send a code to join the tour online.
Emails with clear, easy graphics help anyone with the code join the tour — all you have to do is click the link provided.
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:
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.)
What is your staff-to-resident ratio? What levels of training are required for your staff?
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.)
Do you have experience with the specific care needs of my loved one?
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.)
What are your monthly costs? Are they all-inclusive, or do families pay for additional services?
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 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.