How To Find The Best Senior Living Communities (2023)


Medically Reviewed

Jason Garbarino currently serves as the director of the undergraduate nursing program at University of Vermont (UVM).
Jason T. Garbarino, DNP, RN, GERO-BC, CNL Gerontology / Nursing
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When aging makes it difficult for a person to continue living at home independently, senior living options offer alternative forms of care. A variety of senior living options can provide older adults with a comfortable, safe environment. Whether you’re looking for senior living for yourself or a loved one, read on to learn more about finding the best senior living near you.

What Is Senior Living?

Senior living refers to an array of care, lifestyle and housing options for older adults, according to Ailene Gerhardt, an independent board-certified patient advocate (BCPA) and founder of Beacon Patient Solutions LLC in Boston.

Options for senior living often range from aging in single family homes, apartments, townhouses, condos, tiny houses, co-housing or shared housing to living in active adult communities or facilities intentionally designed to focus on lifestyle interests or specific care needs, says Gerhardt.

Senior living facilities also tend to offer varying levels of care, depending on a person’s needs. While most facilities don’t offer full-time medical care, some may have an onsite nurse or offer services like assistance with medication management and activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, using the toilet and getting dressed. Some senior living communities may offer memory care services for residents with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Types of Senior Living

There are several types of senior living options to accommodate various budgets, needs and preferences. According to Keith Grady, a gerontologist and executive director at Applewood Estates, a New Jersey continuing care retirement community, the most common options include:

  • Independent living is an option for older adults who can live independently and want to enjoy social and recreational activities. Typical services include spas, beauty salons and barber shops, daily meals, basic housekeeping and laundry, fitness centers and swimming pools. Social activities and outings are also often included.
  • Assisted living offers care for older adults requiring assistance with ADLs including dressing, bathing or medication management, but who don’t require 24-hour nursing care.
  • Memory care offers older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia specialized care and an environment that’s safe to live with features like enclosed outdoor spaces for safe wandering, code-activated elevators and more.
  • Skilled nursing care is an option for older adults who need 24-hour nursing care and medical attention due to chronic or acute health conditions, including wound care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and intravenous (IV) therapy.

How to Find Senior Living Options Near You

If you’re in search of senior living for yourself or a loved one, these resources are worth exploring.

Word of Mouth

“Word of mouth is a good way to get started,” says Jennifer Avila, a Chicago-based senior living professional and the executive director at Custom Home Care, LLC. Ask your friends about their experiences with senior living options and which were the most positive. Avila also recommends collecting the names of a few facilities from friends or family and doing your own research by checking out facility websites, scheduling in-person visits and reading reviews from other current and former residents.

Area Agencies on Aging

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) focus on helping older adults in local communities stay healthy and engaged through various programs, classes and opportunities. The organization can also help you find the right senior living option for your unique needs. Contact your local agency online or by calling 1-866-243-5678.

Senior Living Advisor

Senior living advisors are professionals who help older adults and their families find the best senior living option for their needs. These advisors don’t charge a fee, however it’s worth noting they’re often paid a commission by senior living communities when someone moves into a community they recommend.

To find a senior living advisor in your local area, reach out to your local Area Agency on Aging for recommendations. You can also ask a reputable senior living community or another senior living professional, such as an elder law attorney or geriatric care manager, for a referral.


LeadingAge is a nonprofit association that represents service providers and organizations in support of older adults. The association’s Aging Services Directory locates and lists senior living facilities in your area via ZIP code and specific services, such as senior housing or subsidized housing.

What to Consider When Choosing Senior Living

As you explore various senior living options, keep the following factors in mind.

  • Location: Whether it be an urban environment or a rural setting, make sure to account for a facility’s proximity to friends, family, activities and other important resources like medical offices, grocery stores or hospitals.
  • Meals: Determine what meals are available and when they’re served throughout the day. Avila suggests asking for a meal when you visit a facility to help gauge the quality, freshness and variety of the food.
  • Amenities: While some facilities offer more amenities than others, common amenities include housekeeping, meals and dining services, exercise and wellness programs, and transportation services.
  • Cost: Pricing of senior living communities varies depending on factors like location, the type of senior living community, which amenities are available and the size of the apartment or unit a person selects, says Avila. Make sure to consider which senior living option best fits your budget, and keep in mind some senior living communities may charge fees, such as a one-time entry fee that can cost several thousand dollars and/or a down payment, prior to accepting a new resident.
  • Wait times: Some facilities have wait lists of several years before a spot becomes available. Be sure to ask the senior living facility of your choice about the timeline for moving.
  • Transitional care: Finding a facility with transitional care allows a person to remain in the same location even if their needs increase as they age.

How to Pay for Senior Living

Though the cost of senior living can feel overwhelming, there are options to help ease the financial burden.

  • Private pay funds: These funds pay for care using personal savings or assets. Depending on your financial situation, you may opt to use funds from the sale of a home, retirement accounts, health savings accounts (HSAs), stocks, bonds and/or CDs to help pay for a senior living community.
  • Long-term care insurance: Long-term care insurance covers nursing home care, home health care and personal or adult daycare..“Other than private pay funds, the option with the most coverage is a long-term care insurance plan,” says Holly Berndt, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Houston Medical Group. “Depending on the policy, this can help pay up to the full amount [of services].”
  • Medicaid: This federal and state program offers health coverage for qualified low-income Americans, including older adults. “Certain facilities, [though] not all, can allow for Medicaid to contribute to senior living costs,” says Dr. Berndt. However, as Medicaid operates on a state-by-state basis, coverage may vary depending on where you live.
  • VA Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits: “This is a program that can provide up to $2,229 per month to qualified vets and their spouses who need help with ADLs,” says Avila. Veterans who are housebound may also qualify for the benefit. Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website to learn if you or your loved one are eligible.



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