7 Helpful Tips for Making the Move to Senior Living

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated March 25, 2022
A senior couple at new apartment
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Moving your senior loved one into a retirement community can be an exciting transition, but some uneasiness could surface if you don’t have a well-thought-out plan. 

Talking with your senior about what they want in their new home is a great start, but it’s also important to ask the right questions to make the best decisions for the older adults you love. Let’s take a look at a few tried-and-true tips for helping a senior loved one move into a senior living community.

1. Determine the Level of Care and Type of Community Your Senior Needs

A senior man and woman relaxing in apartment
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The first step for a successful senior-living transition is to talk with your loved one and their doctors, if needed, about the level of care required at their new home. Some seniors thrive in independent living; others need assisted-living services or memory care. Determining the amount of care services required will help narrow down your facility choices and point you in the right direction.

You should also talk about what lifestyle amenities your senior prefers, like dining and entertainment choices or universal design aids. Ultimately, the goal of retirement living is to comfortably age in place as long as possible. 

Discuss Their Housing Budget 

Each senior-living community has a pricing model ranging from an all-inclusive monthly payment to customized tier-based programs that only cover some of the resident’s care. For a reference point, Genworth's cost of living survey reports that the monthly median cost for assisted living was $4,500 in 2021. Before you start planning your older adult’s move to a senior living community, discuss their housing budget and how it aligns with the care options they need.

2. Consider Hiring a Senior Move Manager 

Many families find comfort in hiring a senior move manager. These specialized professionals help older adults transition into retirement housing and assist with moving tasks like finding the retirement community, planning the packing process, and directing move-in day activities. 

Senior move managers are certified by the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers and have a wide network of professional resources to help you and your older adult process the lifestyle change.

3. Start the Packing Process Early 

Even if your senior is excited about moving into a senior living community, the packing process might be challenging. Many people find it hard to say goodbye to household items with happy memories attached. 

Make a packing plan with your loved one as early as possible, so they have time to accept the change, even if it’s only working for 20-minutes a day on “keep,” “sell,” and “give away” piles. 

Part of saying goodbye to their current lifestyle is chatting and reminiscing about the stories connected to their items, so schedule plenty of time for reminiscing and processing. 

Here are some suggestions to help maximize the packing process:

  • Use a calendar to set dates for your moving goals.

  • Invite friends and family to help throughout the moving process. 

  • Visit the new community home, take pictures of the layout, and ask for a floor plan. 

  • Create a list of must-have items and add more items as space allows.

  • Help your senior envision their new space with familiar things.  

  • Plan a yard or estate sale

  • Donate or recycle unwanted or unused items. 

  • Keep old towels, blankets, and sheets for packing material if you don’t hire professional movers. 

4. Change Their Address  

Your older adult might need help disconnecting utilities and changing their address with the post office. While they won’t need to officially change their address until they move, it’s a good idea to get a head start and create a list of the accounts or services to change. Be sure to remind them about address changes for important accounts like medical and prescriptions and fun mail like magazines. 

5. Schedule Movers or Plan a DIY Move 

If you don’t hire a senior move manager, you’ll need a local moving company. Ask the retirement community manager for suggestions of local companies that have experience moving residents into that senior-living community. When talking with the moving company, ask about available service options, especially help loading and unloading boxes. Many professional moving companies specialize in retirement community moves and offer senior discounts. 

Or, if you choose a DIY move, start collecting boxes and packing materials early. You can buy them new from home improvement stores or search online for free boxes. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need several extra helpers to complete a DIY move into a retirement community, especially if your senior loved one is unable to lift heavy items.

6. Make Move-in Day Fun 

Mom and daughter celebrating together
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The best solution for a successful move-in day is to have their new space completely furnished before your senior spends their first night. A leisurely two to three-day move-in keeps stress levels down and the familiarity factor up. 

If you can’t schedule a multiple-day move-in, surround your loved one with support to calm their nerves. Family and friends should make fast work of unloading boxes and furniture to help them feel settled. Plan to stay all day to furnish the home, down to the smallest detail, so your senior feels at home quickly. Take breaks at mealtimes to familiarize them with dining options. After unpacking, walk around the senior-living community and check out the amenities together. 

7. Help Your Senior Make Plans 

Once the new space is cozy, you’ll want your senior to start enjoying their surroundings. Encourage them to introduce themselves to neighbors and start socializing at planned events. Their senior-living community is likely filled with people with similar interests and backgrounds. It’s true that big transitions take a while to feel comfortable, but with visits from friends and family, your loved one should adjust soon.

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