Tips for a Successful Virtual Senior Living Tour
First impressions can be pretty make-or-break, especially if you or your family member is nervous about starting the search for senior care. That’s why it’s important to approach any upcoming tour with a solid game plan. Otherwise, you may find yourself getting overwhelmed or leaving with a limited view of the community.
These tips for a great virtual senior living tour — collected from Benchmark staff and insights from our “mystery shopping” visits at various communities — will help you get a well-rounded view of the community and never feel intimidated by tours again.
1. Start with the “first” first impression.
Your impression of the community starts before you actually even take the tour. Start your journey with a thorough look at the community’s resources, like their website, brochures or online reviews. Pay particularly close attention to any interactions you have with the staff at this early stage.
A key facet of this is the community’s response to your interest. Ask yourself these questions:
- Was booking your tour easy?
- How was your inquiry call handled?
- Was the scheduler polite, professional, and knowledgeable?
- Did the scheduler follow up to confirm your appointment?
These interactions will give you a good taste of how the community’s staff interacts with its residents, as well as the level of support any family members should expect.
Keep careful track of how each and every point of contact made you feel, including the follow-up. After you toured the community, did someone follow-up with you to find out what you thought, and if you had further questions or needed more information? What next steps, if any, were laid out by the person who gave you the tour?
2. Pay attention to the atmosphere.
The atmosphere you feel on your senior living tour is a good example of the atmosphere you or your loved one would experience when living there. This is primarily dictated by the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff themselves. So go in with an open mind — but make sure to note how each interaction shapes your experience.
On the tour, keep these questions in mind for each facet of your experience.
- Were you greeted warmly by the person who arranged the tour?
- Were you able to meet the Executive Director (the leader of the community, who basically sets the tone)?
- What about other department heads in key positions — care & wellness, dining, and programming, for example?
- How do these directors interact with the staff and with the residents during your tour?
Staff & Residents:
- Do they seem happy to be there? Are they friendly and outgoing?
- Do they know all the names of the people around them?
Here’s a pro tip to get the answers you need: engage with everyone you see on your tour, whether they’re residents, family members or staff. The best way to assess the atmosphere is by gathering information from everyone involved. For instance, talk to staff in the dining room or other employees and residents you see as you go along, asking about their experience as either a resident or employee.
3. Consider the maintenance.
Just as important as the people on your senior living tour is the facility itself. Keep an eye on the cleanliness of the building, and how it is physically maintained.
Aesthetics like carpets and chandeliers are not as important as whether those carpets and chandeliers are clean and functional. Has it been recently updated in terms of design, furnishings, carpet/flooring, and other environmental features?
4. Investigate the levels of care.
Even if your loved one doesn’t need care at the time of your senior living tour, be sure to ask questions about what levels of care are provided in the community, like assisted living, memory care, rehab, or skilled nursing.
Ask about move-out criteria (i.e. if your parent needs more care, can he stay, or will he have to transition to another care setting, such as a nursing home?). You want to make sure that the community you choose will be a solution for the long term, not just immediate needs.
Here are some helpful guiding questions:
- If the community only offers independent living, does it have relationships with other settings?
- Can it refer residents to appropriate facilities?
- Do you have to partner with the community’s care providers?
Make sure to consider all types of care, not just things like memory or medical support. For example, you or your loved one may need a mechanical diet to help with chewing issues, particularly during illness or later years. This means all foods are made easier to chew and swallow by blending, pureeing, grinding or finely chopping. Can the community handle specific needs like that and accommodate that diet type?
5. Look into available activities.
Ask about activities, programs, and attendance. Ideally, there will be a full range of experiences designed to stimulate, inspire, and engage the mind, body, and spirit. This should also include built-in activities that go outside the community itself, such as a trip to the museum or a foliage tour.
Our best tip to learn about these: see if the community shares information about any signature programs specific to that community or highlights favorite, featured events on the calendar.
6. Get a taste for their dining.
You’ve probably noticed that we feel the best way to have a great virtual senior living tour is to investigate every aspect of the living experience. That’s particularly true for dining. You should ask to see menus and explore whether fresh ingredients are used.
Your search doesn’t stop there, though. Ask about policies around meals as well:
- Are meals served at fixed times, or is there flexibility?
- Can meals be delivered to rooms?
- Are snacks available throughout the day?
If you can, try to get a sense of the people behind dining, too:
- What is the chef’s background and experience?
- Does the chef mix it up, create holiday events, and keep dining fun and engaging?
7. Take a walk outside.
You may be tempted to focus your attention on the senior living tour on the buildings, but that’s only part of the community. Try to tour the whole community, outdoor areas included (i.e. walking trails or patios). Don’t forget to bring your mask.
Look at the landscaping. What kind of outdoor options are available for residents and visitors to enjoy, like a gazebo, community garden, or picnic space? How well-maintained are the grounds in general?
8. In short? Enjoy the senior living tour but keep your eyes open!
These tips are designed to help you make the most of your tour and feel absolutely confident in your decision and assessment. So don’t get intimidated by the thought of an upcoming virtual tour! Take notes of things that stand out, pay special attention to the people you meet, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about everything.