What’s on your senior living “must-have” list?

We all make lists, from the mundane to the pie-in-the-sky: grocery lists, to-do lists, wish lists, bucket lists. They help us stay organized and prioritized for tasks big and small. 

One big area where a list could come in handy: your search for a senior living community!

Having a clear sense of what’s really important as you embark on this decision-making process will keep you from getting distracted by “shiny objects” — think features and amenities that don’t ultimately matter to you — and help you make the best choice for your future.

What’s on your list today may change as you age. For instance, having delicious restaurants at your doorstep may become much more appealing than cooking all of your meals in your well-appointed chef’s kitchen.

What’s on your list? Here are some things that top many prospective residents’ lists as they're seeking a new home in senior living.

Jump to: Location | Your home | Amenities | Food and dining | Community lifestyle | Access to care


Location is the first thing on anyone’s mind when picturing a move. But what about your location is the most important?

Is it being near family so you can watch your grandkids grow up? Is it proximity to your network of friends, medical providers, or perhaps your faith-based community? Is it choosing a community near the ocean, the mountains, or even a bustling metropolis?

Or is it all about access to activities? If you need cultural attractions close at hand — the performing arts, museums, continuing education, shopping, sports — or a great nearby movie theater to take in a show on Friday nights, be sure they’re on your list.

Your home

Chances are, the apartment or villa you select for this move will be smaller than where you’re used to living right now.

Beyond the size, it’s important to consider your in-unit must-haves:

  • How much space do you realistically need, not only to be physically comfortable, but also to accommodate the important personal items that make your house feel like a home?
  • Will you be allowed to bring your furry friend with you?
  • Is an open-layout living area — perfect for entertaining — important to you?
  • What fixtures and finishes will help you feel comfortable and love your new home? (Many Vi communities offer opportunities to customize your new unit!)


Your everyday surroundings matter more than you might think. If you think about your life now and know you’d miss the sound of birds outside your window in the morning — or the luxury of an early tee time before the course gets too crowded — you know that’s a consideration that belongs on your list.

So, what amenities do you want just beyond your front door?

A swanky bar to enjoy a martini before dinner? A common living room for coffee and conversation? A swimming pool to do your laps? Beautifully landscaped grounds to explore on a gorgeous day? A charging station for your electric car? A well-equipped gym to stay fit?

Let us help you keep your must-haves organized

Food and dining

Then there’s the culinary question: Do you just need your three meals a day, or are you looking for a true dining experience, complete with wine tastings, craft cocktails, and handmade desserts?

Perhaps you want chef-driven restaurants on site, with a variety of menu options: bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin one night, fresh spring asparagus risotto the next.

What about access to healthy grab-and-go options like salads and wraps?

Residents dine together.
Maybe you’re a foodie who loves entertaining with a home-cooked meal. Or, perhaps you want to be just a short drive from the affordable eats of a local Italian trattoria. Whatever your tastes, make sure your list reflects that.

Community lifestyle

One of the biggest benefits to moving into a retirement community is access to a wide variety of lifestyle programs, both onsite and off: lectures, art classes, cultural outings, fitness programming, and more. Ask to see a monthly calendar of events, and perhaps even sit in on a popular fitness class!

Do you love to socialize with people who share your passions? Find out about the clubs and committees that are active in your community. Who leads them? Do they align with your interests? And if not, are there opportunities for residents to start new clubs?

Access to care

The list item that few want to think or talk about may ultimately be the most important to you down the road. According to the Aging in Cities survey, 61 percent of adults say the need for high-quality care actually tops their list.

The first question: onsite vs. offsite. Is on-site care a high priority for you in a Life Plan or Rental Community? Is the ability to move from independent living for a short-term care need — such as a visit to skilled nursing  rehab after a knee replacement — important to you?

Then there’s the cost of care. Some communities, including type A Life Plan Communities, build the cost of care into your initial investment, allowing you to plan ahead for care costs. If you’re moving to a rental community, you’ll have to pay the current market rate for any care services you require later on. If you have long-term care insurance, ask how this will fit into your options.

Equally important to access and cost is quality. Consider the number of staff — as well as their credentials — and how existing residents feel about how they’re taken care of. (Do they enjoy the food? Are there still activities to enjoy? What’s the social scene like?) also maintains regular ratings of nursing homes throughout the United States. You can look up many of the communities you’re considering using their resource called Nursing Home Compare.

Two nurses chat in the care center.
Want help making your list?

Looking for a bit of guidance as you compile your list of “must-haves”? 

Grab our downloadable tool to help bring your list to life when you visit.

And if you have more questions — or want to talk about items Vi might check off your list — we're ready to hear from you.