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What should you ask before moving to a senior living community?

Making the move to a senior living community is a big decision. You want to do it once … and do it right. That means putting your investigative skills to use, to get the information you need.

Living Options

Every community is different when it comes to housing choices. Some offer apartments only, while others also have cottages or duplexes for residents who want and need more space.

At Topeka Presbyterian Manor, our independent living spaces range from a 405 square-foot studio apartment to a 1,300 square-foot duplex. Assisted living residences range from 200-500 square feet. Some questions to ask when you visit a senior living community are:

  • What is the square footage?
  • How many bedrooms?
  • How many baths?
  • Is there a tub and/or walk-in shower?
  • Is there a balcony or patio?
  • What about a garage or other parking?
  • Are there storage units?
  • What appliances are included?
  • Is there a washer/dryer or hookup in unit or a common laundry room?
  • Are the doorknobs and fixtures senior friendly?
  • Are the windows easy to open?
  • Is the community wheelchair accessible?

Community Activities

Activities, including on-site programs and events, are one of the hallmarks of a senior living community like TopekaPresbyterian Manor. Think about the things you love to do most, as well as the new interests you might like to pursue. Don’t hesitate to find out if your desired community will be a good match with questions like:

  • Do you have a fitness center?
  • Do you have exercise and wellness programs?
  • What sort of clubs do you have?
  • What about worship and Bible study?
  • Are there community-sponsored parties?
  • Do you bring in speakers or entertainers?
  • What kind of day trips are available?
  • Are there other offsite group activities?


Think of amenities as the little extras that make a community special. Common rooms where residents can gather, chat and play games. Quiet spots for reading or personal reflection. Green spaces where you can commune with nature. Plus, onsite conveniences that make life easier. Ask what perks a senior living  community offers, such as:

  • Is there a library or reading room?
  • Is there a creative or crafting space?
  • What are the outdoor features?
  • Is there onsite worship?
  • What about a salon or barber shop?

Topeka Presbyterian Manor has a newly renovated library, an art studio, outdoor spaces for walking, a covered balcony for sitting and relaxing, a beautiful chapel, and a convenient salon/barber shop. We also offer a grocery ordering service called Manor Mart.


Services are the reason a lot of people move to a senior living community. So that someone else can take care of maintenance, housekeeping, cooking and other chores. Make sure the community meets your needs for a relaxing and fun lifestyle. Inquire as to what’s included and what costs extra:

  • Is the community pet friendly?
  • Is maintenance included?
  • Is there onsite dining?
  • Can you provide for special diets?
  • Do I have to eat there for every meal, every day?
  • Is housekeeping included?
  • How often are residences cleaned?
  • Which utilities are included?
  • How is the Internet speed and connection?
  • Can I get cable?
  • Do you provide transportation?

Safety & Security

Living in a gated senior living community provides safety features that a traditional neighborhood is unable to offer. Every community is a little bit different in how they approach security and emergency response. Resident well-being should come first and give you peace of mind. Pose questions like:

  • Is there 24/7 security onsite?
  • How does the community handle emergencies?
  • Is there an emergency call button in each unit?
  • Is there a sprinkler system in each unit?
  • Are smoke alarms installed?
  • Is smoking permitted?


If you choose a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) like Topeka Presbyterian Manor, there will be varying levels of healthcare available. Not only will you be able to move into assisted living when it’s time, you will also have access to short-term and long-term care resources. Be sure to ask:

  • What type of healthcare services are offered?
  • Do I get priority access to care as a resident?
  • What if I need to move to assisted living?
  • What if need extra care after being in the hospital?
  • Is there a long-term nursing facility for people with chronic or critical illness?
  • What features does the nursing facility have?

Staff Training

It takes a big team to operate a safe, clean and successful senior living community. That means maintenance staff, groundskeepers, housekeepers, culinary and nutrition professionals, nursing and nursing support staff, other healthcare team members and more. Not to mention an entire administrative staff that keeps things running. Questions to ask include:

  • How do you evaluate people who want to work here?
  • Do you do criminal and background checks?
  • Does the staff receive special training?
  • Is everyone certified in CPR?
  • Are healthcare team members licensed?
  • Do you provide continuing education?
  • Do people like working here?
  • What kind of staff turnover do you have?


Most senior living communities offer two financial options: (1) monthly payment plans without an entrance fee or long-term commitment or (2) upfront payment for permanent residency with entrance fee and reduced monthly fees.

If you choose the second option, some companies refund a large portion of your entrance fees to you or your estate once you vacate the property. Make sure you take a hard look at this aspect of moving into a senior living community. Ask yourself, your financial advisor and the community representative pointed questions about residency plan options, such as:

  • What can I afford each month?
  • What can I afford for an entrance fee?
  • Do I want to make a long-term commitment to the community?
  • What is the split in terms of refunding fees upon my departure?
  • How do entrance fees apply to potential healthcare costs?
  • What about Medicare, Medicaid and Veterans benefits?

Final Thoughts

Last, but not least, ask about awards, reviews and quality rankings that the community has received. This will tell you a lot too. Print out this article to help your planning and evaluation process. You won’t regret learning too much about your prospective new home.

Helpful Links  

Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America: Senior Living Tour Checklist

Harvard Health Publishing:  Choosing a senior living community

AARP: How Continuing Care Retirement Communities Work

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