By Julie Chetney, Director of Senior Services

The decision to begin looking for a senior living community can be daunting – especially if you do not have any familiarity with the options you have available. To make the decision-making process a little easier for you, here is what I have found to be helpful for families.

My number one piece of advice to anyone is to take the time to visit any communities you are considering and get a feel for the residence. Be sure you ask these questions so you can make an informed decision and find the one that’s right for you.

Do they offer independent and assisted living options?

Many senior living communities offer independent living or assisted living but few offer both. You may find that you need more assistance, as you get older. When you have chosen a community that offers a full continuum of care, you can relax knowing you do not have to relocate to a new area just because your needs change.

When is there staff available if you need assistance?

Does the community have its own staff on site (and not just on call)? It’s important to know the answer to this question before you’re faced with an emergency.

Do they offer dining choices?

If a community restricts what you’re able to eat, look elsewhere. One size doesn’t fit all, nor should it. Do you have different dining venues to choose from? Can you get meals to go or delivered to your door? Are the chefs professionally trained? Look for a variety of meal choices and an innovative menu. Find out if you’ll be restricted to only a few specific entrees every day, or if you must dine between specific hours. Your dining options should work around your lifestyle — not the other way around.

Do they offer transportation options?

Look for a community that offers scheduled transportation — even if you own your own car.

Maintaining your independence is important. If the day comes when you’re unable to drive for some reason — or don’t want to drive anymore — scheduled transportation will help you keep moving, so you can always make it to the doctor, the bank or the grocery store when you need to.

Are there opportunities to socialize and stay busy?

When you take a tour and walk through the community, are residents socializing in the common areas? Are they active? Do they have guests visiting?

Look for a community offering a full slate of on-campus activities open to residents at all stages of the care continuum. And don’t forget about scheduled outings to local attractions or events – this is just as important, who doesn’t like to get out and about on occasion?

Remember: Choose a retirement community where active, independent living is enhanced by access to higher levels of care: assisted living, memory care, rehabilitative services, skilled nursing. It’s true peace of mind for you and for your family.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about senior housing options or just need some advice my twenty years of experience might offer, please give me a call at 315-326-0840 and I will be happy to help.

About Julie: Julie Chetney is Director of Senior Services for The St. Luke Family of Caring affiliates. Julie has served in various roles with the organization over her twenty-one year career including Volunteer Coordinator at St. Luke, Senior Living Coordinator at Bishop’s Commons, and Director of St. Francis Commons. An expert in residential care options for older adults, Julie can be reached at 315-326-0840 or by email at