Moving a loved one into a retirement community can be confusing and time consuming, but with planning and foresight, you can simplify the process.

Level of Care

The communities you consider will center on the type of care your loved one requires. A community can have a mix or all of these types:

Communities offering all levels of care are called continuing care communities and can be preferable for those looking for a single, long-term option. If your loved one picks an independent living community, they will need to be transferred if extra care is needed.

Need help figuring out the level of care your loved one requires? Try our checklist.

Narrowing the Search

Download information or pick up brochures from any number of communities, go over them with your loved one and decide which ones you want to visit. Choose a combination of small, medium and large communities for a well-rounded frame of reference. Certain niche communities, like those for religious persons and former military, may also be of interest to your loved one.

Since visits can take a lot of time, set up quick, initial tours scheduled as close together as possible to eliminate the ones that don’t seem right. Then, visit the best ones again for a closer look. On the second visit, talk with the staff, attend activities and workshops, and sit down for lunch with the residents. As you narrow your choices, you may need to visit the remaining communities again.


Most communities have application forms available for download or that are readily available in person. But that’s not all you need. Ask for the community’s lease agreement to look over. Despite the best planning, it’s possible your loved one may dislike the community and want to leave. Look for the community’s policies and penalties regarding deposits and breaking leases.


Have a set budget and stick to it. Costs will vary depending on:

    • Type of housing (free-standing home vs. apartment suite).

    • Number of roommates, if any.

    • Level of care (independent living vs. nursing care).

    • Amenities.

    • Location.

If money is a problem, you might be eligible for help. Low-income seniors may be eligible for government senior housing under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 housing program. If your loved one is a low-income veteran, the Aid & Attendance program could provide financial assistance. Some care costs associated with memory problems, like Alzheimer’s, may be funded by Medicaid.

Preparing to Move

Don’t get ready to move until your loved one knows the exact move-in date. Certain communities can have long waiting lists. Be prepared and have a place for your loved one to stay during the transition.

Depending on the community and the facility, your loved one may be able to bring all or some of their belongings. Check with the community’s housing department before packing up.