Moving to a Senior Community: The Do’s and Don’ts

Moving into a senior community or considering the option? Let's discuss optimal ways for entering this environment and beginning a new chapter in your life.
Portrait of a smiling older woman eating at a table with other seniors in a senior community

Knowing when to consider assisted living and actually moving into one are huge moments in a senior’s life. Moving to a new senior living community may make you feel like the ‘new kid on the block.’ Even if it’s been many decades since you were the new kid at elementary, middle school, high school or even college, you know the feeling. Everyone seems to know each other. There are cliques, social groups, activity groups, and interest groups. It can feel like you’re a stranger in a strange land.

Although you may feel awkward at first, it helps to recall, everyone you see felt like this. Everyone was once the new kid. Now, they seem happy, well adjusted, and enjoying their lives. It may take a little time, but since they did it—you can too.

Here are 8 big ideas for success from Senior Assistance Club. These 8 do’s and don’ts of moving to a senior community can help you speed up the entry process, so you’ll get on your way to enjoying your life in your new community.

Do’s and Don’ts When Moving to a Senior Living Community

1. Use The Buddy System

DO: Use the Buddy System

It’s usually easier to find a friend to go to activities, have tea, or try a new class. If you know someone in the community, start with this person. They don’t have to be your bosom buddy, just a friendly person to help you get acquainted with the new environment.

DON’T: Ignore People You Know

Even if you’re not on stellar terms, knowing someone is better than being completely alone. Don’t let an old perception get in the way of building a friendship with a familiar acquaintance.

2. Open Up

DO: Open Up to New

When choosing an assisted living facility, you’ve surely checked out the different activities and amenities your facility has. When you finally move in, don’t be afraid to try out new activities you’ve never done before. Maybe you’ve been intrigued with a yoga class. Perhaps there is an outing to a museum or park you’ve never visited. Open up your attitude and try new things.

DON’T: Refuse to Participate

As you sit alone in your room, you will miss out on meeting people, learning new things, and having fresh experience. You may initially feel more comfortable in the privacy of your own world…but in the long term, this is isolating. Give yourself some wiggle room to try out something new. A day a week. Two days a week. Three…well, you get the idea.

3. Eat Together

DO: Eat and Socialize

Eating together is traditionally a time to be nourished, by food and by friends. In a new community, you will find that mealtimes are a great way to meet new people and form relationships. Share stories. Listen to experiences. Use the mealtimes to visit with folks at your table, in the hallways, and before-and-after the event.

DON’T: Eat Alone

Eating alone can be isolating and the worst idea you’ve had so far. It’s O.K. for a quick bite…but remember— you are not just here for a moment. This is your new community. Mealtime is double duty—time to eat and time to meet. If you don’t like your tablemates, roam around. Find like-minded spirits and eat together. Making friends is a smart way to get comfortable as quickly as possible.

A group of senior friends laugh together while sitting on a bench in a park

4. Make It Your Own

DO: Pack Ahead

Even though you’re in a senior community, that doesn’t mean your home can’t reflect your personality. Bring in some of your favorite things and make the space feel like yours. Make sure to pack up your belongings ahead of time so you’re not rushed or overwhelmed when it’s time to move.

DON’T: Put Off Packing

Don’t wait until the last minute to start packing. This will only add to the stress of moving to a senior living community. Additionally, don’t bring too much stuff with you. While you can decorate your space the way you want to, it will be limited. Most senior living communities have storage space available as well as amenities like board games and fitness equipment, so you don’t need to bring everything with you.

5. Get Out and About

DO: Get Out and About

Go for a walk. Play a game. Take a class. Read a book. Find people with similar interests and form a group. Maybe you like a certain kind of podcast. Talk to the activities director about forming a group around your interest.

DON’T: Hole Up in Your Room

Even if your room is lovely and well decorated, give yourself a kick out the door. Get out and meet people. Enjoy the fresh air. Explore the building. Find out what activities are happening when. You wouldn’t let a child hide in their room…don’t give in to your own urge to hide out.

6. Learn and Teach

DO: Learn and Teach

Is there something you’d like to learn? Maybe there’s already a class, activity or group organized in this area. If not, talk to the activities director and set one up.

Perhaps you have a skill you’d like to share—painting, sewing, journaling or something else. Lifelong learning is a wonderful way to share your interests and help other residents explore their creativity.

DON’T: Stop Learning and Teaching

When learning seems too tough, it could be you are trying to learn something you don’t value. What would be really exciting, fun, or awesome to learn? By connecting with what truly matters to you, you’ll find the oomph to jump over any obstacles. Same goes for teaching. You may have a knack for doing a craft that someone in your community would love to discover. Spark any ideas?

7. Make Connections

DO: Get Involved in the Community

Senior communities are designed in such a way to provide its residents with things to do. There are usually plenty of activities and clubs to join, so find something that interests you and get involved. This is a great way to meet people and stay active.

DON’T: Be Afraid to Ask for Help

There are plenty of staff members and other residents who are more than happy to help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions, assistance with learning a new activity, finding out the schedule for the day, or just a friendly chat.

8. Be Patient

DO: Practice Patience

Moving to a senior community is a huge change. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with the place. Be patient with the people you meet. Be patient with the staff and directors. You’re in a new environment and it’s natural to feel a little off kilter. Give yourself time to adjust, make new friends, and find your own groove.

DON’T: Give Up

It takes time to make new friends. It can feel a little odd, scary or awkward at first. Take a few risks and talk to people. Expand your field by talking to different people, try out new activities, and vary your routines. In a short time, you’ll know more people, find your home-zone, and connect with your tribe.

A group of happy senior friends with their hands on top of each other

Assistance Club Summary

The Big Idea: Being the “New Kid on The Block” is like a blink in time. With a few tips and tactics, you can break the ice and start enjoying your new surroundings.

Pick the tips that make the most sense to you. Do those. Then, add in new tactics—either ones listed here, or ones you invent. In a matter of days or weeks, you’ll feel at home, and ready to welcome other newcomers who’ve just moved into your senior community. Only then, you’ll be the one showing a newcomer the ropes. Just imagine that!