When shopping for a retirement residence, consider visiting several and go prepared with a list of questions. Keeping notes and gaining a strong "feel" for each place will help you choose the residence best suited to your personal needs and interests.

By: Maureen Murray, original published in Comfort Life, 2008-2009

Retirement and residential care homes vary in location, size, price, amenities, programs and services. The mix of staff and residents also contributes greatly to the "personality" of each place. That's why it's important to look beyond the physical structure and spend the necessary time to ask questions, talk with people and generally "sample the product".

We suggest several ideas, which should help you make the right personal choice:

  • While touring a care home, talk to the residents about their perceptions of the place
  • Plan to stay or return another day for a complimentary lunch or dinner
  • Don't limit your tour to suite and common areas. Ask to see the kitchen
  • If you would really like to "kick the tires" enquire about a trial visit or an overnight stay
  • Ask for resident family references you can contact for their opinions
  • Beyond the standard tour, check stairwells and other less traveled areas to see how well they're cleaned and maintained
  • Ask for copies of any paperwork required for admission along with samples of menus, activity calendars and newsletters

Use the following checklist to identify the types of services and amenities available:

Services Available

  • Meals
  • Tray Service to Suites
  • Daily Housekeeping
  • Weekly Housekeeping
  • Personal Laundry
  • Recreation Program
  • Medication Supervision
  • Vitals Monitoring
  • Visiting Physician
  • Physician on Call
  • Dementia Unit
  • Visiting Dental Service
  • Visiting Lab Service
  • Visiting Podiatrist
  • Visiting Physiotherapist
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Assisted Living Services
  • Respite/Convalescent Care
  • RN/RPN on staff
  • Private Duty Nursing
  • Transportation

Building Amenities

  • Central Dining Room
  • Library
  • Resident Storage
  • Air Conditioned Common Areas
  • Private Dining Rm/Area
  • Chapel
  • Tuck Shop
  • Fire and/or Smoke Alarms
  • Lounges
  • Horticulture Area
  • Beauty Salon
  • Parking
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Sprinkler System
  • Swimming Pool

Suite Amenities

  • Private Bath
  • Heating: Individually Controlled
  • Air Condition: Individually Controlled
  • Call Bell System
  • Fire and/or Smoke Alarms
  • Kitchenette
  • Sprinkler in each suite

Ask the following questions

Community Services

  • How close is the nearest hospital, medical clinic, dentist office?
  • Are there churches, parks, shops and seniors' centres nearby?
  • How accessible is public transportation?
  • Is there an accessible transit service?

Financial Matters

  • What is the daily/monthly rate?
  • Are there charges for additional services you may want or need?
  • Is phone or cable service part of your package?
  • Is there a resident petty cash account with separate accounting?
  • What type of notice period is required should you need, or decide to move?
  • How often are rates for accommodation and/or services increased?
  • What is the average annual rate of increase over the last few years?

Admission Policies

  • Are wheelchairs and walkers accepted?
  • What about scooters?
  • Are any forms of oxygen therapy allowed?
  • Is a health assessment required?
  • What happens if your health deteriorates?

ORCA Membership

  • Is the residence a member in good standing with the Ontario Residential Care Association?
  • Has the residence undergone and successfully met the ORCA Standards Evaluation Guidelines?
  • Is there a Standards Award Certificate and Members Certificate displayed?
  • And, are the dates on both certificates current?

To qualify for membership in the Ontario Residential Care Association (ORCA), a care home must undergo and meet a comprehensive standards evaluation. Check for a dated ORCA membership and standards certificate. You can verify current membership by calling us, toll-free, 1-800-361-7254.

What to consider when searching for senior housing

Retirement homes appeal to people who can live independently but want to live among other seniors. These residences are designed and built to cater to the desires and lifestyles of seniors, and offer accessible accommodations where mature individuals can feel safe yet remain active.

Here's a primer on what you'll find in a typical retirement home. Some distinguishing features of retirement homes:

  • Vary greatly in size, accommodations, services and amenities
  • Privately owned, but include both for-profit and not-for-profit operators
  • Retirement home residents have a great degree of independence, are free to come and go without supervision, and have locks on their doors
  • Typically a private suite with an ensuite washroom
  • Some rooms are equipped with kitchenette, but residences also feature common dining rooms
  • Services generally include 24-hour supervision, meal preparation, laundry/housekeeping, medication distribution and assistance with daily living activities
  • Option to purchase additional support services as needs and preferences change
  • Recreational and social programs
  • Some offer light levels of care, others can cater to seniors with mild cognitive impairment
  • Some offer "assisted living programs" in a number of units that provide an increased level of medical and personal care
  • Some allow small pets
  • Great deal of personal choice and options
  • Waiting lists are more the exception than the rule
  • Private pay, with generally no government subsidy for accommodation or care

As opposed to long-term care, retirement homes are generally geared to healthier, more active individuals.

Some positives of retirement homes

Many people are leery of even considering life inside a retirement residence, holding a stereotypical view of "nursing homes." However, you need to think about positive things that retirement homes offer:

  • There are opportunities for companionship and socializing.
  • Residents are encouraged to bring some home furnishings.
  • Residents have a lot of independence and privacy but live in a safe environment.
  • Individuals in retirement residences are eligible to apply to a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) for medical or other personal help, just as when they were living in their own homes.
  • Some retirement residences offer different levels of support services or are attached to a long-term care community, and it may be possible to transfer as more care is required.
  • After factoring in the cost of property taxes, home maintenance and other current living expenses, the cost of residing in many retirement residences is comparable.

Absolute musts when considering a retirement home

  • Plan ahead: research the option of a retirement home before you need it and discuss it with family members.
  • Write down your needs and wants, and explore whether the residence you are considering can meet them.
  • Visit each residence on your list. Go back for a second look.
  • Ask to see the kitchen.
  • Get a sample of menus.
  • Ask for a schedule of the recreational activities.
  • Go off the beaten track and check out places like stairwells. Are they clean?
  • Ask staff lots of questions.
  • Talk to current residents.
  • Request references.

Mississauga Senior Real Estate: Working With a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate

Have questions or need advice on how to make decisions based on choice and not circumstance? As a Lifestyle 55+ Affiliate, I believe that every senior deserves personalized service, deep local market knowledge and a commitment to putting their needs first. That's why I offer a range of services that are designed to meet the unique needs of seniors in Mississauga, including:

  • A free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your real estate goals and needs
  • Specialized expertise in helping seniors navigate the downsizing process
  • Access to a network of trusted professionals, including movers, estate planners and home stagers
  • A commitment to transparency, honesty and integrity in all of our dealings

If you have any questions about real estate in Mississauga or the downsizing process, don't hesitate to contact me, Deborah Clerk, Real Estate Sales Representative and Lifestyle55+ Affiliate with Keller Williams Real Estate Associates, Brokerage. I am here to help you every step of the way, and we look forward to working with you soon.

Contact Me


Real Estate Websites by Web4Realty