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How to Take a Senior Living Community for a Test Drive

Chevrolet ran a marketing campaign with the slogan, “Try it, like it, love it, keep it.” For a limited time, prospective car buyers could try out a car for 30 days, and if they didn’t like it, they could bring it back to the dealership. Chevrolet dealers were confident that few owners would return their new cars after the experience of enjoying them for a month. It was a bold campaign, enticing many buyers to come in who otherwise might not have.

Far greater than the decision to purchase a car is the step of selling one’s home and downsizing into senior living. Many senior homeowners fear the finality of this decision, with its significant financial ramifications and life change. What if they don’t like it? There are so many unknowns ahead, that this creates fear and reluctance to even discuss it.

Happily, in the last couple of years, many retirement living communities have begun to offer ways to “take senior living for a test drive.” They offer short-term stays for potential residents, ranging from a single weekend to an entire month, depending on the location. Also called respite stays, easy stays, trial stays, and vacation stays, these visits range in price from complimentary to a flat fee for the month, depending on amenities included.

A trial stay is a great way to experience senior living without the pressure of a final decision. More importantly, it can greatly decrease the overwhelming dread of the unknown in this life step.

Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your senior living test-drive:

  • Bring along a few familiar items to make your guest apartment feel like home while you’re there. A favorite pillow, quilt, and family photos will ease the strangeness of the space and allow you to imagine the place as “yours”.

  • Sample the meals each day to try out the freshness, nutrition, and taste. Sit in the dining room to experience the atmosphere and conversation with other residents.

  • Engage in social activities to meet people and have fun. These might include ice cream happy hour, bridge club, theater night, field trips, music performances, and hobby groups.

  • Take stock of all that you might enjoy there as a resident, including the home maintenance chores that you will no longer have to do!

At the end of your stay, make a list of pros and cons. Talk it over with family, friends, and caregivers. You’ll know if it’s right to stay in your home, or to take the step of moving into a senior community. If you’d like to sample more options, enjoy a short stay in a couple of different communities. This kind of advance planning can make downsizing less stressful and even fun.

Your test-drive experience may not come with that new-car smell of a Chevrolet, but happy hour with ice cream in a retirement community beats that any day. Pass the sprinkles!


© SASH Senior Home Sale Services, by Rebecca Bomann, CEO / Founder

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