How to Use Social Media for a Senior Living Search

By Michelle Seitzer, SeniorsForLiving.com

These days, lots of retirement communities and home care agencies have a Facebook page. Some even have a Twitter handle, LinkedIn discussion group, YouTube channel, and blog.

We’re living in a social media world, and that means there are new ways to research senior care options.

On the positive side, senior care providers have an opportunity to engage a broad online audience that comprises everyone from family members of residents who currently live there, to volunteers connected with the community, to staff who are excited to share about happenings, to curious web surfers wanting to know a little more about the senior living communities in the area. And what a great first impression an active Facebook page with lots of great images, helpful advice, and engaging fans can make!

Even though there are many retirement communities that don’t yet have a social media presence, people of all ages can still jump online anytime and connect with hundreds of others in the same position: those trying to find the best care option for a senior loved one. More and more organizations, resources and individuals are emerging every day on the blogosphere and elsewhere, offering guidance and support for the senior care decision-making process.

As this is such a difficult process, these resources are certainly welcome, but having such an abundant amount of available resources can be equally overwhelming. That’s why word-of-mouth referrals from people you trust can be tremendously valuable. Focus on local care providers so you can research them in greater depth beyond just what you see on the screen.

It’s easy to poll lots of people at once via your social media networks (i.e. What sites do you recommend for searching for senior living? What blogs have good information? How do you know when it’s the right time for a care transition?). But beware – when you ask someone’s opinion, you will get a biased response, so take what is shared with a grain of salt and consider it carefully. What’s right for one may not be right for another.

As hotels often do, some senior living communities are now offering virtual tours on their websites. Though viewing photos in advance of an in-person visit may hold some value, it should not be the sole basis for a senior care decision. When choosing assisted living or any other type of senior housing or care services, ask around.

Interviewing various home care agencies and staff or visiting care communities in person is still the best way to determine what is best for your family member. But you can certainly narrow your range of options using the variety of online tools available today.

©2012 Michelle Seitzer. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Michelle Seitzer spent 10 years filling various roles at assisted living communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, then worked as a public policy coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association in PA before settling down as a full-time freelance writer. Seitzer also served as a long-distance caregiver for her beloved grandfather, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2009. She blogs for SeniorsforLiving.com, which provides information on assisted living, home care and Alzheimer’s care, and is also the co-moderator of #ElderCareChat on Twitter, held every other Wednesday at 1pm EST. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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