Seniors: What to consider when deciding on a senior living community

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By Missy Schrott | [email protected]

Many factors should be considered when deciding on an assisted living facility for yourself or a loved one. Does it have a memory care unit? What types of amenities and space does it have? Where is it located and what are its medical protocols? What is the cost?

The Times recently spoke with representatives of three new senior communities – Brandywine Senior Living, Silverado Alexandria Memory Care Community and Sunrise Senior Living – that have either just opened or have facilities in the works in Alexandria to identify some of the current trends.


Brandywine opened on March 22 at 5550 Cardinal Place in the West End next to Cameron Station. Samantha Tricoli, director of community relations, said Brandywine focuses on luxury assisted living and memory care, topnotch amenities and allowing residents to maintain active lifestyles.

Tricoli said Brandywine was attracted to the location because of its proximity to Old Town and the District of Columbia and the possibilities for residents. She also said the organization saw a need for more senior living in Alexandria and wanted to be involved in the revitalization in the city’s West End.

The Alexandria senior living community is Brandywine’s first urban building, with six stories including first floor retail space. In the three weeks since opening, five residents have moved in and the community can hold up to 127 more.

Brandywine’s hallmark features include an aquatic therapy pool, a theater, restaurant style dining, a bistro and an exercise program, along with 24-hour nurses, onsite doctors and a memory care community called Reflection Serenade that can hold to up to 30 residents.

“We really put an emphasis on this being an active aging community, because we want residents to understand that just because you might need some assistance, you can still have a really active social life and do those things that you love to do,” Tricoli said.

Across all assisted living communities, Tricoli said she’s noticed residents seeking bigger apartments and living areas. She said the new building in the West End responds to this need with larger apartments, two-bedroom options and more amenities.


Silverado is a new community coming to 2807 King St. in late May or early June. It will be able to hold up to 65 residents, and 24 spots have already been reserved.

Silverado Chief Executive Officer Loren Shook said he co-founded Silverado 21 years ago with the intent to be a memory-care-only community in the world of senior communities. Shook said he saw a missed opportunity in memory care to highlight and utilize the strengths that people retained.

Silverado’s distinguishing feature is a program called Nexus that seeks to improve the functional level and cognition of people with memory impairing diseases.

“We’re taking the toughest, most difficult cases, as well as the easy ones,” Shook said. “We’re the place where other assisted livings will send people that they can’t handle.”

Silverado’s programming strives to merge the best of a social model with the best of nursing and medical services with a specialty in memory care.

“That’s the vision of our company – to give a quality of life to our residents, to our families and to each other that we haven’t seen in a long time,” Shook said.


Sunrise, which is set to start construction on an Old Town location in early 2019, is familiar to Alexandrians due to its community on Duke Street that opened in 1997 and houses 91 residents.

Alphonso Westley, director of operations for Sunrise, said the organization was attracted to Alexandria because it allows residents to age in place in a familiar area close to families and activities. Westley said Sunrise’s distinguishing feature is its focus on individualized care and personalized care across the entire resident experience.

He said Sunrise has evolved over the years to take advantage of new technology, including a new electronic health record system. The program allows Sunrise to look at residents holistically by tracking their programming throughout the day, meal consumption and other aspects of mind, body and spiritual well being.

Sunrise also has an intimate memory care community called Reminiscence.

How to find a community

When looking for a community, it is important to find one that fits the client’s station in life and expectations.

Tricoli recommended narrowing down to a few choices and returning to the main contenders for a second visit.

“I always say that every building has its own personality,” Tricoli said, “so you want to narrow down your options and then go back to your top options and join them for lunch, and get a feel for how the staff interacts, how the residents are, what the personalities in the building are and just make sure that the personality of the building is a good fit. … That’s something that you may not get after the first visit.”

Westley said he tells families to consider the questions: Can this senior community cater to your unique needs? Do residents look happy and engaged when you walk through the front doors? Do they offer caregiver support groups? How do they personalize the experience for you and your loved one?

Sunrise also has an online care questionnaire that helps people looking for senior living distinguish terminology and get recommendations for the type of care they may need.

When determining the right assisted living fit for yourself or a loved one, there are many factors to consider.

Alexandria residents have a wealth of impressive facilities to choose from, including long-established communities like Hermitage, Goodwin House East and West and Paul Spring, along with the newcomers.

Take the time to research them all before making a decision.