Which senior living choice is right for you?
Navigating the world of senior or retirement living can be overwhelming and frustrating because of the many options available.
Determining which type of senior living community is right for you can be challenging. You have to take many factors into account – including your desires, level of independence or assistance needed, and your financial state.
This chart may help you narrow down your choices by considering some of the questions it poses.
But you also have to understand the differences between each type of community. Here’s a look at some of the senior living choices available and how they differ from each other.
Independent living is usually for those who are looking for a more simplified lifestyle but don’t require the services of assisted living.
Independent living communities provide a maintenance-free lifestyle that allows residents to no longer worry about home maintenance, lawn mowing, or fixing broken appliances. The community usually provides that type of house work. Independent living communities also include a dining option on-site and allow residents to choose a meal plan.
Many senior living providers offer an independent living community and also have a licensed assisted living facility on site. These communities are often referred to as independent plus communities. Another type of senior living provider–usually referred to as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) or life plan communities–provides independent living, as well as licensed assisted living and even 24-hour skilled nursing care for residents whose needs are changing.
Active Adult Community
Active adult communities aren’t much different than any other residential community, aside from their age requirements, but most are designed with a retirement-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle in mind.
These communities can be comprised of single-family houses, as well as multi-family patio homes, condominiums, or townhomes, with units that are owned by the resident (as opposed to a rental community). Often, this type of 55 and over community will be built near shopping, restaurants, parks, and other attractions since residents are still eager to live an active lifestyle into their retirement years.
Interior maintenance and daily upkeep are the responsibility of the homeowner within active adult communities however, low-maintenance or maintenance-free exteriors are usually provided, paid for by the resident through their monthly homeowners’ association (HOA) dues.
Unlike some other senior living options, active adult communities do not have on-site dining facilities for residents, nor do they provide any type of healthcare services.
Rental Retirement Community
Rental retirement communities offer apartment-style residences and typically offer an array of services and amenities, often including housekeeping, transportation, wellness centers, dining, and more.
Rental retirement communities are sometimes confused with assisted living facilities because residents may choose to hire in-home care providers when assisted living needs arise. In the case of a true, independent-only retirement community, these caregivers are not staffed by the community, although they may have to be approved by the community. The assisted living needs of residents are usually not as advanced as you might find in a stand-alone assisted living facility.
Senior Living Apartments
The most helpful definition of a senior living apartment may be the one provided by National Investment Center, a leader in the senior living data and analytics space. They define a senior apartment as follows:
Market-rate units in age-restricted communities where at least 80 percent of the residents are 55 years of age or older. Although optional meal plans may be offered, the base monthly fee does not include meals in a common dining facility, and therefore, "senior apartments" are different from "independent living units."
According to this definition, the main distinction between a senior living apartment and most other types of apartment-style retirement communities is the absence of a meal plan included in the base monthly fee, which could also mean the absence of a central dining facility altogether. However, some of these senior apartments will have a community kitchen or even a small café for residents’ enjoyment.
Some senior living apartments may fall under the affordable senior living category and could even be cost-subsidized. Other senior living apartments will feature many of the amenities you might expect to see in a modern senior living community, minus a dining facility.
One particularly important distinction of senior living apartments, and even some independent living communities for that matter, is the absence of an on-site licensed assisted living facility and skilled nursing center.
Unlike a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or “life plan community”), which offers living and care options across the entire continuum, residents of a senior living apartment who have advanced long-term care needs may need to move off-site to an assisted living facility or nursing home, especially if their needs exceed what can safely or practically be met by in-home care.