Senior housing, senior living, active senior living, senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, retirement community, continuing care retirement community, life plan community, life care community . . . many home options are now available to adults looking to simplify their lives. But with more options comes confusion. What does each mean? How do they differ?
Following are definitions of options available to older adults, the distinguishing features of each, and a few pros and cons. Some differences are significant while other differences are more nuanced. The information will guide you in understanding each option and help you decide which one is best for you.
Senior housing refers to any type of housing suitable for older adults. The definition encompasses all of the options included below.
Like senior housing, retirement community is a broad term that can apply to any type of housing or combination of housing developed for older adults. Age restrictions apply, usually starting at 55 or 62.
Senior living usually refers to housing communities designed for adults 55+. Some amenities may be included, such as home and yard maintenance, as well as a pool, golf course, clubhouse, and other central gathering area. Meals are usually not included, nor are utilities, health care, and transportation. Pros: The monthly fee is low with a one-time modest community fee. Cons: The senior adult needs to be able to provide for his own personal needs. When he needs a higher care level, the resident must move or arrange for in-home care.
Active Senior Living
Communities built for adults 55+ may include the word “active” to position them as having more to offer or having residents more active and involved. The amenities offered are comparable to senior living and may attract a younger senior resident. Pros: The monthly fee is low with a one-time modest community fee. Cons: The senior adult needs to be able to provide for her own personal needs. When she needs a higher care level, the resident must move or arrange for in-home care.
Similar to senior living, senior apartments are complexes built for older adults and age-restricted to adults 55+ or 62+. They may offer some senior-friendly conveniences or amenities, but typically do not include health care, housekeeping, meals, or activities. Pros: Senior apartments charge a lower monthly fee. Some complexes may offer HUD Section 8 housing assistance. Cons: The senior adult needs to be able to provide for his own personal needs. When he needs a higher care level, the resident must move or arrange for in-home care.
Similar to senior living, active senior living, and senior apartments, independent living communities provide home and yard maintenance as part of the monthly fee. Some meals may be included, as well as additional amenities such as organized activities. Pros: A lower monthly fee and small community fee. Some communities may offer HUD Section 8 housing assistance. Cons: Beyond the meals provided, the senior adult needs to be able to provide for his own personal needs. When she needs a higher care level, the resident must move or arrange for in-home care.
Assisted living communities vary state to state and are regulated by each state’s government. Some states have multiple levels of assisted living. Generally, assisted living communities provide 24-hour staffing and assistance with activities of daily living (personal care and medication administration). Other amenities include all meals, health care oversight, 24-hour security, and planned activities. Pros: Residents receive assistance with daily living needs. Long term care insurance usually applies. Cons: Monthly fees are higher than with senior living/independent living, and Medicare/Medicaid does not cover the cost.
Continuing Care Retirement Community/Life Plan Community
A continuing care retirement community, also known as a life plan community, provides a continuum of care in one location, from independent living and assisted living to skilled nursing care. Some CCRC/LPC communities include memory care too. Residents move through the different care levels as their needs change. Pros: All needs can be met in one location. Residents typically take priority when a move to a higher level of care is needed. Some CCRCs/LPCs only let residents move into the higher levels of care. Cons: Most require a significant entrance fee and monthly fee, and the cost of care increases as a resident moves to higher levels of care.
Life Care Community
A life care community also provides a continuum of care in one location, from independent living and assisted living to skilled nursing care (and sometimes memory care as well). Residents move through the different care levels as their needs change. The difference between this and a CCRC/LPC is cost. A life care community has a higher entrance fee and higher monthly fee because the higher levels of care are provided without additional cost. Pros: All needs can be met in one location. Only residents can enter assisted living, memory care, or nursing care. Cons: The entry fee and monthly fee are significantly higher than a CCRC/LPC.
Even among these definitions you will find differences. For example, one independent living community may provide 30 meals per month while another may provide a voucher from which the value of each meal eaten is deducted. Since state agencies do not regular senior housing like assisted living, memory care, and nursing care, the communities are free to determine their services and amenities.
Parkway Village is a continuing care retirement community/life plan community in central Arkansas that offers residential solutions for every senior living need, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing care. Located in west Little Rock on 87 acres, we’re owned by Baptist Health, Arkansas’ largest private healthcare provider. We provide cultural and recreational activities, wellness services, and 24-hour security for a vibrant and worry-free lifestyle. To arrange a tour, complete the Contact Us form or call us at 501-202-1600.