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Understanding Senior Living Options

When deciding what type of senior living community to move into, it is essential to consider the current and future care needs, the cost, and what the future resident considers important in a living environment. The options outlined below are listed from most independent to least independent. 


Retirement Communities

  • Neighborhoods built for adults who are at least 55 years of age, although the age can vary  

  • Intended for people who are independent or have help in the home

  • The cost can be moderate to high depending on the activities and amenities offered 


Independent Senior Housing

  • Any housing designed exclusively for seniors and intended for seniors who are independent

  • May offer activities, meals, and have a resident coordinator or social worker on site

  • Low-income housing (often referred to as Section 8 or Section 202) may be available through the local office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • If not HUD-funded, the cost is moderate 


Assisted Living Facilities

  • Apartments, usually small without full kitchens, in a care community intended for seniors who need some day-to-day assistance and for independent seniors who want to be in a community

  • Services and amenities can vary but usually include meals, activities, transportation, wellness services, supportive services, housekeeping, and limited personal care services

  • An assisted living checklist can assist with identifying and evaluating facilities 

  • Expensive, although long-term care insurance and Medicaid (in some states) may cover costs


Residential Care Homes (Board and Care Homes, Personal Care Homes, Adult Family Homes)

  • Small homes, often with shared rooms, that offer personalized service to a small number of residents requiring assistance with managing their personal care on a daily basis

  • Services can vary and may include limited activities, transportation, and medical oversight

  • Cost is moderate to high, although long-term care insurance and Medicaid (in some states) may cover costs


Skilled Nursing Facilities (Nursing Homes)

  • Rooms may be private or shared with multiple people and are intended for older adults who need 24-hour supervised care with activities of living and health management

  • Medical services and social activities are provided.  Compare nursing homes

  • Medicare only pays for rehabilitation stays. Medicaid and long term care insurance may cover the cost.  Private pay is expensive. 


Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) 

  • Residents pay a large one-time entry fee, plus a monthly fee in exchange for lifetime housing in an apartment-type dwelling or a subdivision setting

  • Access to independent living, assisted living units and skilled nursing as needs change


Memory Care

  • A designated area or “neighborhood” in assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes that is a safe, structured environment for those with dementia

  • Includes a secure environment where staff can closely monitor residents and programs designed for those with dementia.  Staff usually have specialty training.

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