There are as many types of senior housing options are there are seniors to live in them, but we tend to break things down into larger categories so it’s easier to discuss housing options.
Below are the major types of senior housing and a brief explanation of each. These are listed in order of providing the least to most care for residents.
Age In Place
“Age in place” or “aging in place” is the default option when it comes to housing — you keep living where you live. Perhaps this is in an existing dwelling or with family, but the older adult stays put as long as it makes sense to do so.
This option is best for people in good health with good mobility. This is independent living and caretakers either live with you (family) or visit, in the case of an at-home caregiver.
People often think this method is the cheapest option — and it can be — but it’s not free because at-home caregivers can be expensive and homes may need modifications, like moving a bedroom to the main floor, installing wheelchair or similar access ramps, and adding grab bars to bathrooms and showers.
Even with these changes, this is the least disruptive type of senior housing.
This might sound like aging in place, but it’s actually a different concept. Aging in place happens in any home, where independent living happens in a dedicated retirement community with homes designs for seniors. The independent living will have have community aspects to it, like a community center, common areas, parks, ponds, tennis courts, and perhaps a pool or fitness center. There can can also be community-wide events and gatherings.
Independent living can happen with or without a surrounding retirement community — where there are businesses and similar resources. Almost all independent living scenarios will have some sort of emergency contacts as well as the option for pair services, like lawn mowing or home cleaning.
A popular option for cost-controlled independent living is in a manufactured housing community. These communities have a standard age range of 55 to 74.
Assisted living takes place in many forms. This is what people commonly think of as early senior living and means people living in small apartments in a larger facility with assistance and all necessary services on premise. One can expect to see on-staff nursing and 24-hour help, but residents do have some degree of independent living.
One type of assisted living is congregate housing, which is like dorm living for seniors. It features independent living apartments, with shared touchpoints for the residents, including shared kitchens, shared amenities, and perhaps one group meal a day.
Another option is “serviced apartments,” which will have some, but not complete, service options and some degree of independence for residents.
These facilities will provide some degrees of transportation, laundry, meals, and housekeeping services in order to make residents’ lives easier. There can also be perks like group events and outings to promote community spirit and mix up people’s days.
These will sometimes be called “residential care facilities” and will will be a middle ground between independent and assisted living.
Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
A CCRC is another mix of independent and assisted living but the facility will have a full range of care options under one roof. Seniors can start living in a CCRC requiring little assistance but as they age they can move to other parts of the facility where more care and more services are available.
The benefits of a CCRC is that it’s a long-term choice that doesn’t require moves from one place to another. Friendships and other relationships can be maintained even as people’s circumstances change.
CCRCs are designed to be long-term selections where someone may decide to live the rest of their life. As such, they can require high upfront costs and can be prohibitively expensive for some people.
One type of CCRC living is known as a fee-for-service continuing care retirement community (FFSCCRC) where a resident can live in a CCRC facility but their contract will not include assisted living or skilled nursing, but they have access to them on a fee-for-service basis. These contracts will not include the longer term (transitioning) care benefits of a CCRC, but the resident can opt into them if/when they desire.
The term “nursing home” is often used for many of the aforementioned types of living, but it’s best defined as a facility with 24-hour care for individuals who need supervision. The facility will have skilled, trained staff on hand, including registered nurses, aides, and social workers, plus access to physicians and other required professional services. All meals will be handled by the facility as well as activities, outings, and social events.
Nursing homes will include facilities for people who need significant help, including memory care and support for physical limitations.
Aged care facilities have a normal age range of 85 and over and have stringent regulations about staffing and resident care.