Retirement Communities

3/15/2022 | By Megan Mullen

Senior living options range from aging in place to independent apartments to skilled nursing and memory care. Here are the top eight choices to help guide you in making the best choice.

Today’s senior living options seem to multiply faster than gray hairs and wrinkles! Those exploring options for their mature years often face difficult choices regarding what they want or need and exactly where they can find it.

Some seniors wish to – and can – continue living independently, with or without assistance. Others are anxious to consolidate their possessions, pack up what’s left, and move somewhere new, maybe somewhere easier and more engaging.

For some, money may limit their options. For example, they might not be able to afford some senior living options. Others might have the resources but have a long-term illness that limits the choices.

We’ll guide you through the most common senior living options by discussing what life in each setting might look like and the advantages of each.

Aging in Place

Aging in place means remaining where you are, such as the home where you raised your family or a home you purchased more recently with retirement in mind. But don’t take this decision lightly, since it’s hard to know what the future holds. If you’re hoping to age in place, you also want to plan for changing needs as you age, such as:

  • Preparing and budgeting for help you might need in the future: home maintenance and upkeep, personal care, meal preparation, money management, transportation options if you can no longer drive, etc.
  • Ensuring home safety.
  • Maintaining social connections.

Why choose aging in place?

  • It is least disruptive to your current lifestyle.
  • You’ve paid your mortgage, or a significant portion of it.
  • You know the area – businesses, parks, groups, friends, etc.

Active Adult Communities

Active adult (or 55+) communities are relatively recent options for healthy older adults who want to maintain their lifestyle without the burdens of homeownership. These facilities sometimes resemble condo complexes more than traditional retirement communities. The homes tend to be smaller, and residents usually have to pay for homeowners’ association (HOA) membership and fees for any rule or regulation violations the association enforces.

Why choose an active adult community?

  • You enjoy being among people of roughly your age.
  • You still want to live independently in an established neighborhood but with less home maintenance.
  • You value the safety and security the community affords.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)

People typically move to a CCRC (also called a life plan community) when they are active and healthy, but the CCRC has facilities nearby for the changing needs of aging. This provides a greater guarantee of care for the rest of the resident’s life.

That level of convenience is more expensive as it may include:

  • Independent living
  • Assisted living
  • Rehabilitation care
  • Memory care
  • Long-term care

Across North America, CCRCs range from compact to expansive. Larger ones offer beauty salons, college courses, sports and fitness facilities, field trips, shuttle buses, game nights, and more.

Why choose a CCRC?

  • One community handles the needs of most life stages without residents needing to relocate.
  • They offer many varied activities.
  • Couples can remain close to each other, regardless of their respective health situations.

Senior Apartments

Some senior apartments are like hotel rooms, though constructed for the aging population. Thus, they have age restrictions, usually a minimum of 55 or 62. Units are accessible and equipped with various assistive hardware and devices.

Cost-wise, senior apartments run from low-income units to high-end luxury. But, for the most part, senior apartments don’t provide medical care, housekeeping, or meal preparation. So seniors choosing this living arrangement must secure most amenities on their own.

Why choose a senior apartment?

  • It’s comparable to aging in place as far as independence.
  • Government subsidies are possible for those in need.
  • Many are equipped for changes in health and ability.

Independent Living

Independent living communities may be part of more comprehensive senior living options. They include self-standing cottages, senior apartments, and other separate dwelling units. All are planned for residents’ needs to continue living on their own.

Units that are part of larger complexes give independent seniors the chance to participate in structured activities and enjoy a variety of amenities, such as:

  • Grounds maintenance
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Group dining
  • Fitness facilities
  • Escorted field trips
  • Guest speakers
  • Hobby classes

And should you need extra assistance with daily tasks, you might be able to move to a different level of care at the same location.

Why choose independent living?

  • You’re still in good health and might want to travel, spend time with family, etc.
  • You appreciate having an array of nearby activities.
  • Your kids are grown, and you’ve saved enough to live your life to the fullest.

Assisted Living

Assisted living care is best for older adults who don’t need skilled nursing care or extensive medical care but would benefit from support, as in with many of the activities of daily livings (ADLs).

This option doesn’t offer round-the-clock professional care, as a nursing care facility does. Instead, it’s meant to ease the daily task burden for seniors with flagging health: housekeeping, laundry, medication management, and transportation.

Why choose assisted living?

  • You tire more quickly and could benefit from help with everyday tasks.
  • You worry about falls and other accidents.
  • You want to participate in activities but need help getting ready.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Sometimes called nursing homes, these skilled care facilities pick up where assisted living leaves off. You can tell if an elder needs 24-hour care services when:

  • They struggle to get around.
  • They forget their prescribed medications.
  • They neglect personal care.
  • They frequently require specialty care.
  • They often fall.
  • Their mental or physical health has declined.

The federal government mandates that skilled nursing facilities provide certain personal services and treat various short-term and chronic conditions. They also must provide transportation to and from hospitals, doctors, dentists, specialty providers, and other care facilities.

Why choose a nursing care facility?

  • It ensures that someone will monitor you or your loved one for health and other problems.
  • You can be assured that licensed nursing professionals and other staff are at hand for daily needs and emergencies.
  • The staff will provide proper nutrition, medication, and rehabilitation services and otherwise meets seniors’ needs.

Memory Care

Memory care is designed specifically for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, or other conditions affecting mental capacity. Memory care offers a safe, structured environment with clear routines. Doing so lowers the stress of people with these conditions and helps ensure their safety.

The facilities provide meals, and staff help residents with eating and personal care. Memory care staff also have special training to deal with the many unforeseen issues. They also check on residents often and provide support throughout the day.

Why choose memory care for a loved one?

  • Memory-impaired residents need a facility and skilled nursing staff to care for their very specific needs.
  • Residents with memory loss need 24/7 attention.
  • Trained staff understand how to handle the special challenges of those with diminishing mental capacity.

If you’re still struggling to know which of the many senior living options is best for you or your loved one, including some not covered here, take the Seniors Guide online Care Assessment for a free roadmap.

Megan Mullen

Megan Mullen is a freelance writer, librarian, and former college professor. Senior life is one of her niches (and a personal interest). Megan enjoys using her writing and research skills to create well-crafted web content and other publications.