Active Adult Communities

3/9/2022 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Updated on 3/9/22

If you are new to the world of senior housing, the vocabulary can take some time to get used to. Sometimes people even imagine all of the options for senior living as the same – they’re “nursing” or “retirement” homes. In reality, there are many different kinds of senior housing, all with their own features. Two of the most important differences are the independence levels of the residents and the type of care available for seniors at each type of facility. Here, we’re going to focus on the difference between two types of senior living: assisted living facilities and retirement communities.

The Level of Care

A residents of an assisted living facility need a higher level of care than residents of a retirement community. Assisted living residents need daily assistance with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs), like managing medications, bathing, dressing, driving or arranging transportation, or managing household chores. Three meals a day are provided, and the facility is staffed 24/7 with employees, including medical staff, ready to help residents if they need it. Transportation, housekeeping, and laundry services are most likely all provided.

Likewise, retirement community residents don’t need as much care as assisted living residents. You may also hear retirement communities referred to as independent living communities. This means that the seniors who live there don’t need the level of care and help with ADLs that assisted living residents do. A retirement community is designed for seniors (some communities are age restricted, at 55 and up) who can generally care for themselves. Seniors may move to a retirement community when they just need the low-hassle lifestyle of a low-maintenance apartment or condo, want the convenience of on-site dining and entertainment, or even just want to live around people with similar interests and take advantage of the sense of community.

While assisted living facilities provide just one level of care, some retirement communities may have several levels of care available on the same campus. These retirement communities (including CCRCs, or Continuing Care Retirement Communities) feature several independent types of senior housing: assisted living residences, skilled nursing facilities, and maybe even specialized memory and dementia care.

The Staff

Assisted living facilities are not regulated by federal or state governments, so there are no strict rules about how they must be staffed. However, most large assisted living facilities employ some registered nurses full time, and smaller facilities hire visiting nurses or part-time registered nurses to supervise nurse assistants. These certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, and medical assistants provide most of the care to residents.

A retirement community, or independent living facility, probably won’t have medical professionals on site all the time. A community like this, however, will employ security staff and you’ll be able to contact them about a medical or security emergency at any time.

The Cost

In general, the more care a resident needs, the higher the cost. So, assisted living, with its available services like help with ADLs, three meals a day, laundry, housekeeping, and 24/7 medical staff, will cost more than an independent living retirement community. Accordingly, based on the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly cost of an assisted living facility in the United States is $4,300. This come out to $51,600 per year.

This cost does vary based on what part of the country you live in and the facility itself. Retirement community costs vary even more, depending on where you live and the amenities offered by the facility. They can start as low as $1,500 a month, but can get as high $6,000 a month (roughly $18,000 to $72,000 a year). If the retirement community is a CCRC, there will also be a one-time admission fee when you first move in. This fee can be hefty, but the average entrance fee is $329,000.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff