Protecting an Elderly Loved One

Are All Retirement Communities the Same? How to Choose a Senior Living Residence

by Margie Adams

Do you need assisted living, independent living, or skilled nursing care? If you're ready to research retirement communities, take a look at the top questions about senior living apartments answered.

What is Senior Living?

Do you know the difference between a retirement community, a senior living community, and a nursing home? With the number of names senior care communities use, it's easy to feel confused by the labels. To better understand what senior living is and isn't, consider:

The Level of Medical Care. A skilled nursing facility provides the highest level of on-site medical care. An assisted living community also offers medical care but not at the same degree as you could expect from skilled nursing care. Conversely, some senior living communities or retirement apartments offer no medical care. These independent living facilities are made for healthier seniors who are completely able to care for themselves.

The Amenities. While independent living apartments may not come with skilled nursing care, they may offer other amenities. These could (but don't always) include a fitness room, group activities, a salon, or housekeeping services. Along with amenities, senior living facilities or apartments also offer a social environment. From informal meet and greets with your neighbors to organized clubs or outings, you'll have the chance to make new friends and extend your social circle.

How Should You Choose a Senior Living Residence?

Now that you know the differences between senior living arrangements, it's time to take the next step and choose a new home. While there's no magic selection formula, consider:

Your Budget. What are the costs you'll need to pay? Some senior living facilities have a flat monthly/annual fee, while others may charge in tiers or by different services. Ask the facility's staff whether you'll need to pay for utilities, social activities, or amenities.

Available Activities. Again, the ability to socialize is an important part of most senior living arrangements. Ask about the regular activities, clubs, excursions, and other social options the complex or facility offers.

Anticipated Needs. Even though you may not need medical or nursing services right now, could you benefit from this option in the future? If you don't want to move again, you may want to choose a facility with a higher level of medical care available.

If you're still not sure which option is right for your needs, talk to the staff from different senior living communities or apartments. The staff can help you to better understand what to expect and how each option can meet your individual needs.