If you’re considering senior living options for yourself or a loved one, you might be overwhelmed by the various options. Two of the most common types of senior living communities are assisted living communities and retirement homes, also known as retirement communities. But what types of services, amenities, and care are offered at each, and which one is best suited for your needs?
Assisted living communities are quite different from retirement homes, so let’s take a look at each type of community and how they differ. Understanding what each type of senior living community offers will help you make an informed decision for yourself or your loved one.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living offers personalized care to residents, such as assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing and dressing, meal preparation, scheduling healthcare appointments, and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Residents have their own living space, either private or semi-private, and there are ample opportunities for socialization with other older adults.
While assisted living communities encourage residents to continue living an independent lifestyle as much as possible, these communities are designed for older adults who are unable to continue living alone due to cognitive decline or physical impairments, such as challenges with mobility, yet don’t yet require the level of care offered by skilled nursing communities. Assisted living communities are regulated at the state level, and a health assessment is required to determine an older adult’s care needs before they can move to an assisted living community.
Staff are on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to attend to residents’ needs and ensure their safety and well-being. Some assisted living communities have memory care units for residents who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These units are often equipped with advanced security such as secured exits and monitoring systems to prevent wandering, which is common among those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and can pose serious safety concerns.
What is a Retirement Home?
Retirement homes are a form of independent living. Typically, retirement homes require residents to be age 55 or older, and some restrict their communities to those 65 and older. They’re privately owned communities designed for older adults who want to maintain an independent lifestyle without some of the demands of home ownership, such as lawn maintenance and meal preparation.
While assisted living communities do offer private or semi-private living spaces, they’re not fully equipped with kitchens. Retirement communities, on the other hand, offer residents fully equipped, independent living arrangements in the form of apartments or condos, or in some cases, small stand-alone homes. By residing in a community with other independent older adults, residents have plenty of opportunities for socialization.
Residents of retirement communities have complete control over their lifestyle, with the ability to cook every meal for themselves or take advantage of on-site dining options. They can choose to participate in as few or as many social activities as they like and can continue to drive their own vehicles or take advantage of transportation services offered by the community. Other services and amenities offered by retirement communities vary from community to community but often include on-site beauty parlors and barbers, massage therapy, gyms and exercise areas, billiard and game rooms, laundry facilities, health and wellness services, 24-hour security, and more.
How to Choose Between Assisted Living and a Retirement Home
Medicare and Medicaid do not cover the cost of living in an assisted living community or a retirement home, meaning residents must pay privately for these senior living options. Retirement homes are ideal for older adults who want a simpler lifestyle with the freedom to maintain their independence. Assisted living communities are more suitable for older adults who have some physical or cognitive impairments and require more assistance with their day-to-day needs and activities of daily living. A health assessment is required for an older adult to qualify for assisted living, and those who don’t yet require this level of care won’t be eligible.
Typically, the only requirement to move to a retirement community is age, with communities setting age limits ranging from 55+ to 65+. Older adults can live in a retirement community until they require more assistance with activities of daily living than what the staff at a retirement community can offer.
Continuing care retirement communities like Arbors of Hop Brook are a type of retirement community that offers several levels of care on one campus, with assisted living and skilled nursing communities residents can easily transition to when the need arises. These types of retirement communities offer older adults the comfort of remaining in an environment they’re used to throughout their golden years as well as the peace of mind of having guaranteed availability of skilled nursing care when they need it. For older adults who want to continue living a vibrant, active lifestyle but are also thinking about the future, continuing care retirement communities are an excellent choice.