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Beyond the Family Home: Senior Housing Options Explained

Many elders desire to stay in their current homes. Seniors who choose to “age in place” can modify their homes to make them safer and accessible and hire home care services. Aging in place may not be desirable or feasible for everyone, however.

Today, there are numerous senior housing alternatives available, and the terminology of the choices can be confusing. Here is a brief description of common options. 

Independent Living is a general term for communities designed for independent elders with few medical and personal care concerns. Residents live in private apartments, houses, condos or cottages. Many independent living communities offer meals, local transportation, social activities, fitness facilities, and other amenities.

There are many types of independent living communities including senior apartments, retirement communities, 55+ communities, age-restricted communities, active adult communities, and cohousing designed for older adults. 

Assisted Living is housing for seniors who need help with activities of daily living and minor help with medications. While residents do not need 24/7 medical care or supervision, staff is available around the clock. Depending on the facility, residents live in private apartments, studios, or private or shared rooms. Amenities frequently include meals, local scheduled transportation, housekeeping, social activities, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), and medication management.

There are two levels of assisted living:

  • Type I is for elders who are independently mobile and need minimal assistance with ADLs.
  • Type II caters to adults who require help with mobility and greater assistance with ADLs.

Assisted living facilities include personal care homes, residential care homes, congregate care, alternative care facilities, adult care homes, adult group homes, and sheltered housing. 

Nursing Homes provide around-the-clock skilled nursing for people who need a high level of medical care. Most residents live in shared rooms. Physicians oversee the residents’ care. Nurses are always on site to supervise, and nursing assistants generally provide the care. Speech, occupational and physical therapists are also on staff.

Nursing homes are also known as long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, nursing centers, and convalescent care facilities. 

Memory Care is specialized care for people suffering from dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Memory care includes full time supervision and personal care. Some facilities provide memory care exclusively. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes may also provide memory care units. 

Continuing Care Communities offer independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing all on one site. Residents generally move into independent living cottages or apartments. If they begin to require assistance, they move to assisted living units, and, when needed, to the community’s nursing home. Services at continuing care communities can include meals, social activities, local transportation, exercise facilities, and social events. With continuing care communities, all of an individual’s current and future needs are met on one campus. 


If you or your loved one is looking for senior housing, a professional assessment by a geriatric care manager can help you determine what type of communities to consider. To learn more about these professionals and to find one in your area, visit the Aging Life Care Association at

Key to Choice for Seniors by the East Metro Seniors Agenda for Independent Living is a guide to assessing changing lifestyle needs and evaluating the numerous senior housing options. Click here to access this guide.

Medicare offers Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long‑Term Services & Supports. Click here to access this guide.

This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice.  Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.