Navigating the world of senior housing can be overwhelming for newcomers, especially with the diverse terminology surrounding it. Contrary to the common misconception of all senior living options being lumped together as “nursing” or “retirement” homes, there are distinct differences among them. Two critical factors differentiating them are the residents’ independence levels and the type of care provided. In this discussion, we’ll shed light on the distinctions between assisted living facilities and retirement communities.
Residents in assisted living facilities require a higher level of care, often needing daily assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like medication management, bathing, dressing, and transportation. These facilities operate 24/7, providing three meals a day and various services such as housekeeping and laundry. Staff, including medical professionals, are available to assist residents whenever necessary.
Alternatively known as independent living communities, retirement communities cater to seniors who can generally care for themselves. Residents in these communities may seek a low-hassle lifestyle, on-site dining, entertainment, or the companionship of like-minded individuals. Unlike assisted living, retirement communities are designed for those who don’t require the same level of assistance with ADLs.
Assisted living facilities lack strict federal or state regulations regarding staffing. While larger facilities may have full-time registered nurses, smaller ones might opt for part-time or visiting nurses. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and medical assistants primarily provide care to residents.
Unlike assisted living, retirement communities may not have medical professionals on-site at all times. However, they employ security staff who can be contacted in case of medical or security emergencies.
The cost of senior housing depends on the level of care required:
Due to the comprehensive services offered, including 24/7 medical staff, assisted living tends to be more expensive. According to the 2020 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly cost is $4,300, amounting to $51,600 annually. Costs vary based on location and facility.
Costs for retirement communities vary widely, starting as low as $1,500 a month and reaching up to $6,000 a month ($18,000 to $72,000 annually). If the community is a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), an additional one-time admission fee (averaging $329,000) may apply.
In conclusion, understanding the distinctions between assisted living and retirement communities is crucial for making informed decisions about senior housing options.