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Senior Living Communities

Ken Teegardin Written by Ken Teegardin
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Chief Editor | Caregiver


Senior Living Communities

As a caregiver or senior, there is a new lingo that you have to learn when you first start learning about options for seniors. It can be a little confusing. Even words like senior living have different meaning to different people. On this site, we define senior living as a term that includes all the wide range to lifestyle options for seniors. That can include everything from retiring abroad, living in an active senior apartment complex to moving into a nursing home. There are a lot of options available to seniors and we try to explain them all so you can make an educated decision your retirement and care needs. Our guide to senior living options might be the best place to start if you are totally new to learning all your options.

Senior living communities are those designed specifically for the older resident. But that is one of the only consistent characteristics of these communities. Because today, there are a seemingly endless variety of senior living options across the country.

For instance, there are senior living options exclusively for RV owners, for singles, for Protestants, and for artists. Some senior living communities are built on golf and tennis resorts. Others cater strictly to gays and lesbians. Some are for low income seniors living off social security and other are posh resort catering to the rich.

We'll look at the different kinds of communities and the common characteristics of each one. First, we’ll see if a senior living community is right for you.

Considering Senior Living Community Options
As you’ll read below, there are many different types of options for seniors. You’ll have to assess your wants and needs to narrow down the choices.

For example, do you like the idea of living in one place that can cater to your future needs? Then you may consider a continuum care retirement community. Are you a traveler who’d rather not worry about upkeep on a home? Maybe a senior living apartment is right for you.

Senior Living Community Options
Independent living communities are places for active, healthy seniors who are able to live on their own. The main highlights of independent living communities:

  1. Single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, mobile homes or motor homes
  2. Rent or buy options
  3. Usually restricted for those age 55 or older
  4.  Offer amenities like clubhouses, gyms, yard maintenance, housekeeping and security,  transportation, laundry service, group meals and social activities
  5. On-site attendant/24-hour staff
  6. Cost between $1,500 to $10,000 per month

Age-Restricted Communities essentially come in two flavors: “age-qualified” and “age-marketed.” The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) requires age-qualified communities to have at least one person who is 55 in at least 80% of the occupied units.

Age-targeted market their properties to a specific age group (e.g. 55+, 62+) but don’t have the same age restriction. Their amenities include those that seniors want most. And anyone of any age can live in these senior living communities.

Lifestyle Retirement Communities are for those that enjoy living a certain way among like-minded people. Here’s a sampling of some specialized retirement communities

  1. Communities on or near a university or college campus
  2. RV-only parks
  3. Faith-based communities
  4. Golf and tennis resort communities
  5. Boating communities
  6. Artist communities
  7. Gay and lesbian-only
  8. Manufactured homes

Luxury apartments with upscale amenities


Senior Living Apartments are for those seniors who like relatively inexpensive, maintenance-free living. These senior living communities offer residents not just a place to live but also amenities like community dining, housekeeping, transportation, and 24-hour emergency service.

There are generally three types of apartments: affordable, market and luxury. Affordable apartments are income-based and usually subsidized at the federal, state or local level.

Market apartments are competitively priced options about 15% the rates of regular apartments. Luxury complexes offer upscale amenities such as spacious apartments, security, onsite pharmacies, etc.

Continuum Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are senior living communities where residents “age in place”.  CCRCs offer services you’d find in independent living, assisted living and nursing homes so as your needs change the services are there to meet your needs. These communities offer greater piece of mind to both the residents and their families.

With CCRCs, you’ll find three main types of contracts:

  • Extensive (Type A) include unlimited assisted living and health services at little or no extra charge.
  • Modified (Type B) are similar to extensive but with more limited health services, which are available “as needed” at going rates.
  • Fee-for-Service (Type C) provides health services “as needed.”

Because CCRCs are all-in-one senior living communities, they are among the most expensive options for retirees. First, they charge an entrance fee that averages $249,857, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Then there is a monthly fee of between $1,300 and $5,400, according to the according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Assisted Living Communities provide a level of independence for seniors but with some assistance for activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing, bathing, etc. Common features of an assisted living community:

  • Facilities are usually condos or apartments with 25 to 120 units
  • Single rooms, shared apartments or full apartments
  • Up to three meals a day in a common dining area
  • Staff available for personal needs
  • Amenities like 24-hour security, housekeeping, medication management, laundry service, exercise programs, social activities and transportation
  • Emergency call systems in-house
  • Care for dementia/Alzheimer’s patients
  • Median rate for private one-bedroom apartment is $2,575 a month

Amenities like housekeeping, Alzheimer’s care, medication management, personal laundry service, and social and recreational activities are usually provided at extra cost.

No matter where you are in your senior years, there’s a senior living community out there that’s right for you. For tips on selecting a specific senior living community, see the following articles:

Planning for your retirement can be confusing with so many new and regional terms. Here are some additional article that can help:

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