Comparing Main Types of Senior Living

Important differences among types of senior living involve independence, personal care and medical support.

Independent Living

Independent living communities are designed for active adults. Generally the residents are healthy and self-sufficient in terms of personal care. Examples of independent housing styles are senior apartments and gated age-restricted communities.

People choose independent living communities for the social/recreational opportunities, amenities and services that make retirement more enjoyable. Read more about Independent living here...

Assisted Living

Assisted living is for people in need of personal care support. For example, home health aides and staff at assisted living centers can help with bathing, dressing and transportation. Assisted living centers are sometimes advertised as personal care homes.

Some assisted living setups provide memory care, which is therapy for those with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Memory care can lessen the symptoms and may slow progression of the disease. Read more about Assisted living here...

Skilled Nurse Care

Nursing homes and skilled in-home caregivers serve seniors with chronic medical conditions or the temporary need for health support after illness, injury or surgery. Some nursing homes provide memory care. Read more about nursing homes here...

Blended Styles of Senior Living

Senior living communities sometimes combine the above categories. These housing setups let a person "age in place" or stay in their current residence regardless of a change in caregiving needs:

  • Assisted living communities with continuing care combine the services of assisted living centers and nursing homes.
  • Continuing care retirement communities cater to active adults but also offer assisted living and skilled healthcare services.
  • Senior cohousing communities meet ADA building standards and are managed by their residents to provide services as needed. For instance, as a cohousing population moves into its 70s, the group might add services from home health aides or physical therapists.  

Costs of Senior Living

As you might guess, senior independent living is the most affordable senior lifestyle (but may not always be the best option). Options range from low budget to luxurious, but in any budget category the costs are limited to housing and amenities. Expenses rise for assisted living because personal care services are added. Costs of senior living climb highest when nursing home health care services are included too.

To pay for senior living, people have different options depending on the type of setting and the services received:

  • When personal care and medical care aren't needed, most people pay for senior living privately (with savings or pension checks, for example). Seniors with low income may get government subsidies or vouchers that make housing more affordable.
  • When help with daily activities and/or medical care is needed, then people have more payment options such as private long-term care insurance, Medicare and benefits from various Veterans Administration programs.

Our website outlines common payment strategies for each type of senior living setup.