What’s the Difference?: A Deep Dive into the Different Senior Living Options

What's the difference?: a deep dive into the different types of senior living options


When you think ‘Senior Living’, what do you picture? Personally, my mind immediately goes to the assisted living facility my parents lived in for five years.  In reality, senior living is an umbrella term that is broadly applied to a wide range of housing communities that are designed to make life easier, safer, and more convenient as the resident ages. It’s not just one size fits all. As they age, many people begin to recognize the benefits of living in a community with people similar in age and activity level.  Because the umbrella term of ‘Senior Living’ is so often tossed around, many don’t realize the number and variety of options available to seniors according to their needs. Let’s talk about the four main options for senior living – starting with the newly popular Active-Adult-style communities.


Active Adult is the latest entry into the Senior Housing realm and is the proverbial new kid on the block in terms of popularity. However, 55+ communities are not new — they have been around since 1960 and are experiencing a rebranding and a sort of renaissance. In general, Active Adult can be defined by an age-restricted or age-targeted community that provides carefree living with little to no maintenance required and offers an environment conducive to building new friendships and an active lifestyle.  They’ve proven to be popular amongst the baby boomer generation, who tend to be resistant to conventional “senior living” communities. They don’t want meal services and are interested in leading a similar lifestyle to what they had prior to arriving at the community.

Active Adult communities offer apartment or villa-style living within a campus where maintenance is provided and rents are more affordable than other types of Senior Housing. Typically they will have amenities with a focus on recreational activities and social engagement. In this style of community, on-site healthcare support and meal services are not offered. However, these neighborhoods are often located conveniently in regards to restaurants, shopping, and healthcare facilities.


Similar to Active Adult Communities, Independent Living was designed for older adults hoping to enjoy the benefits of a community of their peers while maintaining their freedom. This can be a great introduction into senior housing that provides the best of both worlds – offering recreational activities and opportunities for social engagement and also providing on-site healthcare access, basic dining options, and light housekeeping.


Seniors who require care or assistance with activities of daily living may be a better fit for an Assisted Living Facility where offerings can include help with bathing, dressing, grooming, and transportation.  Housekeeping, meal service and activities for residents is included in the offering.  Many assisted living facilities also offer Memory Care which includes everything found in an Assisted Living environment along with a specialized “safe” environment and activities for residents with memory impairment or dementia. This section of the community may receive round-the-clock care.


Skilled Nursing Facilities are designed for seniors who require medical attention 24 hours a day. Staffed with in-house nurses, doctors, and other medical practitioners, these centers provide a high level of assistance for residents with medical conditions. These facilities are often combined with short-term, post-acute care rehabilitation facilities which provide care mainly for recovery from surgery or injury.


The Douglas Company has been building across the spectrum of senior living facilities since 1976.  Over that timeframe, we have built nearly 13,000 units of Senior Housing.  Many times people ask what the best option is.  There is no best option, the key is what works best for your individual situation at a given point in time.  But if you are interested in building a senior living facility, The Douglas Company has the expertise and experience to help guide you through the process and deliver the best option for your target market.  Get us involved early in your development planning and take advantage of the knowledge, proficiency, and technical understanding that more than four decades experience provides.


Bob Ritter
Director of Business Development
The Douglas Company


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