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Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on March 14th, 2023

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Senior Living Communities Vs. Nursing Homes: Do You Know the Difference?

assisted living  |  Senior Living Communities CT  |  senior health  |  senior health tips  |  Independent Senior Living  |  healthy living  |  independent living in ct  |  aging well

When people hear the term “senior living,” many quickly lump it into the same category as “nursing home.” In fact, these phrases are sometimes used interchangeably, further promoting the misconception that the two very distinct options are basically the same. The truth, however, is that the array of living choices available for seniors today is both wide and varied, and there are some fundamental differences between senior living communities and nursing homes.

So, what is it that separates a senior living community from a nursing home? And how does anyone know which is the right option for them or their aging loved one? In this article, we’re exploring the differences and providing key insights to support your decision-making process.


A Closer Look at Nursing Homes


For anyone looking into senior living options, one of the greatest differentiators you’ll find about nursing homes is the level of personal and medical care provided. Residents who live in this type of setting usually require consistent nursing care, as they don’t have the physical capacity to do much of it on their own. This environment is best suited for seniors who don’t quite need hospital care but are still unable to live on their own or in another type of senior living community.


Nursing homes have skilled nurses on staff around the clock to care for patients, and the design of the facility is more like that of a hospital than a senior living community. Requiring the use of lifts to get in and out of bed, for instance, is a strong indicator that someone is better suited to a nursing home. These residents can also receive services like medical care, physical therapy, and speech therapy.


Although the level of need in nursing homes might be great, many of them still try to provide a warm, comfortable environment, with the attention of caring staff and activities to engage residents.


An Overview of Senior Living Communities


When it comes to senior living communities, on the other hand, there’s actually a variety of care levels and options available. This category of senior residence comprises different types of arrangements and services, which we’ll break down further:


Assisted Living

You might say assisted living communities are the middle ground between nursing homes and more independent senior living options. They are suited for seniors who have the ability to make a home for themselves AND need to access a certain level of assistance in order to support their daily lifestyle. Even with added assistance, they do manage most activities on their own. As these residents don’t require constant care, they still maintain a great deal of independence. 


If, for example, your aging loved one is able to get around on their own but has some difficulty getting dressed, doing laundry, shopping, preparing meals, and managing the routine maintenance of keeping up a home, assisted living may be the ideal fit. Staff members are able to help with these types of responsibilities. 


Because the level of care seniors receive at assisted living communities can vary from place to place, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate the services and amenities provided. Offerings may include services such as:


  • 24-Hour Emergency Response 
  • Options for Nursing and Care 
  • Medication Management 
  • Full Dining Services 
  • Transportation 
  • Residence and Yard Maintenance 
  • Personal Laundry 
  • Exercise and Wellness Programs 


Memory Care

Also known as dementia or Alzheimer’s care, memory care is a special type of senior living arrangement that enables residents to live in private or semi-private apartments with structured activities delivered by trained personnel. The living environment has fully secured areas to prevent residents from wandering off, which makes it ideal for seniors who have difficulty with memory. 


Seniors facing these kinds of challenges require specialized care to maintain their daily health and safety. At certain communities, a resident in the early stages of memory loss can often live within the assisted living population. Then, if their condition becomes more advanced, they have the ability to move into a designated memory care area, where they have access to staff members who are uniquely trained in dementia and Alzheimer's care.


Respite Care

You may otherwise recognize this type of care as an adult day care or short-term stay program, and it’s often available within an assisted living community for a short time frame (a matter of days or a couple of months). It can serve as a much-needed break for caregivers or even as a “getting acquainted” period for seniors who may be interested in senior living and want a firsthand experience to feel comfortable with their options.


sneior care options


Independent Living

Sometimes referred to as retirement homes, senior housing, or senior apartments, independent senior living can be in the form of apartment complexes, condominiums, cottages, or free-standing homes. Housing is usually fully equipped and easy to navigate. Some are extravagant, offering a wide range of social amenities, fine dining, and optional services, while others provide just the basics.


Keep in mind that some communities integrate a number of these different types of senior living options, enabling residents to “age in community.” They may start in one section of the community designed for greater independence and then transition to another area when higher levels of care or assistance are needed. This can be a far less stressful option than moving out of one’s long-time home into a new facility at a time when physical, mental, and emotional health has been compromised.


Determining the Right Fit


Choosing the right type of community for yourself or the senior in your life can feel like an overwhelming decision, so the best way to approach it is with thorough planning and exploration. This includes assessing the senior’s current and future needs and preferences, as well as financial implications.


Ultimately, the decision between a nursing home or a specific type of senior living community is a very personal one, hinging greatly on the necessary level of care required. So as you evaluate the options available to you, be sure to explore each option’s offerings and care provisions. Take time to visit the places you are interested in considering, and speak with their team members to get your questions answered.


To find out how United Methodist Homes provides a wealth of offerings and opportunities to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now

If you’re interested in learning how United Methodist Homes’ senior living community offers a wealth of recreational, social, educational, and physical activities to stimulate the minds and bodies of residents, contact us today or schedule a complimentary visit now. For additional tips on senior health and lifestyle issues, check out our blog.


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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.