Retirement Home vs. Assisted Living — What You Need to Know

Retirement Home vs Assisted Living
Photo: Shutterstock

As your parents or grandparents emerge into their golden years, the everyday tasks of homeowning may cause strain. Regular home tasks—the cleaning, utility work, and meal cooking that once seemed like a piece of cake—can become more difficult as people age. Then there are the medical, physical and social constraints of living alone to consider. All of these factors might make it time to look at a retirement home or assisted living facility for mom and dad.

Both of these options are built to give your loved one the easiest, least stressful way of life in their retirement. But there are several key differences between a retirement home and assisted living. So which is best for the senior in your life? Let’s take a deeper look.

Retirement Home

Retirement Home vs Assisted Living
Photo: iStock

Sometimes called 55+ living, retirement homes or communities aim to serve the needs of active, elderly adults. Sometimes they resemble a condo complex, where each resident has their own apartment. Others look more like a townhouse community, where residents live in adjacent houses within a gated subdivision.

Either way, retirement homes intend to give retirees independence in a community of peers. They usually offer amenities like a swimming pool, gym and clubhouse — places where social events like book club meetings or movie screenings are accommodated. Additionally, some retirement communities feature a dining room or café, though most residents will have their own kitchens.

Unlike assisted living, most retirement homes do not offer robust healthcare options, as residents don’t require round-the-clock medical care. Still, these communities are built for people in their later years. Facilities are typically designed for ease of mobility. Multi-story buildings often have elevators, wheelchair ramps and handrails in the hallways. Best of all, residents don’t have to care for the grounds — no shoveling snow or yard maintenance. A community staff typically covers those chores.

Finally, such homes usually have 24-hour security and a reliable help desk.

Assisted Living

By contrast, assisted living communities are geared toward seniors who require more frequent care. While residents receive more independence than they would in a nursing home, these facilities offer personalized care within a residential setting. Such residences often provide the social perks like art classes or bingo games, communal dining and fitness classes tailored to each residents’ particular ability.

Other amenities offered may include some combination of the following:

  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Bathroom assistance
  • Medication management
  • Laundry services
  • Transportation
  • 24/7 on-call staff
  • Daily foodservice, either in a dining room setting or delivered directly to the resident’s door.

Residents will typically undergo a health assessment when they first move to an assisted living facility. The assessment allows a doctor to chart a personalized healthcare plan. Though in these facilities, the degree of health assistance is not as intense as it is in a nursing home, where residents receive full-time care from experienced nurses. Rather, assisted living offers seniors a level of independence that meets their needs, while providing aid only when necessary.

Which Is Best for the Senior in Your Life?

The answer really depends on how active and independent your loved one is. If they’re in relatively good health but want to give up the responsibilities of home ownership, a retirement community is the best choice. However, if they require help with daily tasks, but still want to maintain some independence, assisted living is the better option.

To explore senior living options in your area, many search engines allow you to compare amenities and rates.

Retirement Home vs. Assisted Living — Sources: CareWindow, AgingCare