Some seniors choose to age in place and live out their golden years at home. thousands of others move to senior living communities each year. Why? Because they want to enjoy convenient services, luxurious amenities, and compassionate care in the company of like-minded neighbors.
You may already know about some of the main senior living options and their differences, including independent living, assisted living, in-home care, nursing homes, and rehab. Or, you might not know the difference between these.
In this article, we’re going to go deeper and learn about the critical differences between each option so you can make the best choice for your situation. Then, we delve into key factors to consider before choosing a senior living community.
- What Is a Senior Living Community?
- What Do Senior Living Communities Offer?
- Independent Living
- Assisted Living
- Memory Care
- Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation
- Continuing Care Retirement Community
- Non-Residential Senior Living Options
- How To Select the Perfect Senior Living Community
- Benefits of Senior Living
- When Is the Right Time To Explore Senior Care?
- Other Considerations
- Next Steps
The Basics: What Is a Senior Living Community?
A senior living community is a place where older adults can receive the support they need to thrive.
There are many different types of senior living communities, including:
- Independent living
- Assisted living
- Memory care
- Skilled nursing and rehabilitation
- Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
Each community differs in the level of care offered. For example, independent living communities offer the least amount of care as residents are mostly active and don’t need assistance. Comparatively, assisted living communities offer some care, depending on what activities of daily living residents need help with.
What Do Senior Living Communities Offer?
Different types of senior living communities offer varying levels of care. However, all communities have certain characteristics in common, including:
Senior Living Services
Most senior living communities tout a “maintenance-free lifestyle.” In other words, staff handles daily chores so residents can enjoy themselves.
Typically, retirement communities provide convenient services like:
- Home maintenance
- Transportation to appointments or leisure activities
- Chef-prepared dining
- Care management
Senior Living Amenities
Senior living communities also provide luxurious amenities that help residents make the most of their golden years.
Standard amenities include:
- Planned activities and social programs
- On- and off-site cultural and entertainment events
- Wellness programming
- Fitness centers and walking trails
- Movie theaters, game rooms, libraries, barbershops/salons
Senior Living Staff
Most communities have coordinators and staff responsible for housekeeping, dining, and administration. Many even have full-time activities directors who plan enrichment programs like movie nights, educational programs, and wellness activities.
Communities also have on-site nursing and direct care staff. The only exception is independent living communities, which aren’t legally required to have on-site medical personnel.
Senior Living Pricing
The cost of senior living correlates with care. Meaning, a community that provides more intensive support like memory care will be more expensive than a community that provides less support like independent living.
However, regardless of community, you can expect to pay a monthly fee that covers expenses like housing, utilities, home maintenance, and select services.
In some communities, you may also be expected to pay an entrance fee. This one-time charge essentially holds your spot in the community.
Senior Living Accommodations
Certain communities, particularly independent living communities, offer standalone townhome or cottage accommodations with patios, basements, and even garages.
But, more often than not, senior living facilities provide apartment homes. These apartments may be studios. Or, they may have one or more bedrooms.
If you are living in an assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing community, you will likely get the choice of a private or semi-private apartment. Independent living apartments are almost always private.
Independent living communities are designed to bring together individuals and senior couples who can look after themselves without regular medical or in-home care.
You may hear these communities referred to as 55+ apartments, senior living apartments, active adult communities, or simply retirement communities.
Independent Living Care & Daily Assistance
Since independent living is meant for people who can perform all activities of daily living on their own, home health care usually isn’t included.
If you do need daily assistance, you will need to pay for support services yourself, just as you would if you were living in a private apartment or home.
Independent Living Costs
In New Hampshire, you will pay an average of $3,537 per month for a spot in an independent living community. You may need to pay extra if you are moving in as a couple or if your chosen community charges for select services and amenities.
Signs Independent Living Is Right for You or a Loved One
- You or a loved one are ready to give up housework
- You or your loved one’s social calendar is dwindling
- You or your loved one want to remain as independent as possible
Assisted living is best suited for people who are mostly independent but need help with self-care tasks like dressing, grooming, and medication management.
Assisted living communities range from small, single homes with just a few residents to large, multi-building complexes. These facilities typically provide on-site medical care. In the state of New Hampshire, all assisted living residents must undergo annual evaluations to ensure that their community can continue meeting their needs.
Assisted Living Care & Daily Assistance
At an assisted living community, residents are encouraged to live as independently as possible.
However, staff are available to help with activities of daily living like:
- Getting in and out of bed
- Bathing or showering
- Getting dressed
- Personal hygiene
Staff also assist with instrumental activities of daily living. Examples include:
- Medication management
- Running errands
- Managing finances
Assisted Living Costs
In New Hampshire, someone in an assisted living community will pay an average of $4,855 per month. That is higher than the national average but less than the median cost in most surrounding states.
Signs Assisted Living Is Right for You or a Loved One
- You or a loved one are struggling with self-care tasks (e.g. bathing, eating, getting dressed)
- You or a loved one feel isolated or lonely
- You or a loved one can no longer keep up with household chores
- You or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with a chronic condition
Memory care is a senior living option available to residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive impairments. The goal of memory care is to keep residents healthy and safe while providing specific programming designed to slow cognitive decline.
Memory Care & Daily Assistance
Much like assisted living residents, seniors living in a memory care facility receive support with activities of daily living as well as instrumental activities of daily living.
However, memory care staff may also provide:
- Therapies to reduce anxiety or agitation
- Activities to provide cognitive stimulation and trigger memories
- Structured programming with consistent routines
- Enhanced security to mitigate wandering
Memory Care Costs
The average cost of memory care in New Hampshire is $5,208 per month.
The exact price will depend on if your loved one selects a private or semi-private room. It will also depend on if your loved one’s community charges for wellness programming or additional services like medication management.
Signs Memory Care Is Right for Your Loved One
- Memory issues are making living alone unsafe (e.g. your loved one has left the oven on, forgotten to lock the front door, or misplaced house keys)
- Your loved one is experiencing incontinence issues
- Your loved one has suffered from a fall-related injury
- Your loved one is forgetting to pay important bills (e.g. mortgage/rent, utilities)
Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation
People who need 24-hour care from health professionals are best suited to skilled nursing facilities or communities that offer rehabilitation services.
Typically, these communities provide rehabilitation services on a short-term basis. Nursing homes can also accommodate patients for long-term care, regardless of their age or specific medical condition.
However, many communities lack the tools needed to care for patients who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
If you or a loved one suffers from cognitive decline, it is important to ensure that the facility is equipped with memory care services.
Skilled Nursing Care & Daily Assistance
Skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers offer a wide spectrum of medical care services, including:
- Post-inpatient and post-surgical care
- Help with activities of daily living
- Incontinence care, including colostomy and catheter care
- Administration of oral and IV medications
- Personalized diet plans
- Medical supplies and durable medical equipment such as hospital beds, oxygen tanks, or wheelchairs
- Speech-language, occupational, and physical therapy
- Ambulance transportation
Every resident in a skilled nursing facility should receive a thorough evaluation that leads to a personalized care plan. In most cases, care plans aim to prepare residents to return home or to a lower level of care.
However, skilled nursing centers are also equipped to provide long-term care.
Skilled Nursing Costs
The cost of skilled nursing care in New Hampshire is $9,612 per month, the second highest in New England. Only Massachusetts has a higher monthly cost of $10,737.
Paying For Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation
Medicaid may cover long-term care for some New Hampshire residents, but coverage is competitive. The applicant must:
- Be least 65 years old, blind, or disabled
- Possess proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency and be a New Hampshire resident
- Demonstrate needed care for at least 30 days
- Have an income below the Medicaid cost-of-care reimbursement rate
- Use all available income to pay for care
- Not have available assets above the state’s pre-determined limit
If you or someone you care about needs assisted living services but can’t afford the cost, they may qualify for a Choices for Independence waiver. The waiver is available to people who meet certain income requirements and would otherwise need skilled nursing care.
Although an applicant has to demonstrate the need for care, a Choices for Independence waiver doesn’t need to be used for skilled nursing. Covered resources include in-home care, home health aides, residential or respite care, and supportive housing.
Signs Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Is Right for You or a Loved One
- You or your loved one have a chronic condition that requires medical attention
- You or your loved one are recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery
- You or your loved one are struggling with basic self-care tasks
- You or your loved one are incontinent
Continuing Care Retirement Community
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), also called life plan communities, are designed to offer residents a spectrum of care.
Typically, aging adults enter these communities as independent living residents. Then, they can transition to higher levels of care (e.g. assisted living, memory care, nursing home care) if and when they need it.
Many seniors choose CCRCs because these communities provide a long-term solution. No matter what happens in the future, you can rest easy knowing that you or your loved one’s needs will be taken care of.
CCRC Care & Daily Assistance
To be considered a CCRC, a retirement community must offer independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care all on one campus. This ensures that residents get the support they need, when they need it.
However, keep in mind that not all CCRCs offer memory care services. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, look for a community that can meet these unique needs.
Your monthly bill will depend on your specific care plan. If you are receiving assisted living support, for example, you can expect to pay about $4,855 per month. For memory care, expect to pay more — about $5,208 per month.
Many CCRCs also require an entrance fee. This one-time charge guarantees your spot in the community. In New Hampshire, entrance fees can range from $30,000 to $500,000. Some communities even charge up to $1 million.
Signs a CCRC Is Right for You or a Loved One
- You or a loved one crave peace of mind for the future
- You or a loved one no longer want to keep up with housework
- You or your loved one crave socialization
- You or your loved one want to remain as independent as possible
Non-Residential Senior Living Options
Some seniors prefer to live out their retirement years at home, or age in place. These individuals may rely on an adult child or spouse to provide daily care. They may also explore non-residential senior living options, including:
In-home care is a viable option for busy families who can’t devote themselves entirely to caring for an aging loved one.
If you opt for in-home care services, a caregiver will spend all or part of the day assisting your loved one. These professionals are typically trained to provide medical attention and help with self-care tasks. They may also complete daily chores like laundry and cooking.
Temporary Care or Day Care
If a person only needs access to care during part of the day, a senior day care center may be a good fit.
Senior day care facilities offer outpatient care in addition to senior social activities and other amenities. They are ideal for family caregivers who work part-time jobs or who have children of their own.
How To Select the Perfect Senior Living Community
You may be considering a move to a New Hampshire retirement community because you can’t keep pace with housework. Or, maybe you have a chronic medical condition and fear living alone.
Regardless of your reason for exploring senior care options, the first step in selecting the right community is to think about what’s important to you.
How do you imagine this next chapter of your life? Here are some factors to consider:
The type of senior housing you choose will have a significant impact on cost. Generally speaking, price correlates with care level.
Independent living is the cheapest senior care option because it offers the least amount of support while skilled nursing is the most expensive because it offers the most support.
Regardless of care type, always be sure to understand exactly what your monthly fee includes. Your community should provide a detailed account of the included utilities, meals, services, and amenities.
You should also consider where you want to live. You may select a community based on its proximity to children, grandchildren, or close friends.
Or, you may select a community in a new location altogether — maybe a coastal city or a quaint town in the mountains.
Services and Amenities
Different senior living communities offer different services and amenities. In some independent living communities, for example, you may not have access to planned activities, meals, or health care.
Comparatively, CCRCs like Havenwood Heritage Heights provide a host of services and amenities, such as:
- Housekeeping and home maintenance
- Entertainment and wellness programming
- Five-star dining
Before choosing a place to call home, consider which services and amenities are non-negotiables.
Some senior living communities are accredited, which means they are regularly assessed by an unbiased third party. Many aging adults select accredited communities because they are held to a higher standard.
Havenwood Heritage Heights has earned accreditation from the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. This signifies that our community complies with standards of excellence.
A community’s reputation is also important. Before scheduling an in-person tour, research online and check with friends, neighbors, professional advisors, and health care providers for their opinions on a senior living community.
Benefits of Senior Living
Deciding to move to a senior living community can be a hard choice for you or your loved one. You may worry about not having enough privacy in a community setting. Or, you may feel some sadness and anxiety about leaving behind a family home.
Know this: Your feelings are completely normal. Many aging adults and their families find the prospect of moving to a senior living community daunting. However, after making the transition, their number one regret is not doing it sooner.
When you finally take the leap, you will enjoy the countless benefits of senior living, including:
- Maintenance-free living
- Consolidated billing
- New social opportunities
- Access to services and amenities
- Convenient transportation
When Is the Right Time To Explore Senior Care?
There is no “right” time to begin exploring senior care options. Some aging adults move to a senior living community as soon as they turn 62. Others wait until they are well in their 80s.
Ultimately, when you start this next chapter of your life is your decision. But some common signs that it is time to consider moving to a senior living community include:
- You are struggling to keep up with home responsibilities
- You or your spouse need regular medical care
- You want access to a continuum of care as you age
- You are interested in convenient services and luxurious amenities
Before choosing a senior living community to call home, give these other factors some thought.
Types of Assisted Living
In New Hampshire, there are two types of assisted living communities: supported residential health care and residential care. Neither of these communities can provide 24-hour nursing care to any resident for more than 21 days, according to New Hampshire state law.
Supported Residential Health Care
The more comprehensive of the two options, supported residential health care provides social and health services as well as short-term medical care if a resident is recovering from illness. Supported residential health care communities must have at least one awake staff member 24 hours a day unless there are fewer than eight people in residence. There must also be direct care personnel and at least one licensed nurse.
Supported residential health care services include:
- Personal care
- Medication services
- Social programming
- Help with medical appointments
- Health and safety services
- Access to nursing care as needed
- Crisis support
- Supervision for residents with cognitive challenges
Team members in a supported residential health care community can assist with medication, but only in limited ways, as regulated by state law.
A residential care community offers minimal supervision but does offer personal care assistance. Residential care centers must have direct care personnel and at least one licensed nurse. Overnight care must also be available if there are 17 or more residents or if certain safety concerns are present.
Residential care services include:
- Help with activities of daily living
- Assistance with arranging healthcare appointments and accessing community services
- Supervision of those with cognitive challenges
- Crisis intervention
In a residential care community, only certain authorized personnel may assist with medications.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Some individuals pay for senior care costs using long-term care insurance. Coverage can help aging adults protect their assets, especially if they don’t qualify for Medicaid.
However, long-term care insurance is best purchased sooner rather than later. Though seniors are welcome to apply, around 25 percent of people in their 60s have a hard time qualifying. See an attorney or insurance professional if you are interested in long-term care insurance.
If you are searching for senior living for yourself:
- Review this guide with your family to prepare for the conversation about your future
- Consider the benefits of CCRCs for you and your family members.
- Contact us to schedule a tour of our CCRC and see the magic of our community for yourself!
If you are searching for senior living for a loved one:
- Review this guide with other decision-makers to start planning for your loved one's future
- Know how to recognize when it's time to move a loved one to senior living
- Contact us to schedule a tour of our CCRC to see all the ways in which we will care for your loved one
Learn More About Life at Havenwood Heritage Heights
As a Continuing Care Retirement Community in the beautiful and welcoming town of Concord, New Hampshire, Havenwood Heritage Heights provides a continuum of healthcare services and long-term care options across three campuses.
At our CCRC, we promote a culture of independence and take pride in the diversity of our community. We also offer services and programs designed to keep residents active, healthy, and engaged.
Do you want to explore all that Havenwood Heritage Heights has to offer? Contact us online today or by calling 888-929-8381.