Chapter 2: Senior Living Levels of Care

The decision to move has been made. Now, how do you know which community is the best fit?

Finding a senior living community that is just right for your parents can be difficult - even if, by now, they're looking forward to the security, extra help, regular meals, and social activity that it brings. Take the time to find the right fit that offers the same type of surroundings their home provided for them for so many years.

The senior housing industry has done an excellent job providing various living options with different levels of service for different levels of need. Here are some senior housing classifications to consider:

Active Adult/Age Restricted Communities

Residents live in both individual, detached one-story houses and apartments that are restricted to adults ages 55 and older. These communities usually have clubhouses and offer various facilities ranging from tennis courts to swimming pools. These communities are generally "gated", which means access is restricted to residents and their guests. It also means monthly service charges and fees.

Independent Living/Retirement Communities

Independent Living Communities for seniors refers to residence in an easy-to-maintain, private apartment or house within a community of seniors. Residents are provided with meals, housekeeping, activities/wellness programs, transportation, and socialization. Independent Living provides the greatest versatility and self-sufficiency. If, over time, medical or other care services such as assistance with bathing and dressing become necessary, residents in Independent Living have the option of contracting with independent home health care providers on an individual fee-for-service basis. This allows the residents to remain in the community and use additional services as needed. Independent Living activities and wellness programs help people age gracefully because of the worry-free lifestyle.

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted Living Communities offer the safety and security of 24-hour support and access to more personal care services than an Independent Living Community. Bathing, medication reminders, dressing, and more are also provided by the on-site staff. Meals are typically served three times a day and are included in the cost of residing in this type of community. Housekeeping, maintenance, activities, and transportation are also included. If around-the-clock medical care and supervision are not needed, but personal care services are required, an Assisted Living Community may be a good choice. Most Assisted Living Communities are state-licensed.

Senior Living Guide from Spectrum Retirement Communities, LLC

Skilled Nursing Communities

This is the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital. In a Skilled Nursing Community, staff provides assistance with getting in and out of bed, feeding, bathing, and dressing. A higher level of medical care is also provided.

Memory Care

A Memory Care environment is designed for someone with a dementia or Alzheimer's diagnosis, making it unsafe for them to continue to stay at home, but who may wander. Memory Care allows a person experiencing memory loss to maintain a level of independence, while relying on the safety and security of being in a residential community with a professional staff. In Memory Care, memory-impaired residents have access to 24-hour support and programs that ensure their safety and preserve their quality of life. Typically, the residents live in private or semi-private units, and have scheduled activities and programs designed to enhance memory, supervised by trained staff members. The residences are 100% secure with alarmed or locked areas to ensure no one wanders off. Usually within these secured areas, residents enjoy indoor walking paths, or outdoor paths or gardens.

Memory Care provided by Spectrum Retirement Communities, LLC

Your parents have worked hard for their money. You want to make sure you help them spend it wisely now.

Costs for senior living options vary widely. Here are some guidelines and definitions of terms.


Active Adult/Age Restricted Communities and CCRCs often require a significant entry or buy-in fee. These communities offer varying plans, many of which allow residents to move from "Independent" Living to "Assisted" Living or "skilled nursing" care. Buy-in programs often require an additional monthly fee. Typically, you get a portion back if you leave the community.

Non buy-ins/rentals

Many Active Adult/Age Restricted Communities and Senior Living Communities offer a "no entrance fee" option or a rental-only option. This is primarily for seniors who want to retain their investments and rent their retirement space, as opposed to spending a large portion of their retirement funds on a buy-in fee. Usually a month-to-month lease is signed and the resident is responsible for paying the monthly fee.

Assisted Living Communities and Skilled Nursing Communities charge a monthly rate that varies depending on the resident's healthcare needs.

Read More

This is Chapter two of a six chapter guide to helping your parents transition into a senior living community. Has this been helpful? Read the other chapters including:

1. The Right Time to Move Into Assisted Living?

Learn signs that indicate it might be time for your parents to move into assisted living and read tips on how to talk with your parents about making the transition.

2. Senior Living Levels of Care 
Understand the distinctions between each level of care in senior living communities: active adult/age restricted, independent, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. 

3. Parent Refusing to Go to Assisted Living?

Are you feeling like the time is right to transition to assisted living and mom or dad is refusing to go? Get some ideas on how to continue the discussion.

4. Today’s Choices in Senior Living

Bingo is not the only game in town. Learn about the state-of-the-art amenities and active life enrichment programs offered at most senior living communities.

5. Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Community

Get tips on how to tour a senior living community, including questions to ask during your visit and an evaluation checklist.

6. How Spectrum Can Help

Learn about Spectrum Retirement Communities, including its flexible, affordable, month-to-month retirement rental programs in multiple locations across the US.