What is a senior living community? Top questions answered.

As seniors start moving towards a new phase of their lives, many choose to relocate to what’s known as a senior living community.

In fact, about one million Americans live in some senior living community according to the National Center of Assisted Living (NCAL). And by 2030, that number is expected to double.

What is a senior living community? How does it differ from other retirement communities? And what kinds of benefits, amenities, and costs are involved?

This guide will answer these questions and more, so you can decide if the independent lifestyle of a senior living community is proper for you.

Table of Contents

So What Exactly Does Senior Community Mean?

A senior community is an overarching term to describe any community specifically designed to meet the needs of older adults, typically above the age of 55.

These communities tend to offer some level of medical care, simplified living expenses, numerous community events, and other services that relieve the burden of living entirely by oneself.

Though they are often called “retirement communities,” individuals in these communities may only partially retire or even work full-time.

Many residents tend to equate quality senior communities to a vacation—many of your most basic needs are cared for while not infringing on your freedoms.

Some senior communities offer more extensive care based on the individual needs of the occupant. However, the term “senior community” mainly refers to independent living communities.

What Are Three Main Types of Living Communities Available for Older Adults?

Generally, there are three main types of living communities available for older adults:

  • Independent Living – Independent living offers the most personal freedom. Residents of these communities can care entirely for themselves. However, there are still services in place that assist if an individual needs it. Aging.com points out that independent living is the top choice for seniors today.
  • Assisted Living – An assisted living community includes more extensive care for those who cannot fully care for themselves. Typically, they’ll prepare three meals a day for those who want them, provide cleaning and maintenance regularly, and 24-hour supervision is available at all times.
  • Skilled Nursing – On the other hand, a nursing home offers the highest level of care, and there is continual personal care that may involve help dressing and bathing. Skilled nursing tends to be the most expensive form of housing for the elderly and typically is suitable only for those who cannot care for themselves on a fundamental level.

What Kinds of Amenities & Services does a Senior Living Community offer?

Seniors enjoying a meal together
Seniors enjoying a meal together

Residents will usually have their apartments separated from other community members or within a larger facility.

Independent senior living communities tend to offer essential services and amenities that residents can take advantage of if they wish.

However, since most independent living communities can still care for themselves, these are often considered “perks” rather than necessities.

Depending on the facility, a senior community may offer:

    • Housekeeping services
    • Optional regular meals
    • Consolidated utilities
    • Recreational events within the community
    • Trips, shopping, and cultural events
    • Concierge services
    • 24-hour emergency response systems
    • On-site home health and private duty services

Which Kinds of Community Activities Are Available?

What kinds of community activities are mainly available depends on the senior living community.

However, most understand that being socially connected with others and maintaining health through regular exercise is vital among seniors.

A reported 28% of adults over 50 are physically inactive. The CDC states, regular exercise can help delay, prevent, or manage many costly chronic diseases faced by adults 50 years or older.

As such, many senior living communities will have regular exercise classes hosted by a certified trainer.

Additionally, social events like happy hour, holiday parties, group excursions, and other social events are regular occurrences.

The best facilities will ask each new resident what activities they enjoy and even cater to their event schedule to accommodate all residents.

Are Pets Allowed in These Retirement Communities?

Pets being allowed in the retirement community depends on the community itself, so make sure that you ask when you talk with them.

That said, the best communities understand the importance of companionship and are pet-friendly for that reason.

How Are Safety & Medical Concerns Handled?

If a medical concern arises, a senior living community will typically handle them, thanks to the various on-site health care services.

These health care services typically include:

  • 24-hour emergency service
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • On-site skilled nursing
  • Transportation to physician appointments
  • Support with medical errands
  • Supportive services for personal care

Are Transportation Options Provided?

Depending on the community, yes.

Some communities offer guided excursions for residents to explore cultural events, shopping, and recreational opportunities around town.

Others will provide regular transportation for medical appointments at no charge.

Additionally, many apartments come with a built-in garage so residents will have the vehicles they can use as they wish.

Can Someone Under 55 Live in a Senior Community?

The answer depends on which senior living community you decide on.

Some communities have strict limits on age requirements and will not allow those under 55 to move in.

However, some communities have rules that state that one resident must be above 55 years old while spouses and partners must be at least 40 years old while children must be at least 18 years old.

Can I Live with My Mom in a 55+ Community?

Some communities allow adult children to reside with their senior-aged parents.

On the other hand, others will require all residents to be at least 55 years of age.

Be sure to check the guidelines of each prospective community before assuming any age restrictions.

Will Family Members Be Able to Visit?

Daughter visiting mom in senior living community
Daughter visiting mom in a senior living community

Of course!

Most independent senior living communities have very flexible regulations regarding family visits.

Some, like The Harbor, even allow family members to join for meals.

An in-person visit provides an opportunity for you to share your affection and serves as a reminder to your loved ones that you care about their well-being.

Cape Albeon encourages family members to make weekly visits to spend quality time with them and even listen to their concerns.

Request a tour today!

Are Any Senior Living Communities Faith-Based?

Some senior living communities are incredibly open to faiths of all kinds.

These facilities will often have chapel services, on-campus chaplains, and events celebrating the many different spiritualities of today.

Do Facilities Require Long-Term Contracts?

Contracts are dependent upon the chosen facility.

Some communities require 3-month, 12-month, or even years-long contracts. However, others offer affordable month-to-month options with no expensive buy-in.

These options allow for a much more flexible living arrangement and relieve residents of the burden of a long-term contract.

How Much Does a Senior Living Community Cost?

According to AssistedLiving.org, the monthly average cost of living in an independent senior living community is $2,087.

That said, there are plenty of options for financial support, including:

  • Medicaid, Medicare, or Medicare Advantage
  • Elderly Waiver, Personal Care, or Optional State Supplement (OSS)
  • Veteran’s Programs
  • HELOCs and Reverse Mortgages
  • Long Term Care Insurance

Look at this handy guide on senior living community costs to learn more about how these financial support options come into play and how much they can reduce costs.

Where Can I Find Senior Living Near Me?

Now you know a little more about what a senior living community is—time to find the right one for you or your loved one.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions when interviewing retirement communities. Similarly, be sure to tell each prospective community exactly your social, maintenance, and medical needs before deciding.

And if you’re in the St. Louis area, be sure to consider Cape Albeon’s The Harbor. This vibrant retirement home community offers picturesque views, elegant dining, helpful services, superior medical support, and plenty of community daily activities like happy hours, trail walks, cultural attraction trips, and shopping excursions.

Plus, we offer:

  • Delicious daily meals
  • Bi-monthly housekeeping
  • A 24-hour emergency response system
  • Indoor pool and whirlpool
  • Chapel for worship services
  • And much more

Want to get a closer look at what life is like at Cape Albeon’s The Harbor?

Just click below to schedule your tour today!

For the best retirement home living in and around St. Louis, look to The Harbor by Cape Albeon.

Request a tour today!