Senior care centers and retirement communities are not all created equal. Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions to be made. Senior care centers are needs-based facilities that provide care services to older adults- although an increasing number of younger adults are entering such facilities- and include stand-alone assisted living centers or nursing homes.

Retirement communities, one the other hand, are not needs based, but instead, are preference based. They include Active Adult Communities, Independent Living Communities, and Continue Care Retirement Communities, also referred to as CCRCs or Life Plan Communities.

When researching and comparing options for yourself or a loved one it is important things to consider is which phase(s) along the continuum of care the community serves. The continuum of care begins with independent living and progresses to limited assisted living, advanced assisted living, memory care, and 24-hour skilled nursing care. Some communities, such as active adult communities, allow for homeownership and cater only to those who live independent, and often active, lives. Independent living communities serve those who are able to live mostly independently.

>>Related: What is Independent Living? 

Continue Care Retirement Communities are unique in that they often provide services spanning the entire continuum of care. Residents of CCRCs must be able to live independently upon entry into the community, but assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing services are contractually guaranteed to be provided as needed. Payment plans among CCRCs can vary drastically from one community to another and many require an entry-fee.

>>Related: Understanding Payment Structures in Continuing Care Retirement Communities 

If you or a loved one is contemplating a senior care center or retirement community it is important to first identify which services are desired, or needed, today and in the future. Also be sure fully you understand the payment plan and the potential cost of available care services.

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