Thinking about moving to a senior living apartment? Maybe you’re not sure because, well, you’re not exactly sure what a senior living apartment is to begin with. Is it simply an apartment complex occupied mainly by older adults? Is it an age-qualified 55+ community offering only apartments? Is it assisted living? Or, could it even be an apartment-style home offered within a continuing care retirement community?

The reality is that most people would probably say it’s any of the above. And in a way, they would be correct because there really isn’t a widely accepted definition of a senior living apartment. In fact, there are very few generally accepted definitions for any type of senior living community! This is one of the reasons why researching senior living options can be so challenging.

>> Related: How to Differentiate Between Rental Retirement Communities

Defining the term “senior living apartment”

The most helpful definition of a senior living apartment may be the one provided by National Investment Center, a leader in the senior living data and analytics space. They define a senior apartment as follows:

Market-rate units in age-restricted communities where at least 80 percent of the residents are 55 years of age or older. Although optional meal plans may be offered, the base monthly fee does not include meals in a common dining facility, and therefore, “senior apartments” are different from “independent living units.”

According to this definition, the main distinction between a senior living apartment and most other types of apartment-style retirement communities is the absence of a meal plan included in the base monthly fee, which could also mean the absence of a central dining facility altogether. However, some of these senior apartments will have a community kitchen or even a small café for residents’ enjoyment.

Some senior living apartments may fall under the affordable senior living category and could even be cost-subsidized. Other senior living apartments will feature many of the amenities you might expect to see in a modern senior living community, minus a dining facility.

>> Related: Understanding the Different Forms of Independent Living

No on-site long-term care facilities

One particularly important distinction of senior living apartments, and even some independent living communities for that matter, is the absence of an on-site licensed assisted living facility and skilled nursing center.

Unlike a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or “life plan community”), which offers living and care options across the entire continuum, residents of a senior living apartment who have advanced long-term care needs may need to move off-site to an assisted living facility or nursing home, especially if their needs exceed what can safely or practically be met by in-home care.

>> Related: What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Care?

Talking the senior living talk

Get up to speed on many retirement community-related topics by visiting our new and improved “Learn” section of myLifeSite. There, you’ll find information on topics like CCRC residency contracts and entry fees, helpful senior living checklists, and much more!

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