A Guide to Different Assisted Living Community Types


Michael Gill

Here’s how to sort through the broad range of retirement facilities and find one that fits your needs
By Donna Rosato and Karen Damato
September 02, 2017

All assisted living facilities offer communal living, but their physical settings vary widely. Here are the main types:

Apartment-Like Living
Many residential care communities are in large complexes where residents rent an apartment with a small kitchen and private bath. They also offer communal dining and shared activity rooms, such as libraries and fitness facilities. About 68 percent of residents live in facilities with 50 or more people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The biggest places typically are part of for-profit chains, including the three largest, Atria, Brookdale, and Sunrise.

Small Group Homes
Sometimes called board and care, these assisted living residences offer a more intimate, homelike feel, housing just four to 25 people. These smaller places are often located in residential neighborhoods, where seniors can rent single rooms, share common spaces, and dine together.

Continuing-Care Communities
Though most assisted living facilities are standalone, some are connected to nursing homes or are part of continuing-care communities that offer multiple levels of care, from independent living to nursing-home care. Residents can move from one level to another, which may mean a move to a different section if their healthcare needs change.

Specialized Care
Some assisted living facilities offer specialized services for particular medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, and diabetes. But as the U.S. population ages, the biggest trend has been the number of assisted living facilities offering dementia care, says Sheryl Zimmerman, director of aging research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today about 60 percent of residential care communities provide a dementia care program. And almost one-quarter of assisted living communities maintain a dedicated floor or wing for memory care, or they are standalone facilities that serve only people who have more severe forms of dementia, according to the CDC.

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