The phrase “senior living” inspires an array of emotions—and each person’s feelings on the matter are surprisingly strong. Unfortunately, many of the more negative feelings result from misinformation or stereotypes that are not entirely based in truth. And while many people embrace the opportunity for 55+ living as a welcome next stage in life—and something of an exclusive club—we recognize that isn’t always the case.
Truth be told, “senior living” covers a broad spectrum of living arrangements and lifestyles. Each community offers its own look, feel, and specialties—much like a university would. While there are certainly variances, here’s a general overview of where many senior living communities share qualities—and where they typically differ.
The 55+ factor
As mentioned, the term “senior living” can mean a variety of things, but most communities will have commonality in the minimum age required to live there. While in recent years there are communities that welcome a limited number of college students or other young adults who help serve within the community, these are still somewhat specialized. The majority of 55+ senior living communities are exactly that: for adults age 55 and older. In fact, most include some sort of limitation on how long non-resident visitors (or visitors under the age of 55) can stay.
Verdict: Mostly the same
This is one area that couldn’t be more different between communities if it tried. Many senior living communities offer graduating levels of care, meaning you might start out in independent living—be it in an apartment-style home, condo, or free-standing home—and, should circumstances change and you later need additional assistance or less maintenance, offer in-campus alternate accommodations. Even within communities, you’ll find various floorplans and options to suit your needs and preferences.
Verdict: Highly varied
Some senior living communities are affiliated with faith. Some are more niche-lifestyle based. Some focus on being very high-end, luxury communities. Some cater to sports enthusiasts and, in particular, golfers. Not every senior living community has to have an affiliation, and while certain communities with such affiliations or emphasis will appeal to a certain audience, in most cases, they are still open to all.
Verdict: Common, but varies
Amenities and lifestyle
Part of the beauty of choosing to live in a senior living community is having the option to explore hobbies, interests, and social opportunities. You’d be hard pressed to find a senior living community that doesn’t offer amenities or a social calendar in some form, though the inclusions will vary between communities. Many communities will host an array of activities, ranging from physical fitness and wellness to social clubs, continuing education, entertainment, and more. Not all communities will offer all activities, so if you choose to look for a 55+ community, take the time to familiarize yourself with what each offers. Better yet, look not only for the activities you know you like, but peruse for new interests and activities you might be interested in exploring.
Verdict: Commonly found, but highly varied
Every senior living community is a bit different—even among communities developed through the same ownership company. Take the time to research every option and take care not to “blanket” terms and options as though they apply to every community.