Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities


Have you had a chance to visit a senior living community lately? If not, you may be surprised by all of the activities, amenities and opportunities that are available to their residents.

Many people still confuse senior living with nursing homes. Unfortunately, they may hesitate to get the assistance they need or take advantage of the benefits offered.

To help clear the confusion, the following information briefly describes the key differences between nursing homes and senior living communities, what each of them offer and the type of residents that would most likely call each one home.

What are nursing homes?

Nursing homes, often referred to as skilled nursing facilities, are residential communities that provide both health and personal care services.

Included is nursing care, 24-hour supervision, meals, assistance with daily activities and tasks, as well as rehabilitation therapies including physical, occupational and speech.

For most residents, the nursing home is their permanent place of residence because they require around-the-clock supervision and care. Today there are also people who will temporarily be a resident after being discharged from the hospital because they are not yet able to go home. They may need medical assistance or physical therapy as they continue their rehabilitation.

Nursing homes may also provide respite care if the primary caregiver of a loved one living at home needs a break or is not able to provide the services for a certain amount of time but wants to be sure their loved one is receiving excellent care.

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What are senior living communities?

Senior living communities offer a range of services and support for older adults that include the following:

Independent living communities

These communities offer the maintenance-free lifestyle that many retirees are looking for. After a life filled with busy careers, raising children and other responsibilities, these active older adults are searching for an independent and fulfilled life with the convenience of on-site amenities.

Along with private residences, they are surrounded by opportunities to meet their wellness goals and achieve a high quality of life.

Monthly choices of activities, clubs, groups, games, art studios and other options are available, as well as a fitness center or classes so they can remain in shape both physically and cognitively.

They also appreciate the opportunities to meet new people and make friends as well as participate in social events. Add in the healthy dining options, scheduled transportation and the security and safety features in their homes and community and they find they have everything they need.

Assisted living communities

For those who need help with daily tasks or care but are able to continue living an independent life, a special type of senior living community — assisted living — can be the perfect answer.

Residents enjoy their own personal residence that can be personalized to make their own. Receiving support from the staff with tasks such as bathing safely, getting dressed or managing their medications, residents are happy to no longer need to rely on their family and friends as caregivers.

Assisted living provides a monthly calendar of activities and social events. Residents enjoy concerts, lectures and movies. Meals are provided and there are typically fitness centers or exercise classes for the residents to remain in shape.

Housekeeping and laundry are included, as well as scheduled transportation so residents can attend social events, go shopping or make their medical appointments. Residents are reassured with the additional safety features and knowing that someone is always there if help is ever needed.

Memory care communities

For those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, the progressive nature of the disease often means that care provided at home might one day not be enough to meet the needs of the individual.

Memory care, another specialized type of senior living community, offers a safe place for their residents to call home while also remaining engaged with others and participating in therapies and programs tailored to their abilities and preferences.

The buildings are designed to promote freedom of movement while keeping the residents safe, especially those that may tend to wander. Rooms, hallways and common areas are also designed to lessen frustration, provide location cues for the residents and help them feel less anxious.

Care for the residents is provided by specially trained staff who know how best to interact with those with cognitive impairment, how to de-escalate behavior and how to connect and reflect back the value of the person.

Discover life at a Northbridge community

If you’re considering senior living for yourself or a family member, we hope you’ll visit one of our communities. You’ll find a maintenance-free, activity-filled and engaging lifestyle to help support your wellness goals.

You’ll also discover many benefits in a Northbridge Senior Living community, including our Signature Program S.T.A.R. Club (Sharp Thinking, Active Residents) – which offers our residents several activities to participate in with others, including:

  • Daily exercise group
  • Walking club
  • Tai Chi & Yoga
  • Nutritional classes
  • Library and book club
  • Museum outings
  • Artists in residence program
  • Multi-generational music
  • Genealogy Generations

We’re here to answer any of your questions and invite you to download our complimentary Family Decision Toolkit. Please contact us if we can provide further information or if you would like to schedule a personalized tour.

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