What's the Difference: Retirement Residence vs. Long-Term Care

Unclear about the differences between retirement residences and long term care homes? You’re not alone. Many people use the terms “retirement residence” and “long-term care home”—also historically referred to as a “nursing home”—interchangeably. They are, however, very different, and it’s important to understand those differences when beginning a search for a new home in your retirement years.


Here are three key differences between the two living options:

The level of support you need to live well

One of the biggest differences between the lifestyle in a retirement community versus a long term care home is the amount of care and support residents receive.

Retirement residences cater to older adults with a variety of needs and preferences, and there’s flexibility in finding the right level of support for your lifestyle. For example, an active and independent senior may only wish to live in a community of peers for social reasons, or perhaps benefit from housekeeping services, while another senior may wish to benefit from delicious dining, recreational opportunities and some personal support services like medication administration. As retirement residences offer multiple levels of support—from independent living to assisted living and memory care—this is all possible.

Where long term care differs is that seniors who are eligible to move in generally have complex medical or mobility needs, or advanced stages of dementia, which require 24-hour nursing care. Seniors living in long term care homes need significant daily help and medical monitoring to live comfortably and with the peace of mind they deserve.

Helpful Resources

The move-in process

If you are exploring moving into a retirement residence, you have the freedom to choose when and where you want to move in. A Chartwell Health and Wellness Manager at the residence you’re interested in will help to ensure the lifestyle option you select is best suited to your unique needs and preferences, and—if the residence does not have a wait-list—you’d be able to move in at your leisure.

To move into a long term care residence, the local healthcare authority in your province decides if and when you can move into a long term care home. Admission is coordinated by local health authorities in each province, not directly by the home itself. Seniors and their families must meet with a case worker, who determines eligibility and then places them on a wait list until space becomes available. Generally, wait lists are long, so the move-in process is not immediate, potentially taking months to years.

Cost structure

In a retirement residence, you are responsible for paying your own monthly rent, which is based on factors such as the lifestyle option you’re chosen, the size of your suite, and other services you have asked to receive. Though retirement living is a private-pay option, there may be government subsidies and tax credits available according to your province of residence.

Long-term care residences, although owned and operated by private companies such as Chartwell, are regulated and partially-funded by each province’s healthcare authority. A portion of (or all, depending on eligibility requirements) of a resident’s rent may be covered, but long term care should not to be mistaken as a “free” living option for seniors and their families.

To find out which one is right for you or a loved one, please visit our Exploring Your Options page, or call 1-855-461-0685 today.

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