Understanding retirement living: A helpful glossary of terms

If you’re taking the first steps towards moving to a seniors’ or retirement residence for yourself or a loved one, you know there are many factors to consider and choices to be made. It can be a positive and ultimately satisfying process, made easier by starting off on the right foot—and that means gaining an understanding of the terminology you’ll encounter in your research.

The term: Senior Living Community/Retirement Community/Retirement Residence

These are all general, umbrella terms that include several different types of accommodation and support options for people 55+. These can include suites in varying sizes found within a multi-unit retirement residence, or detached apartment builds, townhomes and bungalows located on the same premises.

Within these communities you’ll find a selection of varying amenities, services and support options, ranging from accommodation-only to a full complement of dining, wellness and personal care services.

Under these umbrella terms you’ll find there are several different sub-categories, including the following:

The term: Independent Living/Independent Senior Living

Independent living refers to a retirement residence offering a lifestyle typically geared towards active, independent seniors who require few, if any, services or supports.

Independent living is for seniors looking for social engagement (on their own terms), a choice of on-site amenities and activities and the peace of mind that a community with 24-hour security can bring.

Independent living communities typically offer a range of convenient services, such as housekeeping, leisure and recreation opportunities and outings, and the availability of à la carte dining options at an additional fee.

The term: Independent Supportive Living

Independent Supportive Living combines all of the benefits of independent living in a retirement residence—housekeeping and laundry, leisure and social opportunities and 24-hour security—with daily meals in a dining room and the ability to take advantage of personal support services like medication administration or assistance with your daily routine.

Personal support services can be offered by the residence staff, through government-funded home care agencies or private pay services, depending on your province of residence and the particular services.

The term: Assisted Living*

Retirement communities also offer a lifestyle option called assisted living for people who require daily personalized support to maintain or improve their quality of life. This option could include services relating to assistance with your daily routine, medication administration and supervision, or even an escort to meals and activities. Three meals a day, housekeeping, dedicated leisure opportunities and even dementia support are typically included in assisted living packages.

Some residences offer dedicated floors or “neighbourhoods” for assisted living residents, gearing all amenities and activities to each resident’s unique needs and choices.

*Known as Designated Supportive Living in Alberta, eligibility for assisted living in the province requires an assessment by a Home Care Registered Nurse.

The term: Memory care/dementia care

Some retirement residences offer memory care services offered in dedicated floors or “neighbourhoods” for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. These living spaces are secure and usually feature their own dining rooms and activity lounges. Staff are trained to assist residents with all activities of daily living and focus on building strong and positive relationships.

Residences usually offer assessment services to ensure that memory care is the right option for a potential new resident.

The term: Long Term Care Home/Nursing Home*

Long term care homes—historically referred to as nursing homes—offer seniors with complex medical needs or advanced stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia 24-hour nursing care, including assistance with an individual’s daily routine and high levels of personal support.

Admission and funding are overseen by local government health authorities in each province.

* Known in Quebec as Centre d’hébergement de soins de longue durée (CHSLD), and as Residential Care in British Columbia.

Making the move to a seniors’ residence can be an exciting new chapter in your life. Chartwell is here to help you with the information and tools you need to help make the right decision for you. To learn more, or to find a senior living residence in your area, call our Contact Centre today at 1-855-461-0685.