Glossary of Senior Living Terms

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We’ve created this list of definitions to explain some of the descriptions you may come across during your search for a retirement community.

55+ community: a community designed specifically for individuals 55 and over, generally offering amenities and activities but no health care

Activities of daily living: tasks of daily living, such as bathing, eating, grooming, dressing, toileting and completing other self-care

Administration on Aging: a government organization designed to promote the health and well-being of older individuals by providing programs and services designed to help them live independently in their communities

Aging in place:  when an older adult remains at home during later years, often enabled by a safer environment through the use of in-home caregivers

Amenity: a feature at a retirement community that provides comfort, convenience or pleasure, such as a swimming pool, library, salon or gym

Assisted living: a type of community for older people who need help with daily activities, such as taking medications, bathing, grooming, eating, dressing and going to the bathroom

Caregiver: a family member or paid worker that provides direct care to another person

Certified nursing assistant: a health care professional that helps patients with activities of daily living and other health care needs under the supervision of a registered nurse

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) most recently changed to “Life Plan Community”: a senior community that offers all levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing care

Continuum of care: a comprehensive plan that adjusts to an individual’s changing care needs over a period of time by offering different levels of living in one community

Dementia: a term used to describe symptoms of cognitive decline; not a single disease but a general term to describe issues with memory, communication and thinking

Fee-for-service: a pay-as-you-go financial contract in senior living, where services are paid for individually instead of being bundled together

For-profit: a community or other organization that exists primarily to generate a profit — the owner may pay shareholders and investors from the profits

Health care directive: a written document that expresses a person’s health care wishes when he or she is no longer able to personally communicate them

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA): a federal law that gives a person rights over his or her health information

Home care: support services that allow a person to live safely in his or her home

Hospice care: a type of health care that focuses on relieving a terminally ill person’s pain and symptoms, and attending to his or her emotional and spiritual needs

Independent living: a level of living designed for active seniors who need little or no assistance with activities of daily living

Life Care: a type of senior living designed to provide long-term care through an insurance type contract, with fixed monthly fees — except for cost-of-living increases — regardless of the level of care that is needed

Life Plan Community (formerly “Continuing Care Retirement Community” or “CCRC”): a community offering a complete continuum of care, allowing residents to move between levels of care as needed, regardless of health changes

Long-term care: assistance for people who can no longer perform basic, day-to-day activities on their own

Medication management: the process of overseeing the medications prescribed for an individual, to ensure they are taken properly and can achieve their planned therapeutic effect

Memory care: a form of senior living that provides intensive, specialized care for people living with memory issues

Not-for-profit community: mission-driven organization that reinvests its income to benefit the residents, the organization and the community at large

Palliative care: a type of care designed to manage pain and symptoms to make patients with serious illness more comfortable

Registered nurse: a licensed medical professional that provides hands-on care, with duties such as administering medicine and treatments, setting up plans of care, and using and monitoring medical equipment

Rehabilitation: therapy that has the ultimate goal of helping an individual return to a healthy and active lifestyle after an injury, illness or surgery, with the three main types of rehabilitation therapy being physical, occupational and speech

Respite care: care that provides a short-term break for caregivers for an afternoon, several days or weeks, provided at home, a senior community or an adult day care center

Skilled nursing care: a high level of care that is provided by licensed health professionals, such as registered nurses and physical, speech and occupational therapists, provided in the short term after an illness or injury, or over the long term for people who have chronic medical conditions


Unsure of a term that isn’t on this list? Contact us and we can help.

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