What is the Difference Between a Senior Living Community and a Senior Living Facility?

The terms “senior living community” and “senior living facility” are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. 

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Each senior living community may include various on-campus facilities for amenities like dining or fitness, but at its heart, a senior living community is not a facility. A senior living community is a vibrant, welcoming home where residents can make new friends, create memories, and participate in engaging activities. 

Let’s explore the key differences between a senior living community and a facility.

Today, Senior Living Culture Is All About Community

You may be thinking that your parents are too free-spirited or set in their ways to enjoy a senior living community. However, they may surprise you. Open your mind to the possibilities when it comes to your senior parent or loved one’s next stage of life.  

A senior living community is a new beginning that can enhance your parents’ lifestyle, providing the care they need while they continue doing what they love—with more time to do it. Senior living offers a maintenance-free lifestyle, giving seniors more time to focus on their hobbies and making memories with loved ones. 

Different people require different kinds of care. Maybe your loved one is still very active but requires help with some basic daily tasks. Many people move into senior living communities and find new interests and hobbies. It’s probably hard to picture your loved one in a “facility,” but knowing that they’re moving into a healthy, vibrant community instead can make the decision easier. 

Today, senior living communities offer residents a lot more than just facilities. They provide residents with an easier, freer way to live their best lives. Depending on the location, they can enjoy a gorgeous campus with plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces where they can spend time with friends, attend engaging events, and meet new people with similar interests. 


What Is a Senior Living Community?

At its most basic definition, a senior living community is for seniors over 55—but it certainly doesn’t end there. People originally started calling the places where seniors received a certain level of personal and medical care “facilities'' because, back then, they were focused almost exclusively on medical services. 

Skilled Care vs. the “Community” Difference

Today, plenty of people still require a skilled care facility, which is patient-focused and provides various levels of medical care. If your loved one needs around-the-clock nursing and medical care, a skilled care facility may be the appropriate choice. However, a skilled care facility is not the same as a senior living community. 

Modern senior living communities may include on-campus facilities such as medical offices or physical therapy suites, and high-quality communities should focus on efficiencies, staff skills, and resident outcomes. It’s easy to understand why people make the assumption that all senior living is in a “facility,” but the essential aspect of today’s senior living is actually the word “community.” 

If the focus is only on the facilities available inside of a community, you’ll never shake those old stereotypes that are no longer relevant. Senior living used to be a lot different. 

Senior Living: Background

Modern senior living communities stem from the private nursing homes of the 1950s, which were prescriptive in nature and focused on the resident only as a patient in a facility, not as a human in a community. This is how negative pop culture imagery of early senior living facilities became a pervasive idea. Movies, books, and TV shows often portrayed “nursing homes” as sad and unpleasant environments—but things in the real world have changed so, so much. 

Senior Living: The New Reality 

Modern senior living communities are about a lot more than patient care facilities. To put it simply, senior living has evolved alongside changing senior needs and senior attitudes. 

Today’s senior citizens have a whole new idea of what “retirement” means and what they expect out of this next phase of their lives. They want to keep enjoying activities like tennis and yoga, or chess and trivia contests. They want to learn new things, enjoy new experiences, and create tight bonds with the people around them. 

Communities have to meet the new consumer expectations of the senior living lifestyle, which brings a slew of benefits for residents, including:

  • Enjoying friendships, new and old
  • Participating in leisure—even if leisure means a power walk
  • Learning new activities, because people never stop being curious
  • Finding new hobbies and or enjoying old favorites
  • Hosting family and friends for holidays and other celebrations
  • Enjoying all the things there previously wasn’t time for
  • Taking advantage of amenities, like chef-styled meals

Boomers Have Changed the Senior Living Landscape

Baby boomers never saw themselves getting old, but now it’s time for them to retire, and they want to retire in their own way. Baby boomers have a completely different life than their parents did. As with everything else, boomers want to retire differently

The first thing they’re doing differently: Working longer and retiring later than their parents. While the Greatest and Silent Generations had less trouble admitting that they were getting older, boomers don’t think they’re “old” until they hit 75, even as they become the largest generation to ever retire in the U.S. 

We always knew senior living would be different for the boomers—and it is, in so many good ways. They see post-retirement living as their next adventure. They’re interested in staying active, demand up-to-date tech, and care about things like sustainable living and wellness.


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Boomer Demands Help Define the Future of Senior Living

These boomer demands are part of why senior living communities have evolved into meaningful communities, offering not just luxury amenities but also enriching activities and plenty of time with family and friends—all without the hassle of maintaining a household.

The future of senior living is about health, freedom, and enrichment. Are facilities involved? Sure. But they're a small part of the larger senior living community, not the community as a whole. 

Understand Your Senior Loved One’s Next Steps

Now that you know a senior living community is about so much more than its facilities, hopefully you can find the right community for your loved one. 

What’s the next step? Determining which type of senior living lifestyle will best fit your loved one. Different levels of care exist, from independent and assisted living to personal care and memory care. Although you still have more to learn on this journey, rest assured that you’re looking for a community for your parent or loved one.

Find out more about a Cedarhurst Senior Living community in your area by requesting information! Don’t just take our word for it—talk with one of our friendly team members and see our beautiful communities in person.

This blog was updated on August 22, 2023.

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