Active-adult communities, assisted-living facilities, retirement homes in Rockford communities — that’s just the tip of the jargon iceberg for places people 55 and over might spend their golden years. And since each facility uses different terms and has different pricing structures, comparison-shopping becomes very difficult.
The senior housing industry has largely recovered from its slump during the Great Recession.
When many prospective residents couldn’t relocate because they couldn’t sell their homes. Assisted living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities aim for occupancy rates between 90% and 95% and are currently at the lower end of this range.
The differences among communities, of course, are very important to residents. Active-adult communities are a “want-driven product,” says Gregg Logan, an Orlando, Fl.-based managing director of RCLCO, a real estate consultancy. In other words, they’re a place where people choose to live and play among like-minded adults.
Retirement homes in Rockford facilities and continuing-care retirement communities, by contrast, are “need-based communities” that folks move to when they can no longer live on their own or, for those who move into the independent-living section of a continuing-care retirement community, when they anticipate a future need for assistance. There are between 30,000 and 40,000 assisted-living facilities in the U.S. and about 2,500 CCRCs, according to industry estimates.
While assisted living is often a way station between home and the more intensive care of a nursing facility, continuing-care retirement communities accommodate three levels — independent living, assisted living and nursing care — on one campus. Regulations vary on whether assisted-living facilities can accommodate people with serious dementia, and to what extent.
Nursing homes aren’t really considered retirement communities — they focus on round-the-clock medical care, whereas assisted-living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities emphasize amenities such as Olympic-size pools and structured social activities. What’s more, nursing homes fall under federal regulation, while assisted-living facilities are overseen at the state level (continuing-care retirement communities are a bit of a hybrid whose oversight depends on the level of care provided).
There Are Doctors in the House
Assisted-living facilities house frail, vulnerable residents, so it’d be natural to assume that they have a doctor on the premises. Turns out, many don’t even have a registered nurse. “There’s not much health care there,” says Eric Carlson, directing attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center, an advocacy group.
With assisted-living facilities, regulations vary at the state level on what type of personnel must be present, and during what hours. A lack of medically trained staff can mean an overuse of emergency services and hospitalizations, a stressful and costly proposition for residents, experts say.
The population of retirement homes in Rockford facilities has grown older and sicker in the roughly two decades since this housing concept first appeared, says David Kyllo, executive director of the National Center for Assisted Living. What’s more, hospitals are discharging patients much sooner than they did back then.