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Housing Types and Definitions


Different types of housing are available to older adults - some provide services on site, some do not. Three basic types of services may be provided by these facilities:

  • Hotel Services such as housekeeping, laundry services, congregate meals, and transportation.
  • Personal Care Services assist with "activities of daily living" (bathing, dressing, using the toilet, transferring in and out of a bed or chair, eating, walking) as well as with self-administration of medications and preparation of special diets.
  • Skilled Nursing Care indicates a "higher level" of care (such as injections, catheterizations, and dressing changes) which must be provided by trained medical professionals, including nurses and therapists.

Council on Aging maintains a searchable database of local housing options for seniors.  Click here to search this database.

It may also be possible for the individual to receive care and services in their own home.  Click here to learn more about in-home care.

Click here for information on skilled care (nursing homes).  

Housing Types, Common Terms and Definitions

Assisted Living Facilities: Assisted living facilities are for those who want help with some activities but don`t need extensive, hands-on care. Residents can get just the right amount of care to help them maintain an independent lifestyle in a residential home-like setting (residents have private units with a minimum of a bedroom, bath and kitchenette). Generally, residents can get help with daily living activities such as housekeeping, dressing, and bathing. Assisted living facilities are licensed by the state but typically do not offer advanced medical or nursing care. Amenities will vary by facility. Some assisted living facilities may be part of a larger Continuing Care Retirement Community (see "Other" definitions) or licensed as a Residential Care Facility (see definition below).

Click here for information about Council on Aging`s Assisted Living Waiver Program.

Congregate Housing: Congregate communities are multi-unit senior housing developments that offer independentliving in private apartments (private bath and kitchen), with few or no supportive services. Common areas may provide opportunities for social activities (games,movies,meals). Rental or ownership unitsmay be available. Some units/facilities may be subsidized (low-income, affordable housing; see definition below). Nursing Home: A licensed facility that provides 24-hour care for patients who require constant supervision and care. Patients generally rely on assistance for most or all daily living activities (such as bathing, dressing and toileting). Nursing home services may include meals, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, medical services, personal care, and recreation. Medicare and/or Medicaid are usually accepted. Nursing homes may be stand alone facilities or they may be part of a Continuing Care Retirement  community.

Residential Care Facility (formerly known as a Rest Home): A facility licensed by the Ohio Department of Health to provide accommodations for 17 or more unrelated adults. A residential care facility can be a separate facility or part of a Continuing Care Retirement Community (see "Other" definitions). Residential care facilities offer more care and supervision than an assisted living facility, but not as much as a nursing home. These facilities can provide personal care, supervision of special diets, and can also distribute medications.

Retirement Communities: These communities are typically large, self-contained campuses with a variety of living options. Unlike a Continuing Care Retirement Community (see "Other" definitions), traditional Retirement Communities typically do not offer personal or skilled (nursing) care. Instead, they are an attractive option for retired, more active older adults who want to live independently in a community with their peers, own or lease a home, and not worry about lawn or property maintenance. Unlike a CCRC, traditional Retirement Communities are not licensed or accredited (unless personal or skilled care is offered).

Senior Apartments: Apartments or complexes designated for seniors only, may have age- restrictions and some apartments may offer equipped or assistive technology. Subsidized (low-income, affordable housing; see definition below) units may be available.

Subsidized Housing (low-income, affordable housing): Through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the government gives funds directly to apartment owners, who lower the rents they charge low income tenants. Tenants who meet income limits established by HUD pay rent based on the amount of their gross monthly income, rather than the market rate. Rent is typically set at no more than 30% of a household`s total gross monthly income, but may be subject to a minimum rent based on the number of people living in the rental unit. You may search Council on Aging`s Housing Database for subsidized senior housing by first selecting the type of housing you are interested in and then clicking the Subsidized Housing check box. Subsidized housing may include senior apartments, retirement communities, congregate housing and more. You can get a more complete list of senior subsidized housing units by visiting HUD`s Web site. There you can search by county, community or zip code.

Other Housing Definitions:

ECHO Housing (ECHO): Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities, also called Accessory Units or Granny Flats, are small, separate housing units than can be purchased or leased and installed in the backyard of an existing single-family home. In this way, seniors can maintain their independence in a private residence, but still be near their adult children, grandchildren or another caregiver who lives in the property`s single-family home. ECHO units must be approved by the jurisdiction where the single family lot is located.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are sometimes called "life care" communities because they are designed to offer life-long living options.Many CCRCs have large campuses that include separate housing options for those who live very independently, assisted living facilities that offer more support, and nursing homes for those needing skilled nursing care. Residents move through the different housing options on campus as their needs change. CCRCs are typically expensive, but offer a contract that promises to provide shelter and care for a prescribed period of time, usually the life of the resident. Facilities on CCRC campuses that offer personal or skilled care are licensed.

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CARF International

1730 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington , DC  20036

Phone: (888) 281-6531
Phone Extension: N/A
Area(s) Served: Nationwide Contracted Provider: Not Applicable
Description:   Helps consumers identify high-quality providers. Provides information and a listing of CCRC standards and communities.
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HUD Glossary of Terms and Other Housing Definitions

Phone: N/A
Phone Extension: N/A
Area(s) Served: Other Contracted Provider: Not Applicable
Description:   HUD Glossary of Terms and Other Housing Definitions Aging in Place: A term used to describe elderly residents who have lived in their homes or apartments for years who often require more supportive services than when they moved in. AAHSA: The A... read more

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