Senior Housing 101

Senior housing is a broad category, ranging from 50+ retirement communities to skilled nursing facilities. and the Society of Certified Senior Advisors, a national organization that educates professionals to work more effectively with their senior clients, offer information to help seniors find the right options for their needs.

Independent Living Facilities

            Also referred to as “active lifestyle communities,” “retirement communities” and “senior living communities,” these facilities are designed for independent and active adults who have few or no health care needs. They are built to accommodate an active senior lifestyle by providing recreational, educational and social activities such as exercise classes, guest speakers and organized outings. They also attract people looking for smaller, more efficient homes and fewer maintenance responsibilities for carefree living.

Independent living facilities tend to incorporate universal design elements for greater accessibility and safety. They may or may not include hospitality and support services such as meals and assistance with basic personal tasks of everyday life, called activities of daily living. Residents who need extra help can privately contract with an agency to provide care services.

These facilities are not regulated by state or federal licensing departments.


Adult Day Health Care

            An adult day health care facility is a place where the adult who needs supervision and assistance can go during the day, while still able to go home — or to a caregiver’s home — at night. Programs typically provide meals, personal assistance, medication management, social interaction, therapeutic activities and similar assistance. Transportation to and from the facility may be provided.

There are three types of adult day health care models:

  • Social, for individuals who do not need medical-based services. Basic care, supervision, meals, recreation and social activities are provided.
  • Medical, for individuals who require medical monitoring because of health conditions. Physical, occupational and/or speech therapies might also be offered.
  • Combination, which incorporates both social and medical models.


Residential Care Facility

In Missouri, residential care facilities are licensed to provide 24-hour care to residents needing assistance with personal care, which may include diet supervision, administration of medications and supervision of health care under the direction of a licensed physician. Residents who live in a residential care facility are required to be able to make a path to safety without assistance.


Assisted Living Facilities

            These facilities are ideal for seniors who do not need much medical care but do need assistance with personal care, medication management and housekeeping. Residents often live in their own rooms or apartments and have some or all of their meals with fellow residents. Social and recreational activities are usually provided.

Typically, residents pay per month, and any additional fees are due depending on needed services. In Missouri, eligible seniors can receive help with the costs through the Supplemental Nursing Care program.

Assisted living facilities in Missouri must have a licensed nursing home administrator.


Nursing Homes and Skilled Nursing Facilities

A nursing home is a skilled nursing facility in which nurses are available to offer personal care and 24-hour health services. A nursing home has the resources to help people who can no longer live alone at home or in their own apartments within a retirement community. Skilled nurses help residents with significant health issues such as heart failure, diabetes and disabilities from a stroke. Medicare will cover rehabilitation services and short-term nursing home care for a period of time post-hospitalization, and Medicaid may cover costs for people who meet their state’s financial eligibility criteria and minimum level of needed care requirement.


Continuing Care Retirement Communities

In a continuing care retirement community, a variety of living situation options is available for residents. There are individual houses or apartments for people who can live on their own, an assisted living facility for people who need regular help and nursing homes for those individuals who require more assistance, such as 24-hour health care and prepared meals.

Residents live in the appropriate setting for their care needs within the housing community. Typically there is a fee before moving into a retirement community, followed by monthly fees.


For more information on the different long-term care facilities in Missouri, visit This section of the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services website includes links for “How to Select a Nursing Home,” “Nursing Home Compare,” “How Nursing Homes are Inspected” and “Frequently Asked Questions.”


Easy Living

One benefit that often surprises new residents of independent and assisted living communities is how convenient their homes are. Most senior housing uses universal design, and, as the name implies, universal design incorporates features that allow people of all ages and abilities to use a home. These features include one-story living, no-step entry, wide doorways and hallways, extra floor space, floors and bathtubs with nonslip surfaces, thresholds that are flush with the floor, good lighting, lever door handles and rocker light switches.

Although handy right from the start, these features become life-changing as seniors age. Designed to adapt to the widest range of users, universal design features support independence and enable aging-in-place.