Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities

When a loved one is in need of daily assistance or care, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of the options that are out there, as well as the differences between them. For example, many people are confused about the level of care provided by a nursing home, and how it differs from assisted living in a senior living community. At New Perspective, we are here as a resource for you and your family.

What Are Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes are specifically for people who need intensive, round-the-clock care. This is often due to a sudden change in health, or when recovering from hospitalization from a stroke, heart attack, or surgery. Doctors, nurses, and aides are readily available and the staff-to-patient ratio is high due to the intensity of care. In addition, occupational, physical, and speech therapists are often on staff to help slow the progression of chronic conditions. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires each state to inspect any nursing home that receives funding from the government. According to the National Institute on Aging, homes that don’t pass inspection are not certified. Ask to see the current inspection report and certification of any nursing home you are considering. But be sure to not let outdated myths guide your decision. The term “nursing home” can bring to mind a gloomy setting. However, if you have done your homework and researched your best choice, you can have confidence your loved one’s needs will be met.

HelpGuide suggests visiting at irregular hours to make spot checks, and getting to know the staff. The more engaged they feel you are, the more attentive they are likely to be towards your family member.

What Are Senior Living Communities?

In senior living communities, the emphasis is generally on independence, wellness, and quality of life. The atmosphere is vibrant and inspiring in every possible way, from the architecture, to the activities and events, to the exceptional dining venues and choices, to the atmosphere of vitality. Several lifestyle options are often available, as well as levels of care, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation services and respite care. Residents can enjoy the confidence of knowing a helping hand is always available 24/7, yet the ambiance is geared to maintaining independence for as long as possible. 

Years ago, people might have considered a move to a senior living community due to need. But according to, that has changed greatly. Today’s active older adults consider a move to senior living as a lifestyle choice; an opportunity to take advantage of the services, amenities and opportunities now, while they are still healthy and independent, knowing they have access to health services before they need them.

Senior Independent Living

How Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities Differ.

While still a community setting, nursing homes are much different than senior living communities in several ways. 

Atmosphere. Nursing homes are primarily a medical setting so it feels more like a hospital. Senior living communities are designed to encourage and celebrate independence and personal freedom, through upscale amenities, extensive activities and events, special outings as well as access to inviting outdoor spaces, and more.

• Accommodations. Residents in nursing homes typically live in small rooms, often with a roommate. In contrast, senior living features a range of accommodations from private apartments to freestanding cottages in some communities. The extra space also makes it easier for couples to stay together in senior living. In senior living, residents enjoy more privacy and independence.

• Lifestyle. While nursing homes do offer a degree of activity programming, one of the main benefits of senior living communities is the focus on lifestyle and wellness. A range of activities, outings, clubs and classes are offered. A pool, fitness center and restaurant-style dining are just the beginning in senior living. Nursing homes simply don’t offer the same level of amenities.

• Level of activity. In an assisted living or memory care setting, positive socialization is encouraged through activities, events, and interactions with others on a regular basis. Residents and families are confident that each person is benefitting from continuous engagement and personal attention. In a nursing home, a patient is more isolated and often receives their meal in their room, as well as any therapy. The emphasis is on recovery. 

We encourage you to make an appointment to visit any of our communities, and spend time picturing yourself or your loved one feeling not only comfortable, but right at home. Download our free “Complete Guide to Choosing Between Senior Living Options.” Or contact us today.

Senior Independent Living