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Senior Housing 101

With so many senior housing options available, it's easy to feel confused and overwhelmed by the vast number of care types and styles of senior living communities. It's important to learn the terminology and the differences between senior care solutions that are out there so you can make the right choice for your family.

As you begin your search, use this guide to learn more about the different types of senior housing options available across Canada.

Retirement Home — Independent Living

Independent living communities are designed for healthy, active seniors who do not need assistance with activities of daily living such as grooming, personal care, and eating. Independent living for seniors can range from luxury communities that offer gourmet dining and golf courses to age restricted apartment or condominium complexes for older adults. These communities are typically private pay and offer optional services such as housekeeping, meals, and laundry.

Other names for Independent Living:

Typical independent living features include

Cost of Independent Retirement Living

Independent living retirement homes are mostly private pay. Depending on the location, community, and amenity options, costs can range from $1,400 to $3,500 per month.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities provide supportive housing and care to seniors who need some assistance with daily tasks, but who do not require the skilled care provided at a long-term care home. Assisted living is a viable option for adults who are mostly independent, but who require some assistance with day-to-day living, or anticipate needing assistance in the near future.

Assisted living communities come in all shapes and sizes. They can be towering apartment buildings in urban centers, sprawling complexes in the suburbs or more intimate communities catering to a relatively small number of residents, and can be found in most Canadian cities. Residents live in private one- or two-bedroom apartments, studios or “bachelors units.” Meal-service is included, so kitchenettes are more typical in assisted living units than full kitchens.

Other names for Assisted Living:

Typical assisted living features and services include

Cost of Assisted Living

Assisted living can be subsidized or paid through private pay. Costs will range from $1,500 to $5,000, dependent on location of the community, amenity options, and if medical or health services are needed.

Assisted living costs are dependent on a number of factors:

Assisted living communities often charge a flat rate that covers many basic services, with additional fees for special services. Other communities will charge a fee for each service on an “a la carte” basis, allowing residents to pay only for services they use. In addition to these charges, entrance fees and deposits may also be required. With so much variation in pricing structures, it's important to ask about costs and fees when touring these communities.

Residential Care Homes

Residential care homes are traditional private homes that have been adapted to provide assisted care services for a smaller group of residents, usually no more than 15. These homes offer a more intimate, home-like community feeling, and offer both short-term and long-term care

Other names for Residential Care Homes:

Residential care homes offer a level of care that varies widely from home to home, but in general, live-in caretakers prepare meals and provide assistance with activities of daily living. Some residential care homes employ, or are operated by, nurses, and can offer care comparable to that in a nursing home, often filling the gap between independent living and nursing homes. There are also residential care homes that specialize in memory care. Typical residential care home services include

Cost of Residential Care Homes

Living in a residential care home can be more affordable than assisted living care, dependent on the situation. However, costs can vary depending on the geographical location of the residential care home, as well as the types of services needed. Costs can range anywhere from $1,500 per month to $4,500 each month, and dementia care can cost even more.

Memory Care

Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's disease require special care typically referred to as memory care. This treatment is usually provided in a secure area of an assisted living community or nursing home, most often on a dedicated floor or in a designated wing. The secure aspect of memory care communities is intended to prevent residents from wandering off and becoming lost, which is a common and dangerous symptom of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The security usually takes the form of alarmed exit doors rather than locked ones.

Residents usually live in apartments, private or semi-private rooms. They participate in structured activities conducted by staff members specifically trained to care for those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Other names for Alzheimer's Care / Dementia Care:

Dementia care offers round-the-clock care, along with activities and health management for residents. Typical dementia care services include

Cost of Dementia Care

Memory care requires a higher level of care, a higher caregiver to resident ration and all staff must have additional training in dementia care to ensure the safety of all the residents. While cost does vary widely by community, prices tend to run from $3,000 to $7,000 per month. Where your costs fall within that range will depend on the following factors:

Government Subsidized Options

Supportive Housing

Supportive housing is essentially the lightest form of assisted living, and often subsidized by the government. Tenants generally pay a fixed portion of their annual income to cover the rent and have access to assistance from on-site staff on an as-needed basis. While there are similarities between supportive housing and assisted living, generally speaking, supportive housing residents need light assistance a few times a week, rather than moderate daily assistance.

Long Term Care Facilities — Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care for the frail elderly who require a high level of medical care and assistance. Twenty-four hour skilled nursing services are available from licensed nurses. Many nursing homes now provide short-term rehabilitative stays for those recovering from an injury, illness or surgery. Long-term care residents generally have high care needs and complex medical conditions that require routine skilled nursing services. Residents typically share a room and are served meals in a central dining area unless they are too ill to participate. Activities are also available. Some facilities have a separate unit for Alzheimer's residents.

Other names for Nursing Homes:

Long-Term Care Homes

In addition to medical care, long-term care homes provide residents with a range of services, including

Long-Term Care Accommodation Rates & Co-Payments



British Columbia




New Brunswick


Newfoundland & Labrador


Northwest Territories


Nova Scotia






Prince Edward Island








Adult Day Programs

Adult day care centers are a senior care option that bridge the caregiving gap and can improve the quality of life for caregivers and their loved ones. When an elderly loved one needs additional care or supervision during the day, many working families hire an in-home caregiver or use an adult day care center. Day services are usually open from 7 am to 6 pm on week days.

Other names for Adult Day Programs:

Home Care

Available on a part-time, full-time, or live-in basis, home care providers work closely with you and your loved ones — ensuring that you receive the ideal level of care for your specific and unique needs. From housekeeping and companionship, to medical assistance for a disability or chronic condition — home care providers offer a variety of cost-effective and flexible solutions, so you can enjoy a maximum degree of independence in the comfort and familiarity of your own home.

Other names for Home Care:

Payment Sources:Private Pay
Price Range: $20-$40 per hour

Respite Care

Respite care typically refers to a short-term stay at a senior community, usually an assisted living or memory care community. Respite care is a great living option for an elderly or disabled person who needs some day-to-day supportive services, but still desires social stimulation, engagement, and activities. This type of care can also sometimes refer to in-home caregiving services used for only a short period.

Other names for Respite Care: