New LifeStyles Senior Living & Care Glossary


If you’re anything like me, one of the most frustrating things about entering the world of senior living & housing has to be the terminology. It can often be a daunting task to find the care services or housing you or your loved one needs, if you are unsure of what the words or terms mean. Here is the New LifeStyles glossary of common terms used in senior living and care.

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Is a term used to describe the everyday activities seniors participate in such as bathing, grooming, eating, using the restroom and getting dressed.

Active Adult Communities

Are independent living communities with homes for sale. Most offer a clubhouse where a variety of activities are offered. Services such as landscaping, maintenance & housekeeping are usually offered as well.

Adult Day Care

A non-residential service providing daily structured programs in a community setting. The programs usually consist of activities and health-related rehabilitation services for elderly persons in need a protective environment. These services are provided during the day, with the elderly person returning home in the evening.

Affordable Senior Housing

Is a HUD 202 program that offers rental assistance for seniors who meet the requirements of the federal program. 

Assisted Living

A combination of housing, personalized supportive services and health care designed to meet the individual needs of persons who need help with the activities of daily living, but do not need the skilled medical care provided in a nursing home.


A person or persons who provides every day direct care to seniors or those who are disabled or ill. Often times in senior living communities they are certified professionals who may assist with the activities of daily living.

Care Homes

Often called adult family homes or residential care, care homes provide a comfortable place for seniors to live. Particularly suited for those having a harder time moving around, yet still wanting to enjoy the autonomy of living outside of a dedicated nursing home, care homes are private residences that house multiple individuals at the same time.

Continuing Care Retirement Community

Is a community that combines independent living, assisted living and nursing care, and sometimes memory care in a single setting. Care options can range from independent living apartments to skilled nursing and is based upon the needs of the residents. As an individual’s needs change, he or she can be moved from level to another and keep on being a part of his or her CCRC’s community. CCRCs charge monthly fees, and usually require an endowment (a significant payment) prior to admission.

Home Care

A term used to distinguish non-medical care or custodial care, which is care that is provided by persons who are not nurses, doctors, or other licensed medical personnel. Home Care Agencies provide personal services to elderly or disabled clients in their residence. This includes non-medical assistance in the client’s home, including help with cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, transportation, and companionship. 

Home Health Care

Doctor ordered medical services for patients recovering from an illness or surgery or those needing medical attention while at their home. Also known as home health agencies, they provide a wide range of health and social services delivered at home to people recovering from an illness or injury, or persons who are elderly, disabled and/or chronically ill. Home Health Agencies provide “skilled services” such as nursing, social services, and therapeutic treatments (physical, speech, occupational therapy).

Hospice Care

Is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families. Patients are referred to hospice when their life expectancy is approximately six months or less. This type of specialized care can continue longer than six months if needed, but usually requires physician certification.

Independent Living

A senior housing development that may provide supportive services such as meals, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation (Congregate Housing, Supportive Housing, Retirement Community). Independent Living typically encourages socialization by provision of meals in a central dining area and scheduled social programs. May also be used to describe housing with few or no services (Senior Apartment).

Long Term Care

Provision of services to persons of any age who are afflicted with chronic health impairments.


Health coverage that is provided to millions of Americans,including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Medicaid is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.


The federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-StageRenal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant,sometimes called ESRD).

Memory Care

Communities that are certified to provide specialized services to residents with Alzheimer’s or another related condition. 

Nursing Homes

Also known as a skilled nursing unit (SNU) or facility (SNF), or rest home provides a specific type of care for residents: it is a place of residence for people who require constant nursing care and have significant deficiencies with activities of daily living. Residents in an SNF may also receive physical, occupational, and other rehabilitative therapies following an accident or illness.

Respite care

Is short term care for seniors. Whether in a community or at home, care is provided on a temporary basis while a caretaker is on vacation or indisposed due to surgery or illness.

Reverse Mortgage

Are available to those 62 years and older and present an option to receive an additional line of credit for late life expenses. While each mortgage has different terms and rates, reverse mortgages allow homeowners to draw the principal of the mortgage in a lump sum over a set period of time.Homeowners keep the property in their name, and the loan comes due only when the borrower dies, leaves the house for more than 12 consecutive months, or sells the property. Those interested in taking out a reverse mortgage should contact their lender and schedule a meeting.

Senior Apartments

Are living units with an age requirement, offering limited additional services. Most have a clubhouse where groups meet for activities, and some offer transportation to planned activities & events. 

Senior Villages

Are a newer concept in most major cities, where members pay an annual fee for the coordination of volunteers to provide older residents with services that help them live independently.