Elderly woman and man in swimming pool. Learn about the difference between nursing homes, senior homes, and retirement homes.


FAQs about various retirement communities, skilled nursing care, and more.

 Different senior communities offer different experiences and services for residents. Here’s a guide to each type, from retirement homes to senior independent living to skilled nursing homes.

What all senior living has in common: Accessibility and community

In general, all senior homes, retirement homes, and even nursing homes have one thing in common: They’re places where older adults live and age near one another.

Additionally, most of these communities feature:

Deciding between a senior community versus aging at home? In that case, here’s what to consider.

Different types of senior housing: Senior apartments to neighborhoods

Different types of senior housing: Senior apartments to neighborhoods

Beyond the above similarities, senior living can vary widely.

First, there are different housing types. Residents can live in:

Different levels of care: Independent living to skilled nursing homes

Perhaps most importantly, some senior homes include built-in levels of care.

  • Independent living: Here, residents complete all of their own daily tasks independently. Other names for independent living communities? Senior living communities, retirement homes, retirement communities, or just senior communities.
  • Assisted living: In this setting, residents get help with some of their daily activities, like getting around, medication management, etc. When assisted living is the only level of care being offered, these communities are often referred to as assisted living residences or assisted living facilities. They might also call themselves retirement communities.
  • Nursing homes and skilled nursing: Here, residents receive meals and 24/7 supervision and care, including from nurses. These facilities are usually referred to as nursing homes or skilled nursing homes, depending on the training and certifications of the nurses on staff.

Looking for memory care?

The difference between a nursing home and a skilled nursing facility

At nursing homes and at skilled nursing homes, patients receive round-the-clock supervision and care. Often, staff are experts in geriatrics and geriatric care, the field of medicine devoted to older adults.

What sets these two types of places apart? By and large, it comes down to who patients receive care from, and what they receive care for.

Nursing home:

  • Residents usually live in nursing homes long-term and have serious health issues or chronic conditions.
  • At minimum, nursing homes always offer general nursing care.
  • Nursing homes may or may not include skilled nursing, which refers to nurses on staff with advanced training and certifications in certain areas.

Skilled nursing home or skilled nursing facility:

Outside of a hospital, nursing homes and skilled nursing homes offer the highest level of residential care for older adults. Learn more about how to choose a nursing home.

Multiple levels of senior care: Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC)

So what does it mean when a senior housing facility advertises itself as a CCRC, or continuing care retirement community?

This special certification means that the community offers multiple levels of care — usually, independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing.

Features of a CCRC:

  • Continuum of care: Residents who move in at one level, like independent living, can progress to a higher level of care when they need it without having to leave the campus.
  • Close to loved ones: Couples with different health needs aren’t separated when one partner requires a more advanced level of care.
  • Peace of mind: For many seniors, this continuum of care offers peace of mind as they age.

Like other types of senior living, CCRCs are often casually referred to as, simply, retirement homes or senior homes. Be sure to ask about the levels of care available.

If you’re looking for a CCRC for yourself or a loved one, check out the award-winning Masonic Homes of California and Acacia Creek.