Senior Resources » Senior Resource Ultimate Glossary Of Housing Terms

Senior Resource Ultimate Glossary Of Housing Terms

There are plenty of choices out there for senior housing. And, once you start searching, you’ll begin running into lots of different terms; many of which you might not yet be familiar with! Some websites and realtors even refer to the same places with different names. This can get confusing awfully fast!


Well, we’re here to help!

Whether you’re planning ahead or actively seeking a new home (or community), start out by learning the basics. We’ve compiled the ultimate glossary of housing terms just for seniors, retirees, and caregivers. Learn all the common phrases and definitions right here!

Senior Resource Glossary Of Housing Terms

Assisted Living – Typically for older adults who lead active lifestyles but may need medical and/or personal care help. Living space varies from apartments to individual rooms, and features shared common areas. Residents are as independent as possible with support from staff.

Cohousing Terms

Congregate Housing For Seniors – Any senior living facility where residents have their own room or unit, but share common areas. This is housing for those who require little or no help with personal care.

Cohousing – Private communities where residents live in clusters of homes or condos close to one another.

Intentional Neighborhood – Another term for “cohousing”


Manufactured Housing Terms

Manufactured Home – A prefabricated home, factory-built on a steel-framed chassis for towing.

Mobile Home – A prefabricated home, built on wheels, that was made before 1967.

Modular Home – A home that is factory-built and assembled on-site. A modular home is a permanent structure that cannot be moved.

Senior Apartment Terms

Affordable Senior Apartments – Apartments that can be obtained by seniors for 30 percent or less of their income. Rent and utilities are subsidized to provide less-expensive options.

Luxury Senior Apartments – Apartments that offer larger units, more upscale amenities, and are typically higher in price. Complexes are often age-restricted and also located near cultural activities.


Market Rate Senior Apartments – Apartments offered at competitive costs

Senior Apartments – Apartments that are designed with accessibility in mind. The standard complex will offer one- or two-bedroom units, senior-friendly comfort, and a variety of amenities. Many will be age-restricted. Learn more about senior apartments, here.

Shared Housing Terms

Rental Agreement – A contractual agreement between roommates or housemates, outlining expectations such as responsibilities and payments/rent

Shared Housing – Two or more people living together for mutual benefit

Nursing Home and Skilled Nursing Facility Terms

Nursing Home – For seniors who do not need a hospital but require a higher level of care or medical attention than can be provided at home or in assisted living.

Nursing Service – Healthcare provided by a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Residential Care Facility – Any facility that provides long-term care and residence. Examples include assisted living, nursing homes, and skilled nursing facilities.

Retirement Home – A house or apartment that is designed to meet the needs of a senior adult. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with “nursing home.”

Skilled Nurse – A licensed nurse that can provide skilled nursing care.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) – Residential living for short-term medically necessary services

Retirement Community Terms

55+ Community – (1) Any age-restricted neighborhood for adults 55 and older, or, (2) referring to senior citizens as a group.

Active Adult Community – Constructed to cater to aging adults, usually 55 and older, who do not need regular medical or personal care. Active adult communities usually feature resort-style amenities and convenient services. Houses, condos, townhouses, and apartments are common living spaces.

CCRC – A continuing care retirement community. A CCRC combines traditional retirement living with the services of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Concierge Service – Much like a hotel, a concierge service in a retirement community provides a variety of assistance with tasks. A concierge service can do things such as grocery shopping, running errands, preparing meals, and providing transportation.

Entry Fee – This is the upfront cost in a community or facility. The entry fee is usually defined as an advanced payment for services that a resident may use during their time living there. Entry fees are most common in places like CCRCs but can be found in many other communities as well.

Gated Community – A residential area where access is restricted and managed.

HOA – A homeowners association. An HOA is an organization within a community that makes and enforces rules for the properties and residents. HOAs will usually require monthly fees/dues.

HOA Fees – HOA Fees are homeowners association fees. These are monthly fees in a community that goes to maintaining and improving properties.

Independent Living Community – Usually apartments or individual units that are designed for seniors who do not need regular medical or personal care. However, limited care options may be available as needed.

Life Plan Community – A life plan community is the same as a CCRC. It is retirement living that is combined with the services of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Senior Housing Care Terms

ADL – Activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, personal hygiene, and toileting.

Adult Day Care – Programs that provide care and companionship for seniors or adults with disabilities. Services will usually provide supervision, social activities, and meals. Learn more about adult day services here.

Adult Day Health Care – Programs that provide care and companionship for seniors or adults with disabilities, plus, medical care.

Ambulatory – This term relates to the ability to walk or move. When used in reference to care (ambulatory care), it usually means outpatient.

Caregiver – Anyone who regularly looks after and provides assistance to a person who is sick, elderly, or disabled. In regard to senior home care, there are generally two main categories that caregivers fall into: family and professional.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) – Anyone who completes and maintains CAPS training, awarded by the National Association of Homebuilders. A CAPS professional can assess personal needs and identify potential environmental changes to ensure continued health and safety at home. Learn more here.

Companion – A broad term used to describe friendship, support, and assistance from either a service or a loved one.

Continuum of Care – A continuum of care refers to the delivery of care over a period of time. For seniors, it’s the care they need during each stage of life.

Custodial Care – Non-medical or personal care.

Family Caregiver – A spouse, relative, friend, or neighbor who provides assistance and support for either a short-term or long-term.

Health Aide – A licensed medical professional that cares for a patient in their home

Home Care – Health or personal care that can be provided at home by a family member or professional.

Home Care Aide – A professional who provides in-home custodial care such as help with activities of daily living (ADL).

Home Health Aides – A professional who provides home healthcare services. This person may also help with ADLs.

Home Health Care – In-home professional medical assistance such as physical therapy or skilled nursing.

Hospice – Hospice care is medical support for those who are nearing the end of life. Patients whose life expectancy is 6 months or less will begin treatment that is focused on comfort and symptom management. Care is provided with a goal of quality over quantity. Learn more about hospice, here.

IADL – Instrumental activities of daily living. Much like ADLs, but those that require more complex thinking, such as managing one’s own medication.

Long-term care – refers to the various medical and custodial services provided to a person who is unable to perform basic activities of daily living (ADL) or needs regular health monitoring.

Memory Care – Refers to medical or personal care specifically for those who have conditions that affect their memory, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Occupational Therapy – A form of therapy that encourages “rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life.” An occupational therapist can visit your home to teach exercises and rehab techniques that make ADLs and other activities easier.

Occupational Therapist – A healthcare professional who teaches exercises and rehab techniques that make ADLs and other activities easier.

Ombudsman – An advocate that educates residents and their families about their rights as long-term care consumers.

PCA – Personal care assistant. A PCA helps with ADL.

Professional Caregiver – A person whose career is based on providing assistance, care, or support. They can be nurses, physical therapists, personal care assistants, and many more.

Physical Therapy – A physical therapist provides rehabilitation services and treatments. At home, a PT can help you strengthen your muscles and increase mobility.

Physical Therapist – A healthcare professional who helps a person improve and manage injuries or physical disabilities caused by accident, injury, or illness.

Respite Care – Temporary institutional or facility care of a sick, elderly, or disabled person. Respite care exists to provide relief for usual caregivers.

Other Senior Housing Terms

Affordable Housing – Subsidized housing, usually to 30 percent or less of a person’s wages

Aging In Place – The CDC defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” Learn more about aging in place, here.

Area Agencies on Aging – “Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) are public or private nonprofit agencies designated by states to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels.” For more information on AAAs, visit

Board and Care Homes – Any senior living facility.

Fair Housing Act – “The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities.” To learn more about the Fair Housing Act and how it applies to seniors, click here.

HUD – US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Subsidy – A sum of money granted by the government to assist a business so that the price of a commodity or service may remain low or competitive.

Subsidized Senior Housing – Housing that is specifically designed to make payments affordable for lower-income seniors.

Universal Design – The design of a home, building, or product that can be used by anyone, regardless of their physical abilities.

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Do you need help with retirement planning? Then check out Bob Carlson’s Retirement Watch!

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Originally published July 21, 2022

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