There are two kinds of retirement residences. Independent-living facilities are for those who can take care of themselves but choose to take advantage of a range of social and recreational activities and eliminate the burden of meal preparation or other household chores. Assisted living communities offer more substantial personal support and homemaking services than independent living arrangements—they bridge the gap between independent living and long-term care.
Independent-living retirement residences are a good fit for active, self-sufficient seniors who want to stay that way. Sometimes called “supportive housing to maintain independence,” residents live incommunities with others their own age, look after all their own wants and needs and can come and go as they please—but can take advantage of meals, housekeeping and laundry if they wish.
Independent-living residences are privately owned and operated and regulated by the government of Ontario under the Retirement Homes Act.
PROS: An independent-living facility provides the safety and comfort of living in a retirement residence and the flexibility to use any or all of the services or amenities offered. There are typically a wide range of recreational and social activities offered as well as scheduled trips and transportation to shopping and other helpful destinations. Accommodation, for the most part, consists of private suites or one-bedroom units. Some facilities provide subsidized accommodation. As your health needs change, some residences allow you to transition from independent-living to assisted-living within the same facility.
CONS: Like assisted-living residences, these homes can be expensive—costs range from $1500 to $5000 or more a month, based on private occupancy, depending on the facility. As health needs change, it may be necessary to move to a facility that provides more assistance.
NEED TO KNOWS: When considering an independent-living facility, check to see what services can be provided and at what cost, should your needs change. If at some point you require help with dressing, grooming or bathing, for example, does the facility have the staff to provide these services on a fee-for-service basis or would you have go to an outside agency for home care? As with assisted-living facilities, take the time to really look into a residence so you don’t have any surprises later on.
Assisted living communities offer more substantial personal support and homemaking services than independent living arrangements—they bridge the gap between independent living and long-term care. If you can’t live alone but don’t need constant care, this could be the right option for you. The goal is to promote independence and autonomy in a safe, secure environment and to provide help with activities of daily living. There are no eligibility criteria, but a responsible facility will probably do an assessment to ensure it’s able to meet your needs.
All facilities are privately owned and operated and regulated by the government of Ontario under the Retirement Homes Act.
PROS: A quality assisted-living facility will help you live as independently as possible for as long as possible. In most cases, staff will create a personalized service plan and update it regularly to make sure you’re receiving appropriate care. Most accommodation is private, which allows you to preserve much of the feeling of independent living, but you have the advantage of on-site assistance with meal preparation, housekeeping, laundry and activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and taking medication. Service “packages” may be a good fit and can simplify your finances, but if you’re looking for more flexibility, services can sometimes be purchased à la carte. Social and recreational activities help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. You’ll likely have access to emergency assistance.
CONS: These homes can be expensive—costs range from $1500 to $5000 or more a month, depending on the type of accommodation and level of service you require. (Some facilities do provide subsidized accommodation.) As your needs for medical and nursing care increase, assisted living housing may no longer be adequate and you’ll have to move.
NEED TO KNOWS: Your local Community Care Access Centre maintains a list of retirement homes in your area, so it can be a good place to start. Services will vary from one facility to another so it pays to visit a few, ask questions and pay attention to what you see going on around you. Ask about hidden fees, pets, guest accommodation, staffing and rent increases. Check to see if the facility is a member of the Ontario Residential Care Association, [link to orcaretirement.com] which requires adherence to strict standards. Make sure the programs and support are what you’re looking for…and need. Once you’ve found one that seems to fit the bill, stay for a meal, mingle with residents and observe what’s going on while sitting in the main lobby. Go back if you still have questions…or consider a trial stay.