What is ‘senior housing?’

What is ‘senior housing?’

Greater MetroWest CARES (Committee Addressing Resources to Engage Seniors) is coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and brings together leaders from Great MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Throughout the year, Greater MetroWest agencies have the opportunity to address critical eldercare issues in this column. This month’s article on the different types of “senior communities” is presented by the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey.

We often hear the terms “retirement communities,” “senior communities,” and “senior housing” but what do these terms really mean? What services do different types of housing provide? Today’s choices can be vastly different from the sterile “homes” of yesterday. Instead, active and amenity-rich senior communities in home-like settings strive to nurture all aspects of residents’ lives: social, spiritual, emotional, occupational, recreational, cultural, and physical. 

“Retirement communities,” “senior communities,” and “senior housing” may refer to both independent living and assisted living and anyone thinking about a move to one of them should consider which environment is the appropriate one. 

Independent living is for people who are independent in their personal care but are seeking a home with a sense of community and services that make life easier. They may be drawn to a carefree lifestyle with built-in activities and amenities. 

Assisted living is an appropriate choice for those who can’t live on their own but do not need nursing care. These services are designed to help seniors remain as self-sufficient as possible with the assurance of assistance when needed: housing, meals, personal care and support, 24-hour supervision, and, in some residences, health-related services are usually provided. As one’s needs change, these facilities offer different levels of care at different costs. Some are associated with nursing facilities should full-time nursing care become required.

In addition, high-quality assisted living residences should provide engaging recreational and social activities to keep residents as active as possible, exercise and/or physical therapy programs, 24/7 security, emergency response systems, and transportation to local shopping or appointments. Some also have memory care units and services.

Some assisted living residences are part of a broader retirement community. For instance, at the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey (JCHC), we offer independent senior housing in all four of our buildings, with an assisted living option at the Lester Senior Housing Community in Whippany. 

Whether one chooses independent living or assisted living, the benefits of living in an active senior community may include:

• Greater opportunities to socialize and reduce isolation: Senior communities can mean living in an environment surrounded by peers with whom to share conversation, meals, and activities.

• Security and safety: Senior communities may provide a more secure environment with well-lighted common areas. 

• Hospitality-centered lifestyle: Retirement communities often offer a range of concierge services, including housekeeping and dining services and a dedicated maintenance staff. More upscale communities may also offer on-site amenities such as a beauty salon/barbershop, fitness center, library, theater, business center, and game room.

• Activities: Senior housing may provide the chance to pursue lifelong hobbies or discover new ones at regularly scheduled classes, clubs, and programs. For example, at the residences owned and managed by JCHC, residents enjoy book and sports clubs, JCHC University courses, discussion groups, computers, creative arts programs, lectures, movies, music performances, and socials. 

Founded in 1983, the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey owns and manages more than 470 apartments in four buildings for older adults in Morris and Essex counties in northern New Jersey. The non-profit organization offers seniors a range of options in terms of services, amenities, location, and cost, all within a traditional Jewish environment. The JCHC provides housing, programs, and services for the independent elderly as well as those who need assisted living. For more information, visit jchcorp.org

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