Key Differences Between Nursing Homes and Senior Living Communities

July 22, 2022

If you’ve always thought that a senior living community was the same thing as a nursing home, you would be in the majority. But you’d also be making an incorrect assumption because the two are not simply interchangeable terms. Here are some of the key differences between nursing homes and senior living communities.

Senior Living Communities Defined

Many are surprised to learn that senior living is actually a continuum of care. Some senior living communities offer one type of care on the continuum and other communities offer multiple levels of care on one campus. The continuum of care in senior living includes:

  • Independent Living – You might consider this the entry point on the continuum as independent living is ideal for seniors who don’t yet need assistance, but who want freedom from chores and household responsibilities so they can spend more time enjoying the things they love. Amenities typically include home maintenance, housekeeping, restaurant-style dining, concierge services, fitness center, transportation, and a full calendar of social events, activities, and enrichment opportunities.
  • Assisted Living – While similar to independent living in terms of the amenities and social as well as enrichment opportunities, assisted living also offers assistance with daily tasks like bathing and dressing as needed. In addition, these senior living communities offer 24-hour staffing and onsite health specialists who support each resident with a specialized care program, all in an inviting, home-like setting.
  • Memory Care – Designed just for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, memory care features staff specially trained in memory care, 24-hour support, and a safe, yet comfortable setting. This type of care also offers enrichment activities as well as fitness and social opportunities that help residents to make the most of life as well.

How Nursing Homes Differ from Senior Living Communities

Unlike the continuum of care in senior living, a nursing home is one specific type of setting. Even beyond that distinction, additional key differences between nursing homes and senior living communities include:

Care – Nursing homes provide round-the-clock and/or specialized care like treating wounds, intravenous (IV) therapy, injections, and catheter care as well as monitoring vitals and medical equipment. In contrast, assisted living regulations require that residents are medically stable, and onsite medical care is typically not available in independent living.

Accommodations – Nursing homes are primarily a medical setting and as such, feel more like hospitals down to the accommodations which are typically small rooms that are often shared. In senior living communities, on the other hand, you’ll find a range of accommodations from private, luxury apartments to condos to townhomes.

Lifestyle – Due to the higher level of care offered in nursing homes, there’s more of a clinical focus. Whereas senior living communities focus on providing an active, social lifestyle and overall well being. That said, there may be some level of activity programming in a nursing home, but nothing like the range of activities, outings, clubs, and classes offered in senior living communities.

To learn more, download our
Senior Living Options

Senior Living Options


Friendship North Campus

367 Hershberger Road, Roanoke, VA 24012


Friendship South Campus

5647 Starkey Road, Roanoke, VA 24018


Friendship Salem Terrace

1851 Harrogate Dr, Salem, VA 24153