Senior Housing Options-What’s the Difference?

When you, or a loved one, come to a point where senior housing is being considered as an option it is easy to be confused by the terminology. Understandably, many people don’t know the difference between Independent Living, Retirement Living, Assisted Living- let alone when health care professionals start throwing around acronyms: what’s a SNF? An AFH? And how do you know what’s right for you or your family member?

Those of us who work in this field are always happy to explain, and in fact, a lot of what we do when people visit our buildings is education regarding the choices available in senior living. But, if you’d like to be prepared before you begin navigating these options, read on!

When considering a move to senior housing, think about your needs, or the needs of your family member. Every day we do things to take care of ourselves; these things are called “Activities of Daily Living”, or ADL’s; they include: meal preparation, bathing, dressing, grooming, and leisure.

Medical needs are part of the aging experience of many; sometimes these become more than a person can manage themselves and support is needed. These needs can be part of a chronic condition or arise unexpectedly.

Social needs are also essential to consider! Research has linked being socially engaged with being mentally and physically healthy. It may become more difficult to stay involved in social groups as we age, so it is important to include social and spiritual activity in your plan for housing.

Financial needs are, unfortunately, a factor in considering senior housing, as well. Long term care can be expensive, and balancing the care you need with where you want to live requires careful evaluation of your budget, and may include a need for public assistance in the form of Medicaid.

There are five basic types of “senior housing” available:

  • In-Home Services: Support services include assistance with errands, companionship, activities of daily living (ADL’s), and other non-medical tasks. In-Home services serve people who want or need non-medical assistance in their home or a community living situation.  In-home services can range from a couple hours a week, to live-in care.
  • Independent Retirement Living: This option refers to any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors, generally age 55 and over. Housing varies widely, from apartment style living to freestanding homes. You may also hear the terms: retirement community, senior housing, or senior apartments. Independent Living serves seniors who want the advantage of a community environment, meals, housekeeping, and transportation but don’t anticipate needing assistance with ADL’s.
  • Assisted Living: These (AL) communities offer safety and security of 24 hour support and access to care. If you or your family member is having difficulty, or anticipates having difficulty with showering, dressing medication management, or other “ADL’s”, this option may be a good choice, as residents get the support they need while remaining as independent as possible. You can expect all the activities offered in Independent Living Communities, but with that additional support as needed. The staff in assisted living buildings is trained to provide support; in addition they are trained to observe residents to help ensure their health, safety, and well-being.
  • Adult Family Homes: These “homes” are literally residential homes licensed to provide professional care for up to six residents. They provide room, board, and help with ADL’s in a small setting. Adult Family Homes (AFH) typically serve seniors who need 24 hour care and supervision, including for individuals with dementia, Parkinson’s, strokes, special diets and hospice care.
  • Memory Care: Memory and Alzheimer’s care communities provide a secure environment with 24 hour care in which specific physical and mental needs of each individual are met. Support with ADL’s is provided, often at a higher level than is available in AL communities. Memory care is appropriate for people who need a secure environment, or constant checking to be safe. These communities are specially adapted for people with poor judgement, or tendencies to wander.
  • Skilled Nursing: Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF) were referred to as “Nursing Homes” in the not too distant past; they provide assistance in ADL’s and offer a high level of medical care, as well. SNF’s serve long and short term patients, often for rehabilitation after a surgery or injury, or those who suffer from chronic health issues that are too complicated to be tended at home or in a community setting.

Here in Gig Harbor we are fortunate to have senior housing options at every level, so if you are curious about what is available I encourage you to reach out to any community and learn more!

Susan Pfundt is the Executive Director of Sound Vista Village, a Village Concepts Community in Gig Harbor, Washington. Her experience in Senior Living also includes several years as Program Coordinator, during which she developed a profound awareness of how attitude and lifestyle affect the experience of aging.


Northwest art pieces featured in upcoming display

Pictured is one of the 60 works of art that will be on display next month at Sound Vista Village in Gig Harbor.
Pictured is one of the 60 works of art that will be on display next month at Sound Vista Village in Gig Harbor.

Sound Vista Village, in partnership with the Museum of Northwest Art (MONA), will present an exhibit of reproductions of works donated to MONA by Sound Vista Village resident Paul Gingrich.

The prints will be displayed in the library at Sound Vista Village, 6633 McDonald Ave., from April 25-29.

A lecture from Chloe Dryer Sherpe, curatorial assistant at MONA, on the pieces from Gingrich is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 25. A reception from 6 to 7:30 that evening will follow the lecture.

Gingrich’s lifelong love of art began to focus, although not exclusively, on Northwest artists, beginning in the 1960s. His keen and persistent devotion to Northwest art, and his sincere and ongoing dialogue with prominent artists and others in the art world has resulted in one of the more personally-informed collections in the region.

Gingrich met Guy Anderson through his many visits to La Conner in the 1960s, and he purchased early, select works by Anderson from Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle. Over time, as his intrigue of Northwest artists expanded, Gingrich diversified his collection with works by Northwest masters, including Kenneth Callahan, Richard Gilkey, Margaret Tompkins and George Tsutakawa, as well as “next generation” artists including Lee Kelly, Phillip Levine, Philip McCracken, Michael Spafford and Gerard Tsutakawa.

With a keen eye for discovering cutting-edge talent, he also collected works by Lucinda Parker and Judy Cooke. Comprised of more than 60 artworks, the paintings and sculptures Gingrich has donated date from the 1960s to the present day. His donation is the largest gift of Northwest Art the museum has received to date.

Sound Vista is operated by Village Concepts, a leader in delivering retirement services to seniors for more than 40 years.

Village Concepts Housing Comes to Chehalis

Village Concepts, a community-focused retirement and assisted living community, recently acquired Woodland Estates in Chehalis and re-branded the facility as Woodland Village. The new location marks the 16th Village Concepts location, all of which are western or central Washington.

The refurbished Woodland Village is a 51-unit community complete with cottages, townhouses and apartments. The company also has plans to expand its local operation in the future in hopes of, “helping to solve Lewis County’s growing need for senior housing,” explained a press release. “Village Concepts and the former Woodland Estates share a common mission: to provide community housing for seniors where they can feel welcomed, valued and secure.”

Alder Ridge resident creates birdhouses for smiles

Alder Ridge resident Jerry Borderlon has created around 30 birdhouses over the last year to decorate the facility.     Photo by Derek Shuck / The Fife Free Press
Alder Ridge resident Jerry Borderlon has created around 30 birdhouses over the last year to decorate the facility. Photo by Derek Shuck / The Fife Free Press

Drivers traveling along Milton Way may notice a myriad of birdhouses greeting them from Alder Ridge Senior Apartments, located at 2800 Alder St. The houses come from the mind of Jerry Borderlon, a resident of Alder Ridge who over the last year has crafted more than 30 unique birdhouses to decorate the grounds of the senior living facility.

Borderlon began the project in order to utilize flagpoles on the grounds that were just going to waste. Residents on that side of the building loved them so much that neighbors on the other side wanted birdhouse views too, so Borderlon continued his work. He also decided to get creative with his designs, making everything from airports to old west saloons for our feathered friends.

“I started thinking, well I can’t keep building a standard little birdhouse. It can be anything really. It can be whatever idea you want. The birds don’t really care, so let’s make something fun and that’s what I started to do,” Borderlon said.

Borderlon repurposed an empty former trash room into his workshop, and has always had a project on his plate since then. Whenever a resident has something they might throw away, Borderlon is thinking about how he can turn it into a birdhouse. One of his more creative creations involves a repackaged Folger’s coffee can that a neighbor was going to throw away.

“We called it ‘Cup A Joe.’ It was stuff that [a neighbor] was going to throw it away and I said hey let me try it, and I just tried it,” Borderlon said.

This can-do attitude has given Borderlon a whole list of ideas he works from when he has time. Alder Ridge recently received a new bus for transportation, and Borderlon was creative enough to reuse the old license plates and turn them into a birdhouse.

Borderlon draws inspiration from residents in the building, including making a cantina based on his wife’s old tavern. Another resident requested a bank, which was completed just a short time later.

Borderlon sets up themes for various houses. After gathering some water damaged deck wood, he decided it was perfect for a western theme and created a jailhouse and saloon.

Despite having no real experience painting, Borderlon is self-taught and every house brings a new spark of color to Alder Ridge. No matter how professional they look, Borderlon is not looking to make a profit – he does it strictly for the smiles.

“I don’t sell them. The only reason I make them is to have people smile when they go out the front door. That’s the whole reason for it really, to brighten your day. So that’s what I did. I started making them and people liked them.”