Frequently Asked Questions

What is BCSLA?

The British Columbia Seniors Living Association (BCSLA) is a voluntary, membership-driven organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of the best interests of its members, which include the owners and operators of Independent and Assisted Living communities in BC. These owners and operators house over 12,000 seniors and provide them with safety, security, proper nutrition and a social environment while maintaining the seniors independence and freedom of choice.

What does BCSLA do?

BCSLA represents owners and operators of Independant and Assisted Living retirement communities.

Our four cornerstones are: Advocate, Educate, Mediate and Celebrate

  • Advocate: We identity and promote the interests of the membership with external stakeholders in seniors living and government.
  • Educate: We inform the public, government and consumer about the role of seniors living communities and benefits that they have to offer.
  • Mediate: We identify challenges and opportunities faced by our members and seek solutions by bringing together appropriate collaborators.
  • Celebrate: We collect and disseminate real life stories and successes that demonstrate that seniors living within our communities remain vital and active members of society.

Who are BCSLA's members?

Our members include Independent and Assisted Living retirement communities in BC that house over 12,000 seniors and associate companies that support these retirement communities with products and services for the daily operation.

How do I know if I should move into a retirement residence?

Here are 10 signs that a move to a more supportive environment such as a retirement residence may be a good idea for you or your loved one.

  1. You (they) are having a less active lifestyle and the tenancy to stay home
  2. Exterior of your (their) home is less well maintained than usual
  3. There is a change in the quality of your (their) communication or the frequency of communication
  4. Fewer invited into your (their) home and a change in visit patterns
  5. Unopened bills and other mail
  6. Your (their) home is unkempt, laundry or dishes are piling up
  7. Unexplained weight loss
  8. Blackened pots or other damage to your (their) home environment
  9. Bruises or other signs of trauma from falls or difficulty navigating around your (their) house
  10. Your family is expressing concern for your well being

I'm looking for the right retirement residence for me or a loved one. What do I do?

When shopping for a retirement residence, consider visiting several and go prepared with a list of questions. Keeping notes and gaining a strong "feel" for each place will help you choose the residence best suited to your personal needs and interests.

Retirement residences vary in location, size, price, amenities, programs and services. The mix of staff and residents also contributes greatly to the "personality" of each place. That's why it's important to look beyond the physical structure and spend the necessary time to ask questions, talk with people and generally "sample the product".

We suggest several ideas, which should help you make the right personal choice:

  • While touring a retirement residence, talk to the residents about their perceptions of the place
  • Plan to stay or return another day for a complimentary lunch or dinner
  • Don't limit your tour to suite and common areas. Ask to see the kitchen
  • If you would really like to "kick the tires" enquire about a trial visit or an overnight stay
  • Ask for resident family references you can contact for their opinions
  • Beyond the standard tour, check stairwells and other less traveled areas to see how well they're cleaned and maintained
  • Ask for copies of any paperwork required for admission along with samples of menus, activity calendars and newsletters
  • You may also consider hiring a consultant to help you find a suitable retirement residence. A consultant may also assist you with the actual move and other arrangements

Use the following checklist to identify the types of services and amenities available:

Services Available

  • Meals
  • Tray Service to Suites
  • Daily Housekeeping
  • Weekly Housekeeping
  • Personal Laundry
  • Recreation Program
  • Medication Supervision
  • Vitals Monitoring
  • Visiting Physician
  • Physician on Call
  • Dementia Unit
  • Visiting Dental Service
  • Visiting Lab Service
  • Visiting Podiatrist
  • Visiting Physiotherapist
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Assisted Living Services
  • Respite/Convalescent Care
  • RN/RPN on staff
  • Private Duty Nursing
  • Transportation

Building Amenities

  • Central Dining Room
  • Library
  • Resident Storage
  • Air Conditioned Common Areas
  • Private Dining Room/Area
  • Chapel
  • Tuck Shop
  • Fire and/or Smoke Alarms
  • Lounges
  • Horticulture Area
  • Beauty Salon
  • Parking
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Sprinkler System
  • Swimming Pool

Suite Amenities

  • Private Bath
  • Heating: Individually Controlled
  • Air Condition: Individually Controlled
  • Call Bell System
  • Fire and/or Smoke Alarms
  • Kitchenette
  • Sprinkler in each suite

Community Services

  • How close is the nearest hospital, medical clinic, dentist office?
  • Are there churches, parks, shops and seniors' centres nearby?
  • How accessible is public transportation?
  • Is there an accessible transit service?

Financial Matters

  • What is the daily/monthly rate?
  • Are there charges for additional services you may want or need?
  • Is phone or cable service part of your package?
  • Is there a resident petty cash account with separate accounting?
  • What type of notice period is required should you need, or decide to move?
  • How often are rates for accommodation and/or services increased?
  • What is the average annual rate of increase over the last few years?

Admission Policies

  • Are wheelchairs and walkers accepted?
  • What about scooters?
  • Are any forms of oxygen therapy allowed?
  • Is a health assessment required?
  • What happens if your health deteriorates?

BCSLA Membership

  • Is the residence a member in good standing with the British Columbia Seniors Living Association (BCSLA)?
  • Has the residence undergone and successfully met the BCSLA Seal of Approval designation?
  • Is their Seal of Approval Plaque displayed?
  • Is the year current on the plaque?

I have more questions about retirement residences. Who can I speak to?

The BC Seniors Living Association office (604-689-5949) can refer you to a retirement community in the area of your choice which may provide one or both Independent Living and Assisted Living services.

Our 'Senior Living Lifestyles Choices'  document on the Choosing a Retirement Community link that will also help you understand the senior living terms and resources you may need  to identify the options available in the province of BC.

For more information visit our Industry Links section for other websites regarding seniors programs and options.

What's the difference between an Independent Living residence, Assisted Living resident and a long term care resident?

Independent Living

  • A combination of housing and hospitality services for retired adults who are functionally independent seniors capable of directing their own care. This may also be referred to as Supportive, Retirement or Congregate Living
  • These seniors choose to be free of the home management duties and prefer the convenience of service in a social atmosphere.
  • Living space may vary from a studio apartment to a 2 bedroom or larger
  • Services provided are usually a menu of optional fee-for-services from a base rate which could include meals, housekeeping, monitoring and emergency support, social and recreational opportunities, transportation, etc.
  • Building features include private space, and a safe secure environment with a home-like setting. The buildings are designed with common areas and features to allow seniors to "age in place"
  • These communities include privately owned, non-profit and subsidized housing options

Assisted Living

  • Offers housing, hospitality services and personal assistance to seniors who live independently but require help with some daily tasks
  • Same type of communities as the independent living
  • Provides additional services such as bathing, dressing or medication monitoring. Nursing care may be available
  • Seniors must be able to be self directed and independently mobile in BC
  • Assisted living can be private pay or funded
  • Assisted living in BC is regulated by the Office of the Assisted Living Registrar

Long Term Care/Complex Care

  • Provides housing, hospitality, personal assistance and 24 hour professional nursing care for seniors unable to care for themselves. Also referred to as Nursing Homes
  • Care is required on a regular basis in a facility setting but who are not in need of hospitalization
  • This segment includes intermediate care, multi-level care, extended care hospitals, private hospitals, Palliative Care or Respite Care
  • These must be licensed and may be private pay or government funded

What is some other terminology in the Seniors Retirement Industry?

  • Campus of Care - is a site that offers Independent Living, Assisted/Supportive Living and Complex Care in one location. May also be referred to as Evolutive Services
  • This structure allows the senior to move from one care option to the next without having to move to a new community.
  • In some provinces they do need to move to a new area within that community
  • Aging in Place - Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation defines this "as a process which enables the elderly to grow older in familiar and comfortable surroundings while providing them with the necessary assistance to maintain a relatively independent lifestyle"
  • This could be applied to seniors living in their own home or housing community
  • Alzheimer Care - specialized care and supportive programs for persons with Alzheimer Disease or other forms of memory loss
  • Care may be provided in a Long Term Care home in a secure designated section or in the persons personal home In some provinces this may be delivered in Supportive Living options as well
  • Respite Care - this service provides relief for the care givers of seniors living in their own home. This program allows caregivers to have free time for themselves while their loved ones are supervised.
  • Home Support Services - help to support the seniors independence in their own home. Services are non-medical in nature and include meal preparation/delivery, homemaking, home maintenance, transportation, security checks and friendly visits among others
  • Home Care Services - are provided to help seniors maintain health, well-being and personal independence in their own home. Professional services may include nursing, social work, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy and nutritional services. These services may be eligible for funding depending on the province
  • Support services may include homemaking and personal care services however this varies again between provinces depending on their Provincial Health Act

Does the government regulate retirement residences in BC?

Within BC the government regulates Long Term Care communities and Assisted Living communities which fall under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act.

Independent Living communities are not regulated however in 2009 BCSLA introduced our Seal of Approval Assessment which is a self regulating senior living standards tool kit.

What is the Seal of Approval?

The Seal of Approval program identifies senior living communities that adhere to the highest industry standards. The Seal of Approval will help seniors and their families identify the very best retirement communities in B.C. To obtain the BCSLA Seal of Approval, the community must complete both an internal self assessment and an independent external review.

Successful communities meet multiple criteria in five areas: safety measures, infection control, staff training, resident services, and assisted living supports. For detailed information on the Seal of Approval click on BCSLA logo which will direct you to our main page and click on the plaque on the left hand side of the main page.

Is there government funding in Independent Living residences?

No there is no current government funding within the Independent Living residences. There is a program with the BC Housing called the 'Safer Program' which you may qualify for a rent subsidy to help you with monthly rent based on your income.


What is the SAFER Program?

The program is called Shelter for Elderly Renters (SAFER). This program is through BC Housing You can pick up an application form from BC Housing or any local Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance Office.

As per the 2008 Legal Services Guide When I'm 64 , A guide to benefits and services for people aged 60 and over on page 64 they state:

To qualify for the SAFER program you must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be a renter who is over 60 or over
  • Your rent must be more that 30 percent of your household gross monthly income
  • You or your spouse must have lived in BC 1 year immediately before you apply
  • You or your spouse must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and have lived in Canada for 10 continuous years
  • Your gross monthly income must be less than the following:Greater Vancouver Regional District
    Single: $2,333
    Couple: $2,517
    Shared: $1,625Other areas of BC
    Single: $2,033
    Couple: $2,217
    Shared: $1,625

You do not qualify for this benefit if one of the following applies to you:

  • You live in subsidized housing or residential care facility funded by the Ministry of Health
  • You live or own shares in a housing co-op
  • You or your family receive welfare (not including MSP benefits or the Seniors Supplement)

To order a complete When I'm 64 Guide call 604-601-6075, fax 604-682-0965 or email

I would highly recommend you order this guide as it is a wealth of information in for seniors and the services available to them.

What other senior web sites can I access for more information on retirement?