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Have a question about senior living?

We’ve provided a list of common questions that people ask to help you on your senior living journey!

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.

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

For more information, visit our Trusted Service Providers section for other websites regarding seniors programs and options.

What’s the difference between an Independent Living community, Assisted Living community, and a Long-Term Care community?
Independent Living

A combination of housing and hospitality services for retired adults who are functionally independent individuals capable of directing their own care. This may also be referred to as Supportive, Retirement, or Congregate Living. These communities include privately owned, non-profit, and subsidized housing options.

These seniors choose to be free of the home management duties and prefer the convenience of service in a social atmosphere. Living spaces may vary from a studio apartment to a two-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.”

Assisted Living

Offers housing, hospitality services, and personal assistance to seniors who live independently but require help with some daily tasks. The same type of communities as Independent Living, but they provide 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/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, or Palliative Care. These must be licensed and may be private pay or government funded.

What is some other terminology in the senior housing and retirement industry?

Campus of Care refers to 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 is defined by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation “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’s Care is specialized care and supportive programs for persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia and memory loss. Care may be provided in a Long-Term Care home in a secure designated section or in the person’s personal residence. In some provinces, this may be delivered in Supportive Living options as well

Respite Care is a service that provides relief for the caregivers of seniors living in their own homes. This program allows caregivers to have free time for themselves while their loved ones are supervised.

Home Support Services help to support a senior’s 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 homes. 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 Bristish Columbia, 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.

Is there government funding in Independent Living residences?

No, there is currently no 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) and is offered 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 one 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 in the Greater Vancouver Regional District:

    • Single: $2,333
    • Couple: $2,517
    • Shared: $1,625

    Other 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 We recommend you order this guide, as it offers a wealth of information for seniors and the services available to them.

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