Housing Definitions

Assisted Living Residences (Registered)

Assisted Living residences offer housing, hospitality services and personal assistance to adults who can live independently but require regular help with daily activities. By law, in order to carry the Assisted Living designation, these residences must be registered with the provincial government.  In BC, this is the Assisted Living Registrar's Office.

Accommodation can range from private rooms with lockable doors in a home, to an apartment-style building with private self-contained suites, usually with their own bathrooms and cooking facilities. The residence provides a place where people can eat together and socialize.

Assisted Living operators provide five hospitality services: meals, housekeeping, laundry, social and recreational opportunities and a 24 hour emergency response system. Residents also receive personal assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, grooming and mobility and reminders or assistance with medications.

Assisted Living is intended for people who are able to choose and direct the services they receive (often referred to as being able to make decisions on their own behalf or direct their own care).

Assisted Living services are delivered in both publicly funded residences (subsidized by VIHA and BC Housing) and in non-publicly funded (private pay) residences, in which residents are responsible for all costs. Some residences have both publicly funded and non-publicly funded units.


Independent / Supportive Living Residences

Independent / Supportive Living residences offer rentable housing and usually one or more services to assist the resident.  Possibly help with grooming, bathing, shopping, providing meals, transport to appointments, etc. Residents are independent for the most part, but may like to have, or require a little bit of assistance in their daily routines.

Independent / Support Living residences do not have the same obligations as Assisted Living residences to provide specific services such as the five hospitality services: meals, housekeeping, laundry, social and recreational opportunities and a 24 hour emergency response system.

Independent / Supportive Living residences may have any number of units.  It may be a multi-unit complex or a home residence with a couple suites or bedrooms that are rented out on a monthly basis. 

Independent Living / Supportive Living residential complexes often provide seniors with a lifestyle that can be compared with a stay in a luxury hotel. The difference is that the stay doesn’t end after a few days or weeks. Elegant décor, fine dining and regularly planned activities make this the ideal “getaway”.  Facilities will often have an in-house convenience store, library, pool, billiards room, craft room, exercise room, lounge and rooms for private functions. They may have a guest suite that can be booked by residents for out-of-town visitors. Shuttle buses can take those residents who don’t drive to malls or on short outings.

Small home residences that offer independent or supportive housing may not have the deluxe decor or extensive amenities of a multi-unit complex, but can provide a very home-like atmosphere and personal touches.  More and more home owners are expanding or opening their homes to several “guests”.  Accommodations may range from your own suite to a bedroom in a shared residence with the home owner. Most often these situations provide some level of supervision to ensure the resident stays safe, but are mainly there to provide companionship and socializing in a family-like setting.  Often this will appeal to seniors who can care for themselves without outside assistance but who live alone and are struggling with isolation, lack of stimulation, and often a degree of concern for their well-being should they have an accident with no one around.

It is up to the individual residence to establish their own criteria as far as what they will or won’t do for the resident.  In considering such a residence it is important to get a written outline of what services are or are not available. You will also want to inquire into the staffing, security features, exit processes (e.g. if your health deteriorates can you bring staff in to assist you, or are you obligated to move out of the residence?)

Some provinces have established a legal “bill of rights” for seniors in residences. You may want to inquire into whether your province has this in place, and what those “rights” are.

Although they may appear similar, there is a difference between Independent / Supportive Living and Assisted Living. Independent Living / Supportive residences welcome retired adults who are capable of managing their own personal care.

Assisted Living residents have access to additional support services to assist with activities such as grooming, dressing, bathing or taking medications.

Independent / Supportive Living housing units typically provide a combination of private living space with a lockable door, monitoring and emergency support, optional meal services, housekeeping, laundry, social and recreational opportunities. Housing units may be large or small in scale and may include rented, owned or life-leased options.


Complex Care Residences

For individuals already disabled to the point of requiring daily nursing care as well as other support services, continuing care facilities provide comprehensive care services in a single setting. While most older persons and their families see continuing care usually as a last resort, it may in fact be the best setting for disabled persons with multiple problems, requiring multiple types of services.

BC has a province-wide, single point of entry system to manage how seniors access facilities providing complex care. This program applies to all five health regions, including Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).

Almost all complex care services for seniors, including home care, adult day centres, residential care, respite care, and specialized services are available by contacting the Home & Community Care office in your region. This office can be located by looking in the Yellow Pages. In the light blue pages, which contain provincial resources, you will find several pages with the title “HEALTH AUTHORITIES” at the top. The offices within the telephone directory’s region will be listed by municipality under “Home & Community Care”. By calling the toll free number 1-888 533-2273, you can obtain the office phone numbers of other municipalities outside your region. This should put you in contact with the appropriate office and an intake worker or case manager will be able to take your call, answer your questions and get the process started for you.

They will set an appointment to see you for an assessment of your physical, emotional, and psychological status. This includes memory and other cognitive functions as well as your ability to perform tasks (referred to as Activities of Daily Living or ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, feeding, grooming, toileting, medicine taking, shopping, cooking and cleaning. The case manager also looks at the supports that are in place to assist the caregiver and will take into consideration the level of stress the caregiver may be under.

People who are assessed as requiring complex care must fit certain requirements in order to be eligible. The case manager can explain these requirements. People who do not qualify for complex care, may qualify for assisted living. (Assisted living is for people who can direct their own care but need some help with one or two daily living tasks. They need to be mobile or at least able to transfer on their own.)

If a case manager feels that a person is in need a complex care placement, and the client is willing to go into care in three months or less, their name is submitted to the placement committee in that health authority’s region. If the client prefers a placement in a region in the province other than the one they currently live in, they can request this. However, they may have to first be placed in a facility in their immediate area and then put on a transfer list to the other region, which is under the direction of a different health authority. The client will be asked to select their preferred facility. The committee will attempt to match the client with this facility, but if a bed is not available in that facility the client may need to accept a bed in a different facility and put their name on a transfer list for when a bed does become available in the preferred facility, which can be any length of time. If the client refuses an offered bed, their name will be dropped from the placement process.

Admission is based on need and the acuteness of the situation, not the length of time the person is on the waitlist. There is also a loose rotation system whereby a facility will offer the first available bed to someone in the hospital, the next available bed to someone in the community and the next bed to someone waiting for their preferred choice. However, this system is often interrupted by factors such as hospital discharge needs, community emergencies, cultural factors, particular skills offered at the facility, etc.


Campuses of Care Residences

Campuses of Care residences combine all three levels of care - independent living, assisted living and continuing care - in a single setting. Often this is referred to as “aging in place” since the structure allows an individual to move from one care option to the next as their health needs change. Under one roof, they can be assured the independence of retirement home living and the security of long term care.

As we age and our care needs change, some of us may need all three of these housing options. Moving to a new home in a new community can be stressful, so campuses of care offer different care options where seniors can move from one part of the development to another depending on the level of care required.

If a bed is not immediately available in the residential care area, an alternative temporary care plan can usually be created in assisted living until the bed becomes available, thus making the transition as smooth as possible.

This option is of great benefit to couples whose care needs are different. The campus of care option allows the couple to live on the same site where they can visit one another and have meals together.


Co-op Housing

This is housing that is owned jointly by its members who purchase a share of the housing complex.  This type of housing is usually open to people of all ages, not just seniors.  There may be subsidies available. The complex may or may not be a member of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC.  This Federation can provide more information about co-op housing, as well as give you a list of its members.

Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
200 – 5550 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC V5W 2Z4
Phone: 604.879.5111
Toll-free (in BC): 1.866.879.5111
Fax: 604.879.4611
E-mail: info@chf.bc.ca
Web: http://www.chf.bc.ca


Hospice Care

A hospice facility provides quality of life care to people with terminal illnesses.  There is a common belief that a hospice is where everyone goes to die. That is not true. The average stay in a hospice is twelve to fourteen days, after which many patients return home.   During their stay, patients will receive treatment (known as palliative care) to help relieve pain and other symptoms causing discomfort. They will also receive a great deal of love, care and skilled attention from trained medical, nursing and support staff. Hospice patients can be any age, from the tiny baby to the very old. Eighty per cent of patients will have cancer but the remaining twenty per cent will be suffering from a wide variety of illnesses where hospice expertise can make a difference.

A hospice cannot claim to extend life, but it can certainly improve the quality of life for each patient, so that each day can be lived to the full.

When a patient returns home he or she can be visited by a Community Hospice Specialist Palliative Care Team who will give help to the patient, their family and carers to ensure that all are coping and comfortable.

Some patients may attend the day care centre or return to a hospice for a short stay, possibly to give their family a respite from the stress of nursing on a 24 hour basis.

Most patients would like to die in their own homes in which case, this would be the aim of the hospice team, but the patient can always be re-admitted at the end if that is their choice, or if the family feels it is for the best.

For more information about hospice care, visit www.hospice.bc.org.

British Columbia Hospice Palliative Care Association
Room 502 - Comox Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC Canada V6Z 1Y6
Phone: 604.806.8821
Fax: 604.806.8822
Toll Free: 1.877.422.4722
E-mail: office@hospicebc.org


Life Lease Housing

This is housing for which you pay a one-time sum of money that entitles you to life long tenancy.  Should you wish to terminate your life lease, the original amount you paid is refunded to you, less a marketing or refurbishing fee of a certain percentage (e.g. 5-8%). This is not an investment. You do not have title to the property. The value of the unit will not drop below what you paid, but neither will it appreciate in value. You simply get back what you paid, less a fee.  There is usually a monthly maintenance fee, similar to a strata fee, that is a proportionate sharing of the maintenance costs, to ensure the repairs, upkeep and ongoing functionality of the property is ensured.  Costs, restrictions or benefits may vary from property to property - please consult the life lease terms of agreement.


Proposed New Housing

This is housing that has been proposed for development.  Usually an expected completion date is provided by the developer.


Purchasable Housing

This is housing that individuals can purchase rather than rent.  This category does not include housing developments that are being marketed by realtors or development companies.  The housing in this category usually is part of a larger complex that includes a combination of rentals and purchaseable units, with in-house services such as housekeeping, some meals, group outings, activity programs, etc. These housing complexes are usually run by non-profit societies.  Realtors or development companies may contact the site administrators regarding advertising options, such as web banner ads, or display ads in Senior Living magazine.  A real estate section is in the planning for the website, as an accompaniment to the housing directory.  Please contact the website administrators for more information.


Rental Housing

For the purposes of this housing resource, rental housing pertains to apartments rented only to persons, usually over the age of 55.  Rent is usually income based – subsidies like SAFER or cash assistance from the Rental Assistance Program can often be applied.  Most subsidized housing is accessed through BC Housing.  BC Housing’s mandate is to provide housing and support for vulnerable British Columbians.  BC Housing often partners with a private companies.  You can find out more information at www.bchousing.org


Respite Care

This type of care is usually provided on a short term basis to assist family caregivers – giving them an opportunity to refresh themselves, travel, etc.  Respite care is often offered by facilities that provide other forms of care.  A certain number of beds or spaces will be set aside for respite use.  There is only one known facility in BC  that is solely set up for respite purposes – the Piercy Respite Hotel in Victoria accepts bookings from individuals living in all parts of BC.  For more information, call the Vancouver Island Health Authority (250) 388-2273.



Senior Living Magazine is distributed throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland,
in Victoria and across Vancouver Island.

Please tell us about yourself

CONFIDENTIALITY: This information is for the sole use of Senior Living and will not be provided in any form to any other company, person or organization.