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Home and Community Glossary

Understanding the terminology you need to assess your home and community.

ACCESSIBLE HOUSING – Dwellings designed to allow all residents and visitors — regardless of age or ability — convenient entry and easy use of amenities and utilities within the home.

ADULT DAY SERVICES – Medical, social and recreation services provided to people for several hours daily, usually during work hours and in a community setting. Provided most often as assistance to working caregivers, but people who need services can participate on their own.

ADULT FOSTER CARE – Room and board in home and family settings that include assistance — such as meals, medication reminders, transportation and laundry — for people who need help with independent living. Some homes provide or coordinate more complex care for people who need additional support.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING – A safe dwelling that is of an adequate size for the household and offers rent, mortgage and utilities costing no more than 30 percent of the resident’s income.

AGE-RESTRICTED OR ACTIVE-ADULT COMMUNITIES – A residential area of older adults who choose to live without children. Typically, developments include a mix of housing types — such as single-family homes, townhouses and apartments — that are often connected with paths or sidewalks. There may also be amenities such as a clubhouse, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a golf course.

AGING IN PLACE – The concept that older people can live in their long-term homes and communities safely, comfortably and independently for as long as possible, regardless of age, income level or physical ability.

ASSISTED LIVING – A wide range of residential settings for people who need support with independent living. Care varies from help with meals, laundry and housekeeping to personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing and taking medications. Typically, residents in an assisted-living arrangement have individual service plans tailored to their care needs. Staff members are on site 24 hours. In some states, residences are licensed and required by law to provide specific types of help.

ASSISTED TRANSPORTATION – Rides provided to people who need help getting to appointments and other necessary places. Can include door-to-door van service, volunteer drivers and escorts, and discount taxi programs.

CAREGIVER SERVICES – Support and services for people who provide unpaid care to relatives or friends who need help with daily living. Services for the caregiver often include information, referrals to resources, training, support groups and breaks from caregiving.

CERTIFIED AGING-IN-PLACE SPECIALIST (CAPS) – A professional who is trained to identify remodeling and home-modification projects to enable people 50 and older to remain in their homes safely, comfortably and independently.

COHOUSING – A semicommunal neighborhood in which residents actively take part in the design and operation of the community. Residents own their homes and share facilities such as a dining hall. Some cohousing neighborhoods are only for older adults. Homes are designed for aging in place, and residents often share the costs of health aides or an on-site health care provider.

CONGREGATE HOUSING – Housing in which each individual or family has a private bedroom or living quarters, but all residents share a dining room, recreational room or other common facilities.

CONTINUING CARE RETIREMENT COMMUNITY (CCRC) – A type of development that features independent-living apartments and homes, but it often offers meals and various social, recreational and cultural activities typical of retirement communities. Residents have the option to move into assisted living and nursing-level care if their health and abilities decline.

ELDERCARE LOCATOR – A nationwide public service that links older adults and caregivers to local information and services available in communities across the country.

FAIR HOUSING ACT – A federal law that makes it illegal for all housing providers — including property owners, landlords, housing managers, neighborhood and condominium associations, real estate agents, and brokerage service agencies — to discriminate based on race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

GROUP HOME – Housing occupied by two or more single people or families and consisting of common space or facilities for group use by the occupants. This setting can also include support in the form of meals, transportation and personal care.

HOME-CARE SERVICES – Assistance with personal care — such as bathing or getting dressed — provided by agencies and individuals to people in their homes.

HOME HEALTH CARE – Health-related services such as nursing; social work; occupational, speech or physical therapy; and personal care provided in the home. Usually for patients recovering from an acute illness or chronic debilitating conditions.

HOME MODIFICATIONS – Any alterations that make a house more livable for its residents.

INFORMATION-AND-ASSISTANCE SPECIALISTS – Trained professionals who help with identifying needs, information and connections to local resources and services.

LIVABLE COMMUNITY – A neighborhood or village consisting of affordable and appropriate housing, adequate mobility options, and supportive community features that meet residents' requirements to be safe and comfortable in their homes and in transit.

LOW-INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT – A U.S. tax code incentive providing alternate funding for housing for low- and moderate-income people. Each state receives a tax credit per person for new construction or for acquisition and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

MANUFACTURED HOUSING – A type of structure — also known as prefabricated housing — that is largely assembled in a factory and then transported to a home site.

NATURALLY OCCURRING RETIREMENT COMMUNITY (NORC) – Occurs by default when the population living in the same neighborhood for decades has aged as a group. By extension, NORC also applies to a geographic area with a large proportion of older residents.

NEIGHBORHOOD STABILIZATION PROGRAM – A federal program providing emergency assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties.

NURSING HOME – A facility that provides skilled health care and rehabilitation services to people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. Residents often need extensive 24-hour care. Such homes typically administer medicines and provide meals, medical care and personal care.

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS – A specification of the Fair Housing Act that requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations and modifications — or changes to policies, rules and practices — so that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their homes.

SECTION 202 HOUSING – A federal program offering affordable housing designed for older adults with limited incomes. Section 202 also offers rental assistance to people who qualify based on a resident's adjusted gross income.

SENIOR APARTMENTS – Age-restricted apartments at all price ranges, typically available to people 55 and older. Many are designed to be accessible, include transportation services, and offer recreational and social services.

SENIOR CENTERS – Community facilities that offer older people meals, recreation, classes, information and referral services, volunteer opportunities, employment services, public-benefits counseling, and more.

SENIOR REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST (SRES) – An education-based designation for realtors who can address the needs of home buyers 50 and older.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN – Products and environments that are usable by everyone, regardless of age or ability. The concept includes interior features and products that make homes safer and more comfortable for all residents.

VISITABILITY – A movement to change construction practices so that all new homes are built with accessibility features, such as zero-step entrances into the home, 32-inch wide doorways for easy passage and at least a half bathroom on the first floor.

VILLAGE MODEL – An ideal prototype design for a community-membership organization run by a small staff and volunteers who coordinate services for the residents. With these services, which include transportation and home repairs, residents 50 and older can more easily remain within their lifelong communities as they age.


This article is part of a new AARP campaign to educate women about long-term care planning. AARP advocates nationally and at the state level to improve access to affordable long-term care options.


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