The vocabulary of these facilities varies from country to country, but predominantly across the English-speaking world of the US, UK, and Australia, at least, the differences in styles of and levels of assisted living can often be divided into retirement homes, nursing homes, and hospices. 

Retirement Homes 

Whilst ‘old people’s home’ can sometimes refer to a nursing home, it is more commonly applied to retirement homes. These are, in essence, apartment-style residential complexes that specifically cater to retirees and the elderly. Staff are generally on hand to handle basic first aid needs, whilst maintaining clear emergency action plans if an ambulance is ever required, but beyond that, autonomy is largely left up to the individual residents. Retirement homes are also usually well catered to individuals with disabilities, with various accessibility features, such as ramps and lifts in key areas, as well as communal areas for social interaction between residents, as most will, again, be retirees. Retirement homes tend to be paid for like any other private accommodation, albeit more often via rental due to the complications of selling such a property. Retirement homes, such as those that offer assisted living in Brick NJ, for example, often aim to provide a consistently vibrant and dynamic environment to their residents. 

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are what many think of when they imagine ‘care homes’, especially in the UK. These offer more intensive medical assistance on an ongoing basis, with specifically trained staff on hand 24/7. This is because many of these residents have more severe mobility issues and/or psychiatric disorders, dementia being one of the most common, usually as a result of their age. Nursing homes are not hospitals, however, and so there is usually a clear emergency action plan to transfer patients to a hospital in the event of medical emergencies. Care homes also require a much higher degree of housekeeping than does a retirement home, the responsibility of which falls on its staff, rather than on its residents, who may be unable to fulfil such functions themselves. It is in nursing homes, particularly, that one usually sees an abundance of physical, occupational, and, occasionally, speech-language therapies. Nursing homes work on the principles of both preventative and curative treatment, where medical practitioners seek to preserve life and prevent further injury for those with more extensive care needs. 


Hospices concern end-of-life care and are catered for patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses for whom there is little to no hope of recovery. Hospices apply palliative care to patients to optimize quality of life, whilst mitigating physical and/or psychological suffering, rather than promoting a recovery which is not realistically achievable. Like retirement homes, they are usually aimed at being as vibrant as possible, as there is little to be gained under these circumstances in preserving life beyond the natural progression of the terminal disease. Hospices generally take on patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses with a time frame of six months or less life expectancy. Typically, they are funded primarily through charities. 

By Manali