Senior Housing Guide and Assisted Living Options

Author: Assisted Living Today
Published: 2012/09/05 - Updated: 2021/07/28
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Comprehensive senior housing guide provides information you need to make an educated decision on the right senior living option for your loved one. For seniors with higher levels of acuity, needing a more secure environment or simply unable to provide care for themselves, memory care centers and nursing homes are ideal living solutions. As more people progress past middle age the demand for senior housing and assisted living increases. Senior housing trends are changing as factors such as poor economy, increased vitality of seniors and demand for specialized care reshape senior living.

Main Digest

As our loved ones age their needs change. For some, they are able to live out their retirement years playing golf and enjoying a healthful life, while other require a more advanced level of care, dictated by health and safety concerns. Some adults need assistance with everyday tasks. They may need help with dressing, bathing, eating, or using the bathroom, but they don't need full-time nursing care.

Some assisted living facilities are part of retirement communities. Others are near nursing homes, so a person can move easily if their needs change. The choices for senior housing can be overwhelming. From aging in place with the assistance of caregivers to assisted living there are many options which allow seniors to remain as independent as possible while receiving much needed care. For seniors with higher levels of acuity, needing a more secure environment or simply unable to provide care for themselves, memory care centers and nursing homes are ideal living solutions. However, many seniors find it possible to remain in their family home; others choose to join a community of seniors in an independent living setting.

This comprehensive senior housing guide will provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision on the right senior living option for your loved one.

Aging in Place

For some, it is quite possible to age in place. Some are simply are able to live on their own, completely independent, while others require various degrees of care assistance. Many seniors prefer to age in place and will work within their means to do so. Some will enlist the help of family and home health agencies, where others will rent rooms in their homes hoping to find companionship in the form of a roommate.

Home Care:

There are varying levels of in-home care that are available to those looking to remain in their primary residence. Eligible seniors can take advantage of visiting nurses who perform various health care tasks from wound dressing changes to administration of IV medications. For those who need assistance with non-medical needs, such as bathing and dressing, non-medical home care is also available. Some seniors hire non-medical home care workers or agencies simply to provide companionship or light household chores.

Day Care:

Adult day care services generally accommodate nursing home eligible residents whose primary caregivers are unable to provide care during the day. Generally these services run during traditional working hours, and many provide meals, snacks and personal care. Some programs are even able to offer nursing care and rehabilitation while the senior is in their care.

Adult day services can be independently owned or part of a skilled nursing facility. Some services are funded through Medicare and Medicaid services while others are strictly funded through private pay.

Home healthcare may be funded through Medicare, Medicaid and insurance. Non-medical home care is generally privately funded.

Additionally, there are over 67 million unpaid caregivers across the United States caring for loved ones. These are spouses, children and other family or friends providing supportive services for an aging loved one. These caregivers provide a variety of services in order to ensure the health and safety of their loved one.


With so many seniors attempting to age in place, there comes a time when their caregiver simply need a break. Respite and short-term stays are often available at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. These stays often range from just a few days to a few weeks. Respite guests receive the same level of care as other residents of the respective facility and caregivers can rest assured knowing their loved ones' care needs are being met while they are unavailable to provide care.

Most respite stays are funded privately; however, some states' Medicaid waiver programs will cover the cost of the respite stay.

Additionally, there are several options for independent senior living, from single-family homes to independent living communities and senior apartments.

Independent Living Communities:

Senior independent living communities are generally aged based and offer a variety of living arrangements including single-resident dwellings, condominiums and apartments. This is an ideal setting for someone who can live independently but doesn't want the hassles of home ownership. Most retirement communities provide a variety of services and amenities including home maintenance and lawn care. Additionally, many seniors enjoy the camaraderie of living among others of the same age having similar interests.

Some independent living communities are part of a greater continuing care community. These facilities offer transitional care as needs increase, allowing the resident to stay among familiar faces as they age and their care needs escalate.

Subsidized Housing:

Seniors living on limited fixed incomes may qualify for subsidized housing programs through their county or state. Some housing communities may also have disability requirements. Most subsidized programs provide seniors with private apartments at lower rents. Many are maintenance free and have on-site programming for socialization and entertainment. Some may even offer assistance with transportation to and from doctors' appointments and group outings.

As care needs escalate, some seniors are no longer able to remain in an independent living setting, even with the help of full-time caregivers. At this point, care levels exceed what loved ones or even professional home-health agencies are able to provide. In some instances, safety concerns outweigh the benefits of remaining in the home.

Assisted Living

When care at home is no longer an option many seniors will opt for senior assisted living communities, the least restrictive of senior care settings. As the name implies, assisted living (AL) facilities provide independent living setting while providing assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Additionally, residents of often receive assistance with medication management and rehabilitation services. Some facilities even provide escort and transportation services to and from doctors' appointments

Many assisted living facilities offer premiere services and amenities designed to foster independence and bolster dignity while providing care as needed. Most provide activities geared towards a variety of social and cultural interests such as gardening and cooking classes, computer classes, trips to museums and other local points of interest, and exercise classes.

Additionally many ALs work to encourage socialization and companionship among its residents. Many facilities will have spacious common areas where residents can gather to play a game of cards or brag about their grandchildren.

Although AL often costs more than home-health care, monthly fees are generally less than those of skilled nursing facilities. Federal programs generally do not cover room and board; however, some facilities do accept Medicaid as a form of payment. The cost of assisted living varies by state and facility but the median cost is around $110 per day or $3,300 per year, according to the Genworth 2012 Cost of Care Survey.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

When care levels exceed that of levels provided by independent or assisted living facilities, many will consider a nursing home (aka "skilled nursing facilities") for short-term or long-term care. Skilled nursing facilities, also known as nursing homes, are the most costly of all senior-living facilities; however, some services may be paid for Medicare, Medicaid and other insurances. The cost of skilled nursing care varies by state with the national average exceeding $200 per day or $6,000 per month (room and board only.)

Short-term rehab:

SNFs are no longer just for long-term care. Many facilities have begun providing short-term medical and rehabilitation care to those individuals who are wanting and capable of returning to their prior level of living. For instance, if an individual has a hip replacement and is not capable of returning home immediately upon discharge from the hospital due to wound care and rehab needs, he can stay at a SNF, receive the nursing care he needs while regaining his strength, endurance and balance through occupational and physical therapy.

Long-term care:

For those needing 24-hour nursing care and supervision, skilled nursing facilities also provide long-term care services. This is the ideal setting for those who are no longer able to care for themselves and their care needs exceed that available at home or in an assisted living. Many residents require extensive nursing services for chronic health conditions, assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, grooming, toileting, and eating, and assistance with transporting.

Memory Care Facilities

Individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia often need more specialized care than provided at "mainstream" senior living communities. To meet this need, many communities provide separate memory care services. Some memory care facilities are located within other senior living settings, while others are operate independently.

Many memory care setting have daily schedules which help those with memory impairment have a semblance of a routine. Staff at these facilities is often specially trained in treating the physical and cognitive needs of residents with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia and memory impairment.

For more on Alzheimer's Disease, read our Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, featuring advice from 20 memory care experts.

Personal/Residential Care Homes

As an alternative to Assisted Living, individuals suffering from chronic health concerns, including mental health, may find that living independently is not an option. Personal care homes, also known as Board and Care Homes or Residential Care Homes may provide the needed assistance for some individuals. As their name implies, many of these facilities were once single family dwellings that have been converted to fit the care needs of several individuals. There is onsite supervision and assistance with activities of daily living. Many also provide three meals per day and assistance with medication management. The cost room and board at a personal care home is often less than that of an assisted living facility and may be covered, at least partially, by Medicaid.


As more and more Americans progress past middle age, the demand for senior housing and assisted living is increasing. Senior housing trends are changing as factors such as the poor economy, increased vitality of seniors and demand for specialized care reshape American senior living.

Assisted Living Today ( - Reprinted with Permission.


This quality-reviewed publication titled "Senior Housing Guide and Assisted Living Options" was chosen for publishing by Disabled World's editors due to its relevance to our readers in the disability community. While the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity, it was originally authored by Assisted Living Today and published 2012/09/05 (Edit Update: 2021/07/28). For further details or clarifications, you can contact Assisted Living Today directly at Please note that Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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Cite This Page (APA): Assisted Living Today. (2012, September 5). Senior Housing Guide and Assisted Living Options. Disabled World. Retrieved April 21, 2024 from

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