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Senior Housing Options: Finding the Right Fit

Assisted living communities often provide basic supports, such as lawn care and housekeeping services, while offering residents an opportunity to commune with peers. (Getty Images)

With advancing age, and changing care needs, many older adults – and their families – face what can be a daunting task: finding suitable senior housing.

To begin the process of narrowing the search, it’s helpful to get a better idea first of the types of senior housing and determine which might be optimal. “I think one of the biggest factors is taking into account what the individual’s needs are, and there are lots of different options for receiving care,” says Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, based in the District of Columbia.

Of course, a nursing home offers the highest level of care for those who need it round-the-clock – like a person with advanced dementia. In addition, residents get help with activities of daily living, such as dressing themselves, bathing and grooming. Those who benefit from living in a nursing home usually need ongoing medical care and personal attention. “They will need help with medications; they need assistance with really all aspects of their daily life, and they need some skilled nursing care,” Smetanka says.

She points out, however, hat options for care have expanded, even for many with intensive needs. Many who may have once gone to a nursing home are able to get the care they need in other settings, such as assisted living – which provides some of the same types of daily assistance for people with less intensive medical care needs, and help managing medications – or even through home health services that allow many seniors to age in placein their own homes. “That’s becoming more and more available as that’s what the public is demanding. People want choice, in terms of where they receive services,” Smetanka says. She adds that policies at the federal and state level are moving in that direction as well, giving people more choice in terms of where they receive care as they age.

“Medicaid, for example, which is one of the primary payers of long-term care and traditionally had been only available for people in nursing homes, is now being expanded through waiver programs so that people who are eligible for Medicaid might receive services in a variety of different settings,” she notes.


Evaluating Different Types of Senior Housing

Certainly, though, not everyone needs the level of care offered in a nursing home, in assisted living or even through home health services. Some just want to live in communities where more basic supports, like lawn care and housekeeping services are offered, and where they can commune with peers.

For those individuals, one option is moving into a 55 and older community. These communities often cater to active older adults with amenities such as a fitness center and pool and walking or biking paths, and offer services like yard maintenance that free up time for other activities. Like other desirable communities, they’re often located within easy access of restaurants, groceries and entertainment.

Seniors who foresee possibly needing limited assistance but still want to live on their own terms may find the right balance in an independent living community. Most serve up a meal or two daily for residents, provide security services to keep communities – often apartment complexes or condos – safe, and also often offer other services, like housekeeping. That’s in addition to ample opportunities for social engagement with other residents.

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