Senior Housing Options

7 Senior Housing Options: Which One Fits Best?

How to Make Sense of Today’s Senior Housing Options

What is it? When an older adult lives in their own home or with family.

Who it’s good for? If your older adult is still relatively independent or can get the needed level of help, staying at home may be a good option.

How it works? In-home caregivers, cleaning, meal, and other services can help with activities of daily living (ADLs). Simple home repairs or modifications can make homes safer, such as installing a wheelchair ramp, bathtub railings, or emergency call system.

Relative cost? Low to medium, but can require more help from family and friends.

What is it? This model links neighbors and local businesses together to help each other stay in their homes as they grow older.

Who it’s good for? Older adults who want help similar to what they would get at a retirement community, but don’t want to leave their homes.

How it works? The villages usually don’t provide services directly, but act as a liaison or concierge. Actual help comes from other able-bodied village members, younger neighbors, or youth groups doing community service.

Relative cost? Low. Members of a village pay an annual fee (average is about $600) in return for services such as transportation, yard work, and bookkeeping. 

What is it? Any housing designed exclusively for seniors, usually including retirement communities, retirement homes, senior housing, and senior apartments.

Who it’s good for? Older adults who want to live in an active community setting, free from worries about daily chores like house maintenance, cooking, or housekeeping.

How it works? They’re a little like mini-college campuses, where people of similar age live together in a community that provides opportunities for socialization. In general, the housing is more compact, easier to navigate, and includes help with outside maintenance.

Relative cost? Medium. In 2012, the average cost of a one-bedroom in independent living or a retirement community in the U.S. was $2,750 a month.

What is it? Small facilities that offer personalized service to small groups of adults. They’re also known as adult family homes, board and care homes, or personal care homes.

Who it’s good for? Someone who needs more individual, home-setting care.

How it works? They provide lodging, meal services and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs).

Relative cost? Medium. They can often be half the cost of nursing homes and, in some states, more affordable than assisted living care.

What is it? These communities are part independent living, part assisted living, and part skilled nursing home.

Who it’s good for? Older adults who want to live in one location for the rest of their life and where most of their future care is already figured out. They’re also good for spouses who want to stay close to one another even if one requires a higher level of care.

How it works? Residents can start in the independent living section and move to different parts of the same community if they need increasing levels of care.

Relative cost? High. CCRCs are the most expensive of all long-term-care options. There’s an entrance fee as well as monthly fees that increase as higher levels of care are needed.

What is it? Assisted living facilities have a wide range of services.

Who it’s good for? Older adults who can live independently, but also require some assistance.

How it works? Typical services include staff available 24 hours a day, meals, medication management, bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and transportation. Most facilities have a group dining area and common areas for social and recreational activities.

Relative cost? High. Costs vary according to the level of daily help required and the type of living space.

More info: An expert’s top 3 things to consider, a social worker helps you decide if a move is necessary, find out how to ease the transition, and understand the “fine print” details before signing any contracts.

What is it? This option is for older adults who need 24-hour supervised care with meals, activities, and health management and support.

Who it’s good for? Older adults with severe or debilitating physical or mental illnesses who are unable to care for themselves.

How it works? A licensed physician supervises each resident’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on premises. Some have physical and occupational therapists on staff. Some facilities also provide Alzheimer’s care, with special facilities and layouts for those who suffer from dementia.

Relative cost? High. Costs vary according to the level of daily help required and the type of living space.

More info: If problems come up in the nursing facility, the local ombudsman is on your side.

Choosing the right housing option for your older adult

Evaluating your older adult’s needs and budget helps you narrow the senior housing options that work for their situation. That way, you won’t have an overwhelming amount of places to consider.
To get them on board with this big life change, it helps to involve them in the discussions and decision-making process as much as possible. They need your help and advice, but you also want them to feel happy and comfortable with the final choice.

Step back and observe
It’s instinctive to want to address every one of your older adult’s needs, especially if you’re a new family caregiver, but first taking a step back and understanding three key areas can help you work smarter, not harder. If you take on too much and burn out physically or emotionally, you can’t help your older adult or yourself. 

1. Assess your older adult’s needs
Family caregivers can take on many different roles based on your older adult’s physical and mental capabilities. The first step is getting a full picture of how much help your older adult needs with activities of daily living (ADLs). This will help you decide if their current living situation is safe and what level of daily help is needed – for them and for you.

Try this 8-question online quiz. It isn’t a professional assessment, but it does help you think about the safety of your older adult’s current living situation.

2. Be realistic about your own capacity
While you want to do as much as you can for your older adult, you still have your own life to manage. Be realistic and understand what you can take on without burning yourself out.

For example, if you live an hour away and have existing work and family commitments, it’s not practical to commit to making your older adult’s dinner every day.

3. Get the help you need
Make a list of areas where you’re going to need help. As an example, getting help with cooking or cleaning for your older adult, or even yourself, saves a ton of time and energy. Investing in hired help or adult day programs can help you balance your older adult’s needs and your own time and energy.

When people ask how they can help, check your list for an answer before you default to “It’s ok. I’m fine. I can manage.”

Bottom line
Taking a step back and understanding the overall caregiving situation will give you much-needed perspective. Be realistic and plan how much you can do yourself versus how much extra help will be needed.

Remember, caregiving is a long-term commitment so you need to pace yourself.

Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator
"Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each storm within me. I will trust in the darkness and know that my times, even now, are in Your hand. Tune my spirit to the music of heaven, and somehow, make my obedience count for You." ... Amen