Senior Housing Guide (with Infographic): Learn About the Range of Senior Living Options

Last Updated Jan. 10th, 2017

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.

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.

Since senior housing needs can vary so drastically from person to person, it is becoming increasingly more common to see traditional senior housing communities evolve in their standards in order to to suit it’s diverse population:

As you can see, the senior housing market is changing, and in a good way. The following comprehensive senior housing guide will provide you with more information about your options in today’s current senior housing market, as well as the information you need to make an educated decision on the right senior living option for your loved one.

Table of Contents

Aging in Place Communities

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. Consider this quick guide to smart home safety for seniors; for many seniors who are in good general health, these basic steps are all that’s required to make a living space more suitable for aging in place.


Image via Sunrise Senior Living

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, many of whom are also maintaining a full-time or part-time job. These caregivers provide a variety of services in order to ensure the health and safety of their loved one, and they come from all walks of life.

Caregivers in the U.S.

Image via GALLUP Business Journal



With so many seniors attempting to age in place, there comes a time when their caregiver simply need a break. Respite care services 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 Facilities

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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

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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), which translates to upwards of $70,000 to $80,000 per year.

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.

Image via Avalon Memory Care

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.

Current Senior Housing Trends Infographic

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.

We’ve put together this infographic to help illustrate the current trends in senior housing. Share this infographic on social media (using the social media icons). You can also embed it on your blog or website using the HTML code below.

senior citizen housing and senior living trends in America

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Full Transcript from the Senior Housing Trends Infographic

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. 

Increased Demand for Senior Living Professionals

  • The senior living industry will see increased demand for qualified professionals as more people enter senior housing and the industry cracks down on overtime regulations for care providers

○     2000-2030: The elderly population will more than double from 35 million to 72 million to represent nearly 1 in 5 Americans

○     To keep up with demand, by 2030, 3.5 million additional health care professionals and direct-care workers will be added to the workforce


Higher Levels of Acuity

  • Increased rates of acuity (sickness) for prospective senior living residents elevate the risk of entrance and cost of providing care
  • Acuity is rising because:

○     7 out of 10 Americans over the age of 65 will require long-term care

○     Seniors delay entrance due to economic reasons, and eventually enter care due to medical reasons instead of lifestyle change

■1999 average age of incoming residents: 82

■2011 average age of incoming residents: 85

○     Seniors have become more accustomed to utilizing family, technology, medicine and community support to remain out of senior housing


An Evolution in Senior Housing Communities

As Senior Resident Profiles Change, So Do Senior Care Communities

  • Independent living becomes more like assisted living

○     2012: Up to a 20% increase in independent living rates among seniors

○     As more seniors live in apartment complexes and 55+ communities, more a la carte services are being offered, providing a light assisted living feel

  • Current assisted living facilities function more like skilled nursing facilities

○     Current nursing homes will care for the sickest seniors in the coming years as an alternative to hospital stays

  • More facilities dedicated to Alzheimer’s care

○     As demand for Alzheimer’s and dementia care steadily increases, more specialized facilities will emerge


Senior Care Technology Goes Mainstream

  • Senior care technology will become more mainstream for seniors and their caregivers

○     More electronic applications will become available on a range of devices to cater to senior needs

■First aid apps

■Drug information

■Pain management

  • Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) and other monitoring technologies will become more prevalent in everyday senior living

○     In 2009 a PERS cost $200-$1,500 for the system plus a $10-$30 monthly fee

○     In 2012 the cost for many PERS have dropped to $200-$350, with a $10-$40 monthly fee


Communal Living and Multigenerational Housing Gains Traction

  • As families and seniors face the costs associated with senior housing, the elderly will increasingly move in with their families or each other

○     2010: Median monthly rate for assisted living in the U.S. was $3,185 for a 1-bedroom single occupancy unit, with 7% annual growth rate

■That’s $38,220 per year!

  • As the housing market remains stagnant through 2012, more people will invest money into their homes to accommodate their elderly family members

○     Adding new floor space for a 10×15 foot bedroom costs between $3,750-$7,500 for DIY homeowners or $7,500-$22,500 to hire a contractor

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