Senior Housing Options: Everything You Need To Know

Senior Housing Options: Everything You Need To Know

What You Need to Know

Senior Housing Options 70Conversations surrounding senior housing options are rarely comfortable ones. All too often, the mere suggestion of leaving home seems to pit children against their parents – locking both in a struggle between the desire for independence and the choices that are in the best interests for all involved.

And while there’s no easy answer to major life decisions such as these, education can help. By understanding the serious issues faced by seniors in isolation, as well as familiarizing yourself with the numerous – and always-expanding – housing options that are available for those 55 years and older, you’ll be able to approach this delicate conversation from an informed, thoughtful place.

The Growing Problem of Senior Isolation

The question of senior housing is often posed as a pragmatic one. What level of care do seniors require, and who is available to provide it? Is there a child or family member nearby who can assist with care? If not, what financial resources are available to support aging parents?

All too often, seniors’ well-being is left out of the equation. While it’s common for aging adults to want to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible, emerging research described below suggests that they may pay a price due to the isolation inherent in this arrangement. And given that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 28% of people aged 65 and older lived alone (as of 2010), these are critically important concerns all families with aging relatives must consider.

Social isolation and loneliness in adults aged 52 and older are associated with a higher risk of mortality.

According to a 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, living alone puts senior citizens at a higher overall risk of dying from all causes. While there are many possible explanations for this effect, the absence of another housemate who would notice acute health symptoms at their onset is one likely factor.

Loneliness in seniors is correlated with long-term illness.

The same study cited above also associates the following conditions with loneliness and social isolation in seniors: arthritis, impaired mobility, depression and chronic lung disease. A further study published in Psychology and Aging in 2010 identified a direct link between elder isolation and unsafe increases in blood pressure.

Seniors who feel lonely have a higher risk of dementia.

Research conducted by Dr. John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago has found that feelings of loneliness are correlated with poorer cognitive performance and declines in cognitive function.

Seniors who experience loneliness are more likely to need long-term care.

Interestingly, a 2004 report published by the British Columbia Ministry of Health found that social isolation is one of the top predictors of seniors using home care or entering nursing homes.  

Socially isolated seniors are more vulnerable to elder abuse.

The National Center on Elder Abuse cites a number of studies that demonstrate a link between senior isolation and higher incidences of elder abuse, potentially due to the fact that abusers are able to minimize their risk of discovery while working with isolated patients.

While living independently as a senior isn’t guaranteed to lead to these results, it’s important for families caring for aging elders to be aware of potential health and safety risk factors and to make decisions for their loved ones’ care with a full understanding of the options available.

Senior housing is no longer the institutional monolith it once was: a number of alternatives exist to suit residents at all ends of the care spectrum.

Senior Housing Options

Assisted Living

Senior Housing Options Facilities

What Is It? Assisted living communities represent the next level of care beyond independent senior apartments. Residents of assisted living facilities generally do not require the type of skilled nursing care offered at traditional nursing homes, but do need daily assistance with daily activities such as taking medication, preparing meals and maintaining hygiene. Assisted living facilities typically offer private apartments with kitchenettes, along with a staff that’s available 24 hours a day to support residents social programs, activities and exercises.

What Does It Cost? As in the case of independent senior living, the cost assisted living facilities varies with the amenities provided. Genworth lists the average cost of a one-bedroom assisted living apartment as $3,500 per month. Prices are also determined by whether the community charges a flat fee or “a la carte” prices based on the specific services required (state licensing and regulation requirements often dictate which services and care types can be offered).

Who Is It For? There are typically two groups of seniors that opt for assisted living: those who require the level of care they provide, and those who anticipate needing it in the near future. Because wait lists can be long, many prospective residents apply to their preferred facilities in advance of needing their services to increase their odds of securing a spot in the future.

How Do You Get Started? Any of the strategies described above for home care and independent living communities can be used to identify assisted living options in your area, including referrals from local resources and traditional ads. Due diligence is important here, as it is in all cases of senior care.

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Senior Housing Options Assisted Living Costs

Residential Care Homes

What Is It? Residential care homes offer a similar level of support as assisted living facilities, but to a smaller number of seniors (typically fewer than 10) and often in a more home-like setting. Though they may offer fewer activities and amenities than traditional assisted living homes, they still retain 24-hour care and provide a more intimate, family-like experience.

What Does It Cost? As of 2014, Genworth reports that average costs run from $2,200 per month for a shared bedroom to $3,400 per month for a private bedroom. As with many of the other estimates found in this report, prices vary based on geographic region, the level of amenities offered and the amount of care required by the resident.

Who Is It For? Residential care homes are one possible alternative for older adults who feel overwhelmed by the thought of living in assisted living communities with dozens or hundreds of other residents. Those with social anxiety, agoraphobia or other mental health conditions, as well as those who simply prefer a smaller community, may do better in these more close-knit environments.

How Do You Get Started? Because residential care homes are not as widely available as traditional assisted living facilities, locating one may require some extra due diligence. As your current care team, state or local agencies, your caseworker or any other friends or relatives with older adults in your area. If you believe your loved one may benefit from a residential care home placement, begin asking around early; given their more limited nature, wait lists can be long.

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Nursing Homes


Senior Housing Options Nursing Home Costs

What Is It? Nursing homes represent the most advanced level of care for senior citizens, apart from end-of-life hospice. In addition to supporting residents in their ADLs, including bathing, dressing, eating and housekeeping, nursing homes provide long-term medical care to seniors who are bedridden, wheelchair-bound or who require 24-hour monitoring and medical assistance for severe physical or mental health conditions.

What Does It Cost? Nursing home costs often depend on the length of the resident’s stay. Many residents remain in nursing homes for only short periods of time following hospitalization for an illness or injury (Medicare often covers these short-term stays for those who are eligible). The cost of longer-term stays are, on average, $212 per day for a semi-private room and $240 per day for a private room, according to Genworth. These averages may vary based on the size of the room offered and the geographic location of the facility.

Who Is It For? As described above, nursing home residents are those who either require short periods of rehabilitation following injury or illness, or those who need longer-duration, round-the-clock care for the management of severe, debilitating mental and/or physical health issues.

How Do You Get Started? The decision to move to a nursing home is often made in consultation with the senior’s medical team, as well as representatives from the senior’s assisted living community or home health care aid (as applicable). Nursing homes can be found through the same channels as assisted living facilities and should be evaluated just as thoroughly.

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 Senior Housing Options Nursing Home Private Costs

Memory Care

What Is It? Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes now offer separate memory care communities, which are secured by alarmed exit doors to prevent residents from wandering off and becoming disoriented. Though not available in all areas, most memory care programs include structured activities designed by those who have been specially trained to care for dementia patients.

What Does It Cost? Genworth estimates put the national average cost at $5,000 per month, with prices fluctuating by community from $2,000 per month up to $7,000 per month. These significant price variations can be attributed to the scope of services offered by the programs, their geographic locations and their reputability within the community.

Who Is It For? Patients experiencing Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss or dementia may benefit from placement within an embedded memory care community. Often, these facilities offer specialized programming – such as art and music therapy – in order to meet the unique needs of those suffering from memory issues.

How Do You Get Started? Memory care is often introduced as a “next step” in accordance with the progression of memory and thought disorders among patients in assisted living or nursing facilities; therefore, placement may be as simple as speaking to program management about the transition. Those seeking memory care for older adults who have been cared for at home can contact local and state agencies, their caregivers or caseworkers, or the directors of nearby assisted living or nursing home programs.

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Respite Care

Senior Housing Options Family Caregivers Speak Up


What Is It? An estimated 65 million Americans provide some level of care for aging or disabled loved ones. Respite care programs allow for short-term stays (typically, no longer than one month) at existing assisted living facilities to permit caregivers to travel or recharge, as well as to ease seniors requiring higher levels of support into residential communities.

What Does It Cost? Average costs range from $75 to $200 per day, though long-term care insurance policies may pick up some of the costs. Costs vary based on the length of the stay, the type of room supplied, the geographic location of the facility and the level of services provided.

Who Is It For? Respite care serves an important function for seniors who remain at home under the care of either family or professional caregivers by providing support in the event caregivers are taken away from their duties, due to vacations, business travel or the need for personal rest and relaxation. Caregiving is a demanding undertaking, and respite care can provide the temporary relief needed for caregivers to avoid the negative consequences associated with caregiver burnout.

How Do You Get Started? Respite care is typically offered at assisted living facilities, though independent programs may be operated by local elder care agencies or caregiving programs. Enrolling a resident in a temporary respite stay can be initiated by reaching out to the program’s  intake line for more information.

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In-Home Care

Senior Housing Options In Home Care

What Is It? Surprisingly, this senior housing option described here isn’t a residence-based alternative at all. Indeed, many seniors are able to remain in their homes with the support of qualified nursing staff who may assist with such activities as bathing, dressing, preparing meals, providing transportation assistance or offering emotional and social support. Some home care providers may also support elders in paying bills and making appointments, though these tasks are typically handled at the family’s discretion.

What Does It Cost? According to, the median cost of home care in 2013 was $20 per hour. Medicare may cover part of the cost of home care, but typically only if it’s provided in conjunction with nursing care or other skilled care, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech-language pathology services.

Who Is It For? Home care schedules may range from a few hours a week to 24-hour care, though most families that require such intensive care will likely find a residential program to be a more cost-effective alternative. Ideal candidates for home care include those seniors that are still able to live relatively independently, but need some level of assistance with activities of daily life (ADLs).

How Do You Get Started? You may be able to obtain referrals for home care through the senior’s doctor, through other families, through local community organizations dealing with elder issues, or through nursing homes in your area. As with any professional who would be working alone in a loved one’s home, be sure to carefully check references and background checks before hiring a home health care aid.

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Senior Housing Options Home Care Costs

Adult Day Services

What Is It? Essentially “daycare for adults,” these programs offer half-day or full-day activity programs outside of the home for senior citizens, which may be particularly beneficial in mitigating social isolation and in providing a much-needed break for full-time familial caregivers.

What Does It Cost? The average cost, according to Genworth, is $65 per day. Prices vary based on whether half-day or full-day programs are elected, the activities involved and the level of participant care required.

Who Is It For? Adult day service programs are typically intended for older adults who remain in their homes, but who enjoy the social aspect of joining together with others on a temporary basis. They can be equally as beneficial for family caregivers in providing needed respite without compromising the loved one’s care.

How Do You Get Started? Local or state elder care resources can refer you to adult day service programs, as can your doctor’s office and internet search engines. Vet adult day services as thoroughly as you would infant and child day care programs for your children. Pay particular attention to negative reviews or any state regulatory violations to ensure safe care for your loved one.

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Senior Housing Options Community Care Costs

Independent Senior Living Communities

What Is It? Independent senior living communities – also referred to as retirement communities, senior apartments and active senior living – resemble traditional apartments, townhomes or condo communities, with the simple restriction that all residents be above a certain age (typically either 55 or 62). Apart from the housing itself, amenities offer typically include meals prepared in a common dining room, periodic housekeeping, maintenance and repairs, utilities, and activities and entertainment.

What Does It Cost? Prices for independent senior living communities vary based on the type of property. Some are quite spartan, while others are luxurious in styling. The size of the unit being rented also impacts its price, though Genworth put the average cost of a one-bedroom senior apartment at $2,750 per month in 2014. Many such facilities rent for significantly less when fewer amenities are offered, and some subsidize rent based on the senior’s income.

Who Is It For? Independent senior living communities are best suited to older adults who are generally self-sufficient, but who prefer the companionship of living with others their own age. Active retirees and those who seek a simplified style of living where all cooking, cleaning and maintenance needs are handled are ideal candidates.

How Do You Get Started? Many independent senior living communities advertise through traditional means, such as newspaper ads, TV ads, radio ads, local magazine ads and billboards. You may also be able to locate programs in your area using the state-specific agency contact list at the end of this guide.

As with any major life decision, careful consideration and proper planning are of the utmost importance. Rather than acting rashly, take the time to gather recommendations and research existing options. If possible, carry out your planning well in advance of your loved one’s anticipated need for housing options in order to secure necessary waitlist placements and/or to prepare thoroughly for a smooth transition.

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Helpful Resources

As you prepare to transition an aging loved one into a senior housing program, you may find any or all of the following resources helpful:

Senior Living Resources:

Senior Services:

Caregiver Resources:

Financial Information:

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State-Specific Resource Listing

Compiled by the Assisted Living Foundation of America (ALFA), the following list of state level chapters and affiliates provide local sources of information regarding state-specific licenses, regulations and available programs:

Assisted Living Association of Alabama (ALAA)

President: Frank D. Holden


5921 Carmichael Rd

Montgomery, AL 36117-2518

Mailing Address:

PO Box 230968

Montgomery, AL 36123-0968

Phone: (334) 262-5523

FAX: (334) 262-4603


Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America (AZ-ALFA)

President: Karen Barno


2345 E. Thomas Road, Suite 290,

Phoenix, AZ 85016

Phone: (602) 322-0100

FAX: (602) 322-0118


Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association (ARALA)

Executive Director: Kent Schroeder


692 Honeysuckle Ln

Cabot, AR 72023-8276

Phone: (501) 941-2075

FAX: (501) 941-2075


California Assisted Living Association (CALA)

President: Sally Michael


455 Capitol Mall Ste 222

Sacramento, CA 95814-4439

Phone: (916) 448-1900

FAX: (916) 448-1659


LeadingAge Colorado

President & CEO: Laura Landwirth


303 E. 17th Avenue, Suite 880

Denver, CO 80203

Phone: (303) 837-8834

FAX: (303) 837-8836


Connecticut Assisted Living Association (CALA)

President: Christopher Carter


100 Halls Road

PO Box 483

Old Lyme, CT 06371

Phone: (860) 434 5760

FAX: (860) 434 5790


Florida ALFA

Contact: Gail G. Matillo


9445 Buck Haven Trail

Tallahassee, FL 32312

Phone: (850) 296-ALFA (2532)


GSLA-Georgia Senior Living Association

President/CEO: Genia Ryan, CAE


2023 Grayson Highway, Suite 202-A

Grayson, GA 30017-4139

Phone: (678) 407-2060

FAX: (678) 407-2002


LeadingAge Illinois

Interim President: Karen Messer, MS


1001 Warrenville Rd., Suite 150

Lisle, IL 60532

Phone: (630) 325-6170

FAX: (630) 325-0749


Indiana Assisted Living Association

Executive Director: Liz Carroll


5460 Bearberry Lane

Indianapolis, IN 46268

Mailing Address

P.O Box 68829

Indianapolis, IN 46268

Phone: (317) 733-2390

FAX: (317) 733-2385


Iowa Assisted Living Association

Executive Administrator: Shellie Petek


9001 Hickman Rd, Ste 220

Des Moines, IA 50322

Phone: (515) 278-8700

FAX: (317) 733-2385


Kentucky Assisted Living Facilities Association (KALFA)

Executive Director: Robert White


133 Evergreen Road, Suite 212

Louisville, KY 40243

Phone: (502) 225-5201

FAX: (502) 225-5206


Louisiana Assisted Living Association

Executive Director: Sharla Aloisio


PO Box 10258

New Iberia, LA 70562

Phone: (337)577-2024


LifeSpan Network (Maryland/DC)

President: Isabella Firth


10280 Old Columbia Rd Ste 220

Columbia, MD 21046-2382

Phone: (410) 381-1176

FAX: (410) 381-0240


Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association (MASS-ALFA)

President: Michael Banville


135 Beaver Street, Suite 202

Waltham, MA 02452

Phone: (781) 622-5999

FAX: (781) 622-5979


Michigan Assisted Living Association (MALA)

General Counsel: Kathleen Murphy, Esq


15441 Middlebelt Rd

Livonia, MI 48154-3805

Phone: (734) 525-0831

FAX: (734) 525-2453

Toll Free: (800) 482-0118


Aging Services of Minnesota

President/CEO: Gayle Kvenvold


2550 University Ave W Ste 350South

Saint Paul, MN 55114-1907

Phone: (800) 462-5368 or (651) 645-4545

FAX: (651) 645-0002


Missouri Assisted Living Association (MALA)

Executive Director: Keith Sappington


2407 B Hyde Park Road

Jefferson City, MO 65109

Phone: (573) 635-8750

FAX: (573) 634-7344


Montana Health Care Association (MHCA)

Executive Director: Rose Hughes


36 S Last Chance Gulch St Ste A

Helena, MT 59601-4126

Phone: (406) 443-2876

FAX: (406) 443-4614


New Hampshire Association of Residential Care Homes (NHARCH)

Executive Director: Walter Perry


53 Regional Dr., Suite 1

Concord, NH 03301-3520

Phone: (603) 228-1231

FAX: (603) 228-2118

Toll Free: (800) 544-0906


Health Care Association of New Jersey (HCANJ)

Director-Division of Assisted Living/Alternative Care: Kathy Fiery


4 Aaa Dr Ste 203

Hamilton, NJ 08691-1803

Phone: (609) 890-8700

FAX: (609) 584-1047


New York-ALFA

Directors: Nancy Hodes and Ginger Landy



284 State St

Albany, NY 12210-2194

Phone: (518) 465-8303

FAX: (518) 465-8320


North Carolina Assisted Living Association (NCALA)

Executive Director: Frances Messer


3392 Six Forks Rd

Raleigh, NC 27609

Phone: (919) 467-2486

FAX: (919) 467-5132


Ohio Assisted Living Association (OALA)

Executive Director: Jean Thompson


1335 Dublin Rd Ste 221B

Columbus, OH 43215-7013

Phone: (614) 481-1950

FAX: (614) 481-1954


Oklahoma Assisted Living Association (OKALA)

Executive Director: Melissa Holland


P.O. Box 18576

Oklahoma City, OK 73154

Phone: (405) 235-5000

FAX: (800) 375-6788


Oregon Health Care Association (OHCA)

Director of ALF/RCF & Quality: Linda Kirschbaum


11740 SW 68th Pkwy Ste 250

Portland, OR 97223

Phone: (503) 726-5260

FAX: (503) 726-5259


Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association (PALA)

Executive Director: Jeremy Adlon


105 North Front Street, Suite 106

Harrisburg, PA 17101

Phone: (717) 695-9734

Fax: (717) 695-9735


The Rhode Island Assisted Living Association (RIALA)

Executive Director: Kathleen Kelly, MA Gerontology


2224 Pawtucket Ave

East Providence, RI 02914-1716

Phone: (401) 435-8888

FAX: (401) 435-8881


South Carolina ALFA (SCALFA)

Executive Director: Nina Buckelew


PO Box 1763

Columbia, SC 29202

Phone: 803-252-1087


Assisted Living Association of South Dakota (ALASD)

Administrative Director: Lethia Marienau


PO Box 818

Yankton, SD 57078

Phone: (605) 679-4606

FAX: (605) 679-4605


Tennessee ALFA

Executive Director: Martha M. Gentry


611 Commerce Street, Suite 2702

Nashville, TN 37203

Phone: (615) 256-2376


Texas Assisted Living Association (TALA)

Executive Director: Gail Harmon


Physical Address:

4505 Spicewood Springs Rd., Suite 250

Austin, TX 78759

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 684642

Austin, Texas 78768

Phone: (512) 653-6604

FAX: (512) 342-2858


Utah Assisted Living Association (UALA)

Executive Director: Corey Fairholm


3042 Wilkins Peak Ct

South Jordan, UT 84095-8473

Phone: (801) 569-2240

FAX: (801) 569-2256


Virginia Assisted Living Association (VALA)

Executive Director: Judy Hackler


Mailing Address:

PO Box 71266,

Henrico, VA 23255

Physical Address:

1403 Pemberton Road, Suite 304,

Richmond, VA 23238

Phone: (804) 332-2111

Fax:(888) 611-8252


West Virginia Assisted Living Association Inc (WVALA)

Executive Director: Nancy Cartmill


1704 Central Ave

Barboursville, WV 25504-2116

Phone: (304) 736-9594

FAX: (304) 736-7040


Wisconsin Assisted Living Association (WALA)

Executive Director: Jim Murphy


Mailing address:

PO Box 7730,

Madison, WI 53707-7730

Physical address:

1414 MacArthur Rd,

Madison, WI 53717

Phone: (608) 288-0246

FAX: (608) 288-0734


Have another resource that you’d like to see included on this list? Leave a comment below so that all who are seeking information about senior housing options can benefit: