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Senior housing options

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Independent Living

Seniors who are healthy and relatively active may choose to live independently, either in residential neighborhoods or in independent living communities.

Aging in place

Many seniors choose to live in their family homes as they grow older. Reasons to continue to live in a certain neighborhood may include a low cost of living or proximity to family and friends. Seniors may choose to move due to difficulty in getting around their home, inability to drive, safety, medical or monetary concerns.

In-Home Care

A senior citizen or their family can choose to hire a part or full-time health aid to help with medical care and everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning in their homes. For many seniors with some disposable income or whose care is covered by insurance, this option allows them to stay in an environment in which they are comfortable while receiving the care they require.

Independent Living Communities

Also called: retirement communities, congregate living, senior apartments

Independent living communities are apartments, housing or condo complexes designed specifically for seniors. They are built with open floor plans, elevators or single story homes, one or two bedrooms, and accessible kitchens and bathrooms. They offer opportunities for seniors to do activities together, such as taking classes, exercising, and going to events sponsored by the living community or the city in which the community is built. These communities are usually built nearby to shopping centers, churches, libraries, recreation areas, and restaurants, some of which may be within walking distance. Independent living communities also may offer seniors transportation to those local attractions, as well as to doctors appointments. They may have onsite laundromat, restaurant, and exercise facilities, and may offer assistance with yard maintenance and house cleaning. They do not, however, provide any assistance with activities of daily living or medical services. Independent living communities may be subsidized by the state for seniors with low incomes. Insurance plans will not cover the cost of living in an independent living community.

Shared Housing

Seniors can rent rooms or one part of a multi-family home, or share their own home with renters. This option allows seniors to save money, but may present access and maintenance problems as seniors age.

Assisted Living

Also called: residential care

Assisted living offers seniors the ability to live alone with some help with daily activities, such as preparing meals, cleaning, bathing, dressing and taking medications. Assisted living staff will work with each resident to develop a personalized plan of care. Many of the amenities of independent living can also be found in assisted living. In some states Medicaid will pay for part of the cost of assisted living care, but generally assisted living is not covered by insurance.

Skilled Nursing Care

Also called: nursing homes

For seniors with declining health, skilled nursing care offers around-the-clock medical care by RNs. Nurses also assist with activities of daily living. Stays at skilled nursing facilities may be long or short term, depending on the rehabilitation capacity of the individual. Nursing facilities are regulated by the state, unlike other senior housing options, which operate independently.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care

Some skilled nursing facilities provide specialized care for seniors with dementia or moderate-to-advanced Alzheimer’s. They provide secure living for individuals who have a tendency to wander and activities that promote memory and cognition. A subset of these facilities require that these seniors be free of other serious medical conditions and be ambulatory.

Continuing Care

Some retirement communities offer multiple options to seniors, so that they may start in independent or assisted living and for no change or a small change in cost move to skilled nursing care or dementia and Alzheimer’s care as their health status changes. This can reduce the stress of moving and can allow a couple with differing care needs to live nearby to each other. Monthly fees in addition to the entrance fee may be required.