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What is Assisted Living?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Aging, by the year 2030, it is estimated that there will be 72.1 million Americans over age 65. As seniors live longer and enjoy better health and more active lifestyles, they have come to expect customizable care options and are much more discerning when it comes to their living arrangements. As opposed to being confined to a nursing home just because they need some assistance with the activities of daily living, many seniors are choosing to live in residences that combine necessary care with independent living.

Assisted living is the term for residences that provide seniors with assistance, while allowing them to maintain as much privacy and independence as possible. Some of the other terms that are used to describe assisted living residences include “community-based retirement facility (CBRF)” and “service-enriched housing.” By any name, these residences provide progressive care and assistance with daily tasks so as to make life more manageable and fun for senior citizens.

The Evolution of Assisted Living

The pioneers of assisted living drew from the same models of care that revolutionized the senior care industry in the late 1980s.  Called Personal-Centered Care, this new model emphasizes improving the quality of life and the quality of care available to seniors to better support a sense of personal engagement within a community centered home environment. This changed the focus of care to the individual, and the results have been an increase in the quality of life for those in assisted living.

There are a large variety of residences that offer the assisted living option.  As described by the National Center for Assisted Living, a federal study conducted in 2010 found that there were 31,100 assisted living residences available to choose from in the United States.The study also found that 733,400 individuals were living in these residences.

Some of these residences are large complexes with hundreds of residents in private apartments, while others are more like family homes with several bedrooms. 

Today’s Assisted Living Residences

As befits the current generation of seniors, who are living longer than ever before, today’s assisted living residences are geared towards active seniors who wish to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

Today’s assisted living residences are proactive in providing progressive health care to residents as their needs change. With prevention in mind, wellness and exercise programs serve to keep residents healthy and vital. Able-bodied residents are free to be out and about, going to events or walking the grounds or surrounding neighborhood, while those with more debilitating mental or physical conditions are provided safe escort on group outings.

Residents in assisted living generally have their own space with a great deal of privacy.  In many cases, they are encouraged to bring their own furniture and belongings, so as to enjoy the comforts of home without the hassle of keeping up a house and yard.

In contrast to the isolation seniors can experience when left in their own homes, assisted living offers a variety of activities to stimulate physical and cognitive function. Being around other seniors can lessen depression, which is known to cause significant cognitive declines.

With so many places to choose from, there are a number of factors to consider when making the decision to transition a loved one into an assisted living residence. This guide examines how these residences are designed to provide care for senior residents.

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