According to a 2012 report published by the Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging, the number of Americans age 65 and older totaled more than 42 million, accounting for nearly 13 percent of the total U.S. population. The Administration on Aging predicts that by 2030 there will be 72.1 million senior citizens living in the United States – more than twice the number in 2000.

For families considering elder care options for an elderly loved one, this is good news, as there are more elder care facilities than ever before. Still, the search for an appropriate elder care home or community may be quite exasperating, given the vast array of senior housing options available.

Senior Village Communities

The senior village community is a relatively new concept designed for active seniors who need very little care. This type of housing arrangement allows seniors to live among other active people their own age, thereby providing them with a sense of community and camaraderie.

Consisting of everything from patio homes to condominiums, senior community homes are designed for comfortable living, as they feature everything from wide doorways for wheelchairs and grab bars in the bathtub to call buttons in case of an emergency. The communities are also geared toward the active senior, as they often feature such amenities as transportation to nearby shopping centers and grocery stores, community activities and programs, and specialized services, such as home healthcare and cleaning services.

There are many senior communities that include everything from golf courses and private salons to clubhouses and swimming pools. Many serve as all-inclusive communities that allow residents to do virtually everything within the safety and comfort of a gated community.

Independent Living Communities

Independent living communities are similar to senior village communities, although generally less expensive and less inclusive. Independent living communities, also designed for seniors who need a minimal amount of assistance with activities of daily living (ADL), are specifically for seniors may be called retirement communities, retirement homes, senior apartments, or senior housing, among other names.

The goal of independent living communities is to provide amenities and services geared toward older adults. Independent living residences are ideal for seniors who may need minor assistance completing their activities of daily living and for those who enjoy socializing with their peers in a safe and secure environment.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities, also referred to as residential care, adult care homes, and alternative care facilities, are elder care homes for seniors who need daily help completing their ADLs. Like independent living residences, assisted living facilities offer specialized services, programs, and amenities; however, this type of elder care home has a full-time, on-site staff to assist seniors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These facilities generally feature group dining rooms, common areas for social activities, and private or semi-private rooms.

Assisted living facilities are therefore ideal for seniors who need a degree of personal care but do not require the around-the-clock care and supervision provided in a nursing home environment.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, provide the highest level of care for residents. Of course, nursing homes help seniors complete their ADLs, but the main function of these elder care homes is to provide a high level of medical care. Nursing home patients are cared for by a staff of nurses and nurses’ aides, and a licensed physician is assigned to oversee each resident’s care. There are usually a number of other medical professionals who work in nursing homes, as well, including occupational, physical, and speech therapists.

Nursing homes are therefore ideal for seniors who require a high level of medical and personal care, such as those recovering from recent surgeries or illnesses or those with chronic illnesses or declining health. Many nursing homes also provide hospice care and secure facilities for Alzheimer’s patients.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are the newest concept in elder care homes. CCRCs provide a continuum of care, meaning that they provide various levels of care as residents age. As such, these all-inclusive senior communities include independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care in one location, thereby allowing seniors to live in just one location, even as their needs change over time. This type of elder care facility is particularly beneficial for couples who want to remain together, even when their level of care differs.

Aging in Place

Aging in place is a term used for providing seniors with assistance and medical care while still enabling them to remain in their homes. For many seniors, remaining in their homes is crucial, as it is where they feel most comfortable, safe, and happy. Although aging in place is simply not appropriate or suitable in all situations, for some elderly individuals it is a smart option to consider when modifications can be made to the house and when care providers can be brought into the home.

Home modifications, such as wheelchair ramps and bathtub railings, may make aging in place safer for seniors, and outside care, such as adult day care, alternate transportation, or a senior companion, may help seniors safely accomplish their ADLs or provide them with opportunities for socialization and companionship.

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