Assisted Living for Seniors

Find out what assisted living may have to offer -- and what to look for when evaluating it as a new home.

Assisted living (also called sheltered care or catered living) combines much of the homelike atmosphere of independent living with some of the personal care of a nursing facility. It provides extensive personal assistance and services to elders and seniors, plus round-the-clock monitoring, which are not offered by independent living residences and would be extremely expensive if arranged through home care. On the other hand, assisted living permits residents to maintain some of the privacy and independence that are lost in more institutional, and more expensive, nursing facilities. Assisted living is the fastest-growing type of senior residence -- meeting the needs of millions of seniors who cannot make it entirely on their own, but who do not need nursing care.

The residences referred to here as assisted living are sometimes also called sheltered care or catered living. Although each facility or residence differs somewhat in the type of housing and level of services and staffing provided, all of them, regardless of name, have certain things in common. They provide:

  • domestic services, including meals and housekeeping
  • assistance with personal care and the activities of daily living, but not nursing care, and
  • close monitoring to help ensure residents' health and safety.

Assisted living provides a room or small apartment -- usually rented -- to help maintain a homelike setting, plus a range of services to assist residents with those tasks of daily life that have become difficult because of the loss of some physical or mental capabilities.

Types of Living Spaces

There are several kinds and sizes of assisted living housing: full-size one-bedroom apartments; studio apartments with small kitchenettes; studios without a kitchen or with a partial kitchen that has no cooking facilities; single rooms; and shared rooms. An assisted living apartment or room may be furnished or unfurnished. Even if a space is furnished, some places permit residents to bring in some furnishings of their own, which can make a new place feel more like home.

Assisted living apartments and rooms tend to be smaller than living spaces intended for the general public. They are often fitted with safety devices such as handrails and special bathroom fixtures, and may include a hospital bed if needed. In addition to the small rooms and space-eating fixtures, people tend to bring more of their own furnishings than would otherwise fit easily into the space. As a result, many assisted living apartments feel crowded and even smaller than they are. It is often difficult for a new resident to adjust to the smaller, more cramped quarters.

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