Proactively planning where to live in your later years can make entering your new life stage a positive experience. And when doing so, you may consider different types of facilities and assisted living services over time rather than an all-or-nothing approach. 

Two of the most common options for seniors as they begin to feel the physical and mental effects of aging are assisted living and aging in place. 

Deciding on what’s right for your current needs (or the needs of your loved ones) requires understanding the possibilities, costs, and benefits for each. 

Understanding the Options for Senior Living

Senior living isn’t an either-or scenario; there are various levels to balance independence and necessary care. These include: 

  • Senior apartments and homes with alert systems and limited aid
  • Continuing care retirement communities with multiple, progressive levels of care

Facilities that provide full-time senior care include: 

  • Short-term respite care facilities
  • Skilled nursing homes with shared or private suites
  • Memory care facilities

What Is Aging in Place?

Rather than moving in with a family member or into a senior living community or nursing home, aging in place refers to the intentional process of planning some or all of the late-life stages without the individual or couple moving from their current home. This often includes: 

  • Home renovations for safety and accessibility
  • Help around the house with chores and upkeep
  • Part-time In-home care aid as needed

What Is Assisted Living?

There are many tiers and stages, but assisted living typically refers to housing that incorporates limited on-site healthcare and round-the-clock emergency assistance. It works best for those who need help with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs) but do not need daily medical care. 

At What Age Do Most People Enter Assisted Living?

Most people who move to an assisted living community do so between the ages of 75 and 84.1 However, age is less a determining factor than the need for help with daily tasks and a preference for the level of monitoring or on-demand help available from the facility.

Pros and Cons of Aging in Place

Nearly 80% of adults aged 50 and up prefer to stay in their homes as they age—but it’s not right for everyone.2 Consider both the upsides and downsides of the situation: 

Pros of Aging in Place

Let’s start with the benefits. Aging in place allows for: 

  • Familiar environment which can support cognitive function
  • Comforts of home created and furnished exactly how you prefer
  • Greater privacy and independence
  • Ongoing proximity to local family and friends and familiar shops and restaurants

Cons of Aging in Place

While pros and cons typically have to take into account individual preference, here are some common negatives associated with aging in place:

  • Socializing, learning new things, and community participation is entirely self-driven
  • Greater potential for isolation
  • Need to renovate and retrofit a home to be safe and accessible
  • Managing home upkeep and chores
  • The possibility for health needs and changes to go unnoticed

Pros and Cons of Assisted Living

Assisted living is a frequent choice to increase safety and reduce security risks of seniors living at home. Keep in mind: 

Pros of Assisted Living

The benefits of assisted living may apply to the individual, their family members, or both. These include: 

  • Access to help for falls and emergency medical needs 
  • Basic monitoring of health to identify significant downturns
  • Access to central services for laundry, housekeeping, and meals in some facilities
  • Groundskeeping and building repairs and maintenance are covered

Cons of Assisted Living

For many, even the phrase “assisted living” conjures an unhappy destination. Arguments against moving into assisted living communities include: 

  • Less privacy and independence
  • Lack of control over the selection of health aides that provide intimate assistance
  • Limits on visitation times
  • Lack of personalized and familiar home environment

Factors to Consider When Making a Decision

When evaluating aging in place vs assisted living, understand that change can occur in stages rather than all at once, access to product delivery and in-home services has never been higher, and needs change over time.

As you research your options, consider and compare these key factors: 

  • Ability to complete ADLs or daily tasks independently
  • Physical and mental health outlook
  • Cost
  • Location and how it affects family and social connections
  • Access to social events and community
  • The quality of home care and support services

Key Takeaways:

  • Aging in place and assisted living are two common options for seniors, each with its own pros and cons.
  • Aging in place offers familiarity, comfort, privacy, and independence but may require renovations and increased self-driven socializing.
  • Assisted living provides help with daily tasks, basic health monitoring, and on-site services, but may result in less privacy and a less personalized environment.
  • Factors to consider when deciding between aging in place and assisted living include ability to complete ADLs, health outlook, cost, location, social connections, and quality of support services.

Sources: 

  1. American Seniors Housing Association. Life in a Senior Living Community. https://www.whereyoulivematters.org/life-senior-living-community/
  2. AARP. ​Despite Pandemic, Percentage of Older Adults Who Want to Age in Place Stays Steady. https://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/info-2021/home-and-community-preferences-survey.html