2021 Guide to Senior Housing and Care

Finding the right senior housing for a loved one can be overwhelming and frustrating, since your choices can be numerous. The first step is understanding what options are available and understanding what those options can provide. This guide will provide an overview of the many options available for both long- and short-term elder care.

Pro Tip: If you or a loved one is looking to live at home, then check out my guide to aging in place.

Traditional Senior Care Options

The forms of caregiving are as plentiful and unique as the people in need of care. Here is an overview of some of the most common forms of care and housing for seniors.

Four Things To Consider When Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance
Image by Can Stock Photo / obencem

In-Home Care

In-home care (also known as private caregiving) is a widely used option to help keep people in their own homes or with family when care needs arise.

In-home care is ideal for people with nonmedical (aka custodial) needs, such as dressing, cleaning, bathing, and cooking. These may seem like small tasks, but this type of care can go a long way toward preserving your loved one’s independence. Since in-home care does not require degrees or certifications, it’s generally an affordable option.

Home Health Care

Home health care is the skilled side of home services provided by Medicare. Home health includes services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology services, medical social work, wound care, IV or nutrition therapy, and injections that can be provided in the home with orders from a physician.

This type of care is ideal if your loved one needs medical attention in their own home. To learn more about home health care, check out How to Hire a Home Health Aide.

Adult Day Centers

Adult day centers (aka adult day services or adult day care) can be a welcome respite for families and spouses caring for a loved one. These facilities may provide meals, activities, transportation, and hands-on care for people who need assistance with the activities of daily living.

The name can come off as condescending, but it’s a great option if you can’t be around to assist your loved one during the day. To learn more, take a look at my guide to adult daycare.

Retirement Living

Independent-living or retirement-living communities are appropriate for people who can manage their health-care needs on their own or with assistance from family or private caregivers in an apartment-type setting. Independent living does not offer health-care services, but it may offer monthly meal plans, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation.

Assisted living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Brookdale Monument Valley Park entrance.
Assisted Living Facility / Photo courtesy of Brookdale

Assisted Living

Assisted-living communities provide a structured setting for people with a variety of care needs in an apartment-style setting. People residing in assisted-living communities range from independent seniors to people who need assistance with daily living activities.

To learn more, check out my guide to assisted living.

Adult Care Homes

Adult care homes (aka adult foster care or adult family homes) are located in residential areas in many cities in the United States. You may not even recognize an adult care home in your neighborhood if there isn’t signage.

Often less expensive than assisted-living communities, adult care homes offer tight-knit communities and appeal to people with certain health or wellness needs. Many care homes can cater specifically to the needs of people with dementia, for example.

Read my guide to adult care homes to learn more about this unique care environment.

Dementia Care

Dementia care, memory care, and Alzheimer’s care communities are licensed and designed specifically for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. These secure, specialized units offer services and structures specially designed to accommodate people with various types of dementia.

Nursing Homes

The history of nursing homes is long and troubled. Even the term “nursing home” is being phased out as these facilities are being redefined into one of two categories: skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities. Many facilities offer both types of care.

The best nursing facilities can offer a level of care unparalleled by other senior communities. Check out my guide to nursing homes to learn more.

FYI: COVID-19 dramatically impacted the world of eldercare. Check out my article on COVID-19 and nursing homes to learn about the potential lasting changes.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities, also known as CCRCs, offer a continuum of care within one community or campus. CCRCs offer the security of an “until the end of life” guarantee of housing, activities, and an increase in the level of care as members’ needs change. CCRCs contain independent-living options (apartments or single-level homes), assisted living, and skilled nursing facility services. Some also offer memory or dementia care.

6 Signs It May Be Time for Senior Housing

The decision to move into senior housing is a significant decision for both older adults and their caregivers. As your loved one begins to struggle with the tasks of daily living, it’s natural to start asking whether it’s time for senior housing.

One of the most challenging parts of the decision is bringing it up with your loved one. It’s understandable that most older adults don’t want to leave their homes, and approaching the subject gently is important. Let your loved one know about your concerns for their welfare and ask them about their daily experiences so you can discuss the best options together.

No one wants to wait for a crisis before making a decision, but knowing when to broach the subject can be difficult. Here are some signs it may be time to consider senior housing options.

1. Increasing Worries About Safety in the Home

Is your loved one more prone to falls? Perhaps they’ve had multiple ER trips or even hospital stays. Your loved one or another of their caregivers may have mentioned minor burns or slips, cooking-related accidents, or other small but worrying mishaps.

You may also be starting to worry about in-home challenges such as steep or winding stairs, high-sided tubs, uneven patios, or too many sharp edges and corners on the furniture. If it seems like home is becoming less of a safe place, it may be time to consider moving them to senior housing.

Senior Fall Prevention
Woman with walker

2. Advancing Memory Impairment

Forgetfulness can be dangerous for seniors. Someone suffering from impaired cognition could leave a stove or heater unattended, or let a bath or sink overflow.

Be wise to signs of memory impairment, such as forgetfulness, repeating the same information, seeming lost or confused, or getting disoriented and wandering out of the home. When you notice signs of memory impairment, it’s time to have a discussion with your loved one and others in their immediate circle. Don’t wait to have the conversation until it’s too late. These warning signs may tell you it’s time for senior housing.

3. Problems With Personal Care

Personal care can be difficult for seniors struggling with memory loss or physical problems such as dizziness, fatigue, or impaired mobility. Older adults may also be frightened of slipping on bathroom tiles or have difficulty negotiating the sides of a bathtub, so they avoid bathing.

Seniors who have a regular in-home personal-care assistant may need increased personal-care hours. If you notice signs of neglected hygiene, such as being unwashed or unkempt, it may be time to find out whether your loved one would be safer and more comfortable in a senior housing community.

4. Neglected Household and Finances

How are things in your loved one’s home? Signs of neglect around the house are a telltale sign that someone is struggling. You may notice overflowing trash cans, increasing dust or dirt around the home, mold, grime, or piles of dishes in the sink.

You may also notice a lot of general clutter, such as unfolded laundry or paperwork left unattended. Your loved one may also start neglecting their finances. You may see bill notices lying around or see unopened mail in piles or even in the mailbox.

Talk to your loved one about protecting them and their finances, and assess whether daily tasks are getting to be too much for them.

5. Increased Reliance On Loved Ones

Friends and family are generally happy to help a loved one in need, but if the need is steadily increasing it can be a sign that it’s time to consider senior housing. Seniors who live with a partner may start relying more heavily on their healthier spouse, which puts a lot of strain on that partner.

6. Becoming Isolated At Home

Staying social is important as you age. Having a community of friends and plenty of things to do can help older adults stay active and even ward off the depression and lack of motivation that comes with social isolation. Senior housing communities provide residents with opportunities to socialize and try new hobbies, which can be a real boon for seniors who are becoming too isolated living at home.

loneliness in senior housing
Staying social is important as you age

Floating the idea that it’s time for senior housing isn’t easy, but it’s a good idea to start the conversation with your loved one if you notice any of these signs. Sometimes a move to senior housing is the best way to keep your loved one safe and happy and increase the quality of their later years.

Senior Housing Alternatives

A person looking for senior housing has more options than ever before, and there’s no reason to think the growth will stop any time soon. Below are some reasons for the growth.

  • Simply put, the senior population is exploding. After all, the Baby Boomer generation got its name for a reason. Improved health care and a better understanding of diet and exercise are also contributing to the nation’s longevity.
  • It is already proving impossible for the elder-care housing industry to build (or convert) enough brick-and-mortar structures into senior housing, not to mention the practical problems of finding and training sufficient staff.
  • Today’s seniors are more of an economic force than ever before, which makes them of special interest to anyone involved in the elder-care industry — especially housing.


As numerous studies have shown, retirees contribute significantly more to a given community than they take away. Not only do they spend money, but they may also do volunteer work, making them attractive tenants.

To learn more about the less conventional forms of senior housing, take a look at my guide to senior housing alternatives.

Written By
Amie Clark

Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here


  1. I own an acre in the City of Chelsea, Michigan. It is adjacent to duplex zoning, residential and adjoins a senior care home. My husband and I are 86 and 76. We love being in our home. However, senior co-housing with other like-minded friends might be intriguing. Hubby won’t like the idea of new construction, but I find it quite exciting. How do I learn more?
  2. It’s interesting that you mentioned piles of dishes in the sink is a sign of somebody struggling because my grandma has been having a hard time doing them for a while. I’ve been coming over on the weekends to help her out with her chores. It might be time to get her some help.
  3. It’s helpful to consider that the house looking like it’s not getting maintained anymore suggests that they’re starting to struggle to live at home and might need some sort of additional care. My mother has definitely been lonely since my father passed away last year, but we’ve noticed the house is increasingly in disrepair when we visit. Maybe we should talk with her about considering other options to help make sure she’s taken care of.
    1. Hi Oscar, Yes, it can be lonely for your mom, especially now that your dad has passed away. Start by having a casual conversation with your mom and find out what her desires are. Chances are, if you’re beginning to think about her living situation, she’s already been thinking about it. Ask her what she wants to do. There are options out there. Everything from bringing in-home care (non-medical) into the home, can help someone who wants to stay in their home. The caregivers will perform light housekeeping duties, such as cooking, light housekeeping, companionship, driving your mom to and from appointments, shopping etc. There are also other living options such as independent living, assisted living etc… These can range in cost from $25.00 per hour (in home care) and perhaps around $3,000 per month or more for assisted living (large buildings or small 6 bed residential homes). If you need some ideas as to how to begin the conversation or to know your options, you can contact a senior living advisor in your area. I am a Senior Living Advisor in the Greater Los Angeles area, and am happy to help.
  4. Hello….I am a 71yo female, retired teacher…looking in San Fernando Valley (Chatsworth) Calif….I am looking for a small situation and I am independent and drive…something like small shares I have heard of…I was physically ill and now healthy but have lived in an assisted for almost 3 years…I am not sure where to look or turn. Thanks for any assistance.
    1. Hello Nancy, You might try speaking with a few Home Healthcare agencies to talk about your health and medical concerns first. Try to find a ” Geriatric Care Manager” this is their specialty. Also, talk with a few Certified Financial Planners if it’s appropriate so they can help determine when or if you don’t outlive your assets based on your desired lifestyle.
  5. Dude! Awesome stuff. Please keep writing more things like this. I really like the fact you went so in depth on this and really explored the topic as much as you did. I read a lot of blogs but usually, it’s pretty shallow content. Thanks for upping the game here!
  6. My father in law is 87 and lives at home alone. He is relatively healthy. Takes no mediations but he has had bladder cancer and went through chemo and radiation a year and a 1/2 ago. Since then he is tired alit, has no energy and has had a few times where he gets confused or dizzy. He doesn’t drive anymore and relies on 2 of his sons to help him with his needs. Grocerys cleaning etc… 1 son is only 30 mins away but has his own business and a family and doesn’t have time to help alit. The 2nd son lives 1 1/2 hrs away, he goes atleast once a week now but that will soon change when he goes back to work. The dad wants to stay in his own home and wants nothing to do with living anywhere else. 1 son even offered to put a mobile home for him on his property and dad said no. The main problem here is that he lives in the country far out of town and the closest town doesn’t have any assisted living housing or even home Healthcare or any type of assistance period. And because he’s in good health Medicare won’t even talk to us. So how do you talk to them about getting assistance but more so where do you turn for that assistance when the person lives out so far in the middle of nowhere? We’re so worried something will happen and no one will find him for days. We got him a medical alert system but getting him to wear it has become an issue too. What can we do?
  7. I wish there was a way to figure out which options are the most inexpensive. I’ve been researching this and talking to people about it for 15 years. I was living in a wheelchair in a storage shed for three years. Oh my goodness. It was so bizarre, I had been shot seven times by my ex-husband and I was in a resting home and the state shut that Resthome down and I guess didn’t give them enough time to put us somewhere else. I have an apartment now but every day I get more and more confused and behind. Im on permanent disability.
  8. We offer an extensive range of non-medical services that can be utilized on a short term or long term basis. We are flexible and have the ability to customize a plan of care to suit the consumer’s exact needs. We provide services to individuals who are seniors and disabled. Contact us if you’re looking in Detroit
  9. I am a Supervising Case Manager for a Single Mens Shelter. Some of my clients have mental health and some have medical issues, they are not able to live alone but are suitable to assisted living, they are not seniors (late 50’s) also most have SSI or SSD.
    1. How would I find a place like where you work in my area? I also have a son with mental health problems. Just needs assisted living. This article was good tho for understanding the diff. housing for my mother.
  10. I wanted to thank you for helping me learn about some different senior housing options. I didn’t know that Assisted Living Communities can help give a structured setting for the needs of a variety of people. This seems incredibly important especially if the care needs to be specialized based on a person’s condition.
  11. I would like to see The Senior List mention housing for seniors that are mostly healthy and do not need medical assistance but prefer neighbors of 55+ ages. Communities such as manufactured 55+ and intentional communities are what I have in mind.
  12. I never knew that there are some senior living areas that can have specific care for people with Alzheimer’s. My mother has been having some trouble remembering some small things around the house, and we are concerned that she won’t be able to live on her own. I will be sure to tell my wife that we should try and get my mom to an Alzheimer’s senior home.
    1. Check with a local Senior Housing Referral agency in you area. We know the in’s and out’s of all the senior living communities within our geographic local
    2. Hi Mr. Murphy, What area are you located in. I am a Senior Living Specialist and have been helping Senors downsize, or find a Retirement Community that fits their needs. Let me know if your in the Miami/Broward area, as I am always happy to help.
  13. One option I don’t see on this list is one that had to be in place long before a person needs help with Activities of Daily Living. It’s possible (some research beginning to happen) that having a home-mate, in other words not living alone, may prolong health. We do know that loneliness leads to all sorts of physical and emotional problems. And no one want to admit to being lonely – somehow that’s shameful. We are advocating for people to share housing. We are a 501(c)(3) working on promoting this idea. We also have a site aimed at individuals to teach them how to do this!
    1. @Annamarie, The concept of older adults sharing a home is on the rise. As a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, working with people mostly over the age of 65, I have come across people who want to do exactly that. The problem I have noticed is the homes are not built with their needs in mind, so they struggle to find the right home to share. There is a community out west that is building with this in mind but not hear in the south to my knowledge. I would love to know more about your 501(c)(3). And what is your website.
  14. Thanks for the wonderful article detailing the differences between senior housings. I’m very interested in the assisted living part. Since there they provide a structured setting for people with a variety of care needs in an apartment type setting. The needs of people who live in an Assisted Living Community range from independent to needing assistance with all Activities of Daily Living. It seems to be the perfect combination of a health care facility while being familiar with its apartment theme. I’ll try looking into one and see if my father would be happy there.
  15. I appreciate you helping me learn more about the senior housing options. It’s good to know that assisted living provides a structured setting for people with a variety of care needs. This is a highly considerable option for my parents.
  16. Thanks for the list of the great options for senior living. It seems like assisted living would be a good choice, since it’s like an apartment. My dad needs to be moved out of his home, but he still wants some independence.
  17. It’s nice to know that there are a lot of ways my mother could live. Personally, I’d love her to be “in-home care” or if needed “assisted living”. It’s ultimately her choice, but I would want my mom to be near her grandchildren. Thanks for the great article! I’ll be sure to read more into this.
  18. Thank you for explaining the different types of senior housing that are available. I especially appreciate your comments on the services available for assisted living. It is good to know that it is still apartment style housing. I feel this still provides a feel of independence, which I feel is very necessary for elderly parents. I will keep these in mind as I search for senior housing in my area!
  19. Thanks for your comment about how seniors could live in independent living communities if they can cover their own health care, or if they have help from family. I didn’t know that social activities were provided in these housing situations. My grandmother is a senior citizen, and we are considering senior independent living communities for her.
  20. That seems valuable that ACH’s are located in residential areas. You might be able to find a place relatively close to your residence. It’s really important to our family to share family time, and a place like that could work for us. We’ve been trying to take care of grandma, but it’s so hard between work and kids.
  21. I didn’t know that there are so many different options for senior living and care. It makes sense that there need to be different options, though, because not all seniors need the same amount of care. My mom is having a hard time living on her own with all of her heart issues and I think it could be time for her to move into a senior living community, just so she has the care and help that she needs.
  22. Can no longer live independently but am not ready for an expensive senior-care facility or assistant living? Buy out half of my manufactured home in beautiful and coastal Oceanside, Ca at a very low cost and receive me as your personal assistant. You will be independent and have fun. My mobile home park has a pool and jacuzzi and a beautiful lake to enjoy. You will have your own private bedroom and bath, laundry, cooking, and cleaning services and transportation. I am a public school teacher with a Master’s and have various government background clearances. I am also a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist. Email for more information. Lynn
    1. I want to relocate to California for its’ climate and other opportunities. I am a disabled former Scientist/Chemist who seeks entry into the Cannabis Industry. Tennessee is too far away from progress, and I am too old to wait! Please offer more information on this rental. Thanks.
    2. sounds like heaven to me…please give me more I am an artist , had a massage practice for 15 years,ex teacher elementary . am a healthy 86 senior. i d like to be near the coast . im in a senior apt now but am looking for something in a more interesting area.. thanks.Donna
  23. My mother is about at the age where it is harder for her to take care of herself. I think a retirement living center would be best for her because she can do most things on her own, but could use the assistance of her family from time to time as you mention. I’ll have to see what she thinks about moving into a facility in the next few years.
  24. That sounds valuable that senior living may offer some forms of transport. A person may still be able to care for themselves, but that could make things easier. My grandma wants to move to a community so that she can be around people her own age.

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