Senior Housing Alternatives: Assisted Living is no longer the only option

These days, a person looking for senior housing – whether for independent, assisted living, adult care home or a long term nursing facility – has more options than ever before, and there’s no reason to think that the growth will stop any time soon. Among the reasons for this growth are the following:

  • Simply put, the senior population is exploding. After all, the Baby Boomer generation got its name for a reason. It’s also true that improved healthcare and a better understanding of diet and exercise are contributing to the nation's longevity.
  • It is already proving impossible for the eldercare housing industry to construct (or convert) enough brick and mortar structures into senior housing. That's not to mention the practical problems in finding and training sufficient staff.
  • Today’s seniors are also becoming more of an economic force than ever before. This makes them of special interest to anyone involved in any branch of the eldercare 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.
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A growing demand for alternative senior housing

Few seniors have ever been thrilled at the idea of moving into anything that could be described as a “facility.” “Aging in place,” i.e. continuing to live in the home of one’s own choosing, has generally been seen as the ideal. Now that retirees have the sheer numbers and the money, they have gained leverage and are beginning to wield it.

The 2018 Alternative Senior Housing Roundup

Innovative Alternative Housing for Retirees


According to, this approach to independent living is “an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space.” Each of the community members is financially independent, but they share responsibility for running the neighborhood, and are all engaged in decision-making.

There is often a common space – a separate house or apartment that includes a kitchen, laundry facilities, dining room and more – where the residents could meet to share meals or discuss community issues. Sociability and shared community responsibilities characterize this arrangement, and it frequently has a strong ecological (eco-housing) ethos.

Green Housing

The term, coined by age care specialist Bill Thomas some 16 years ago, refers to a new model of nursing home or memory care unit that is anything but a warehouse. Instead, each Green House allows only a few residents, who share a home-like atmosphere, hindered by as few restrictions as practicable.

As a result, the residents get the personal attention they each need while reducing the stress for their healthcare providers. Ultimately, a happier and healthier atmosphere is generated, and all feel respected. For more information, click here.

Leisure (or Lifestyle) Oriented Retirement Communities (LORC)

This type of senior housing has existed for several decades and may overlap with the category of Niche Senior Retirement Communities listed below.

Related: Senior Care Terms and Definitions


These communities are a form of homelike residential/assisted living care. As the name suggests, these are small communities that are suitable for those who wish to avoid a larger, more crowded assisted living facility. This would also be an appropriate choice for a resident whose personality or medical condition requires special attention.

Multi-gen Housing

This type of living situation involves a minimum of three generations of family members all living under the same roof or on the same property. As of 2012, 18.1% of Americans, approximately 57 million people, were sharing a home with family and those numbers seem to be on the rise. Historically, this style of housing is achieved when

(a) the living space in the main house that is augmented by adding on or converting existing space,

(b) an “in-law” apartment added over the garage, or

(c) a separate tiny home has been built on the property.

The current demand for more multi-gen housing, though, has inspired innovations by businesses like NextGen by Lennar and the Toll Brothers. Other related terms to search for in your community are: Adult Accessory Units, Accessory Dwelling Units, Accessory Units, In-law Units, Multi-gen Dwelling, Rolled-out Casitas, and Tiny Houses.

Niche Senior Retirement Communities

This type of senior housing consists of a niche community composed of seniors, or sometimes a broader age range. The members occupy separate or attached homes, or even an apartment building. The binding factor is a shared interest or trait. It could be birdwatching or carpentry, music or cooking, sexual orientation or shared religion, golfing or bridge – you name it and it may already exist or is simply waiting for someone to initiate it.

The amount of assistance available for seniors will vary from one community to another, though generally, once one loses one’s mobility or develops a serious condition, that person will need to move to a place that offers the appropriate medical care.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC)

Dr. Michael Hunt of the University of Wisconsin-Madison coined the term NORC in 1984. To qualify, a community must contain at least 40% of residents who are 60+ years of age. All of them must still live in their own homes, and not require home nursing treatment. At the very best, this type of senior housing breeds camaraderie, activity, and positive social interaction that benefits all.

Tiny Houses

See Multi-gen Housing.

University Based Retirement Communities (UBRC)

More college and university campuses are creating and offering housing for seniors, ranging from independent to assisted living. This is often an attempt to shore up income due to inconsistent enrollment and budgeting cuts.

Depending on the campus, seniors might have separate housing or share an apartment building with college students. Enticements include free or discounted classes, access to first-rate medical care, and a vibrant, stimulating atmosphere.

Village Movement

This type of senior housing is another means of achieving aging in place for retirees, while also positively impacting their neighbors. Neighbors form a village when they agree to take on the responsibility of assessing, coordinating and ultimately delivering the necessary services to each member of the village.

These include medical, home repair, grocery shopping, pet walking, and so on. A board of directors, chosen from the village, manage the non-profit organization. Each member pays membership fees. These are based on how many services that person is using, and go back into running the village.

Villages make it possible for a senior to remain in their own home. Furthermore, this approach relies heavily on volunteerism and seems to engender a sense of community, drawing all involved closer. There are reportedly more than 200 villages in the United States today. However, it is still too new a model to pronounce a success. For more information, visit

Despite having the support of one’s community, older adults may eventually have no choice but to leave their home. However, the inclusions of Green Housing and Micro-communities above proves that it’s not only Independent Living and Assisted Living that continue to evolve in the senior housing sector. And, if a kinder and deeper understanding between the generations should emerge along with these new communities, then so much the better.


  1. Your options did not help me at all. I need LOW income housing. I do not even get the amount per month that your low income charge
  2. I see a lot of articles about senior co-housing but I have yet to find a place. I am more interested in coliving. I have been through the FIC directory and have found nothing for seniors. Where can I find such a place?
  3. The “village” organization in my area charges a whopping $1,000 a year for membership, for services occasionally provided by volunteers at their convenience. It is largely useless.
  4. It’s great if some older people can keep their independence. My grandmother lived on her own all her 93 years except for her last few months. And my Dad is 89 and still lives in the house I grew up in.

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