Options for Meeting the Housing Needs of Seniors

Few of us enjoy moving. Even if we are excited about buying our first home, or moving to a new town for a dream job, the process of searching for the right house or apartment, packing, and leaving a familiar environment can be a stressful time. For older adults, considering a move might also include other stressors, such as fear of losing independence and sadness over leaving the neighborhood where they raised their children.

Full Life Care's adult day program fosters well-being and independence, and provides a break for family caregivers.

Whether you are a senior looking to downsize, or a family looking for assistance in taking care of a beloved parent or grandparent, a variety of options exist. This article will outline some of the main options to meet a variety of housing needs for seniors.

Aging in Place

For many, remaining independent, in one's current home, is the preferred choice. A variety of services exist to help people remain in their homes, by bringing in outside support, or through external social and health programs.

Home Care Agencies are regulated by the state of Washington, and can provide aides to assist with meal preparation, personal care (bathing or dressing) and housekeeping. Depending on income level, some of these services may be paid for by Medicaid. Click for a map of services by county.

Residents enjoy the common areas, media center, and fitness center at SHAG's Courtland Place in Seattle's Rainier Valley.

Home Health Care is an option for individuals who need services such as wound care or injections. Individuals can work through a Home Health Care Agency, or hire an individual provider. For more information on how to find a provider, click here.

Adult Day Care is a program that provides social and educational opportunities for seniors in a community setting, as well as some therapeutic activities and personal care.

Adult Day Health is a program, also in the community, for seniors who require skilled nursing care or licensed rehabilitative care. Here's a link to find a program in your community. These programs are available to both Medicaid and private-pay individuals.

Senior Housing is an option for individuals who want to continue living independently, but would prefer to downsize, and have the option for being involved with a community of other seniors. There are apartments available at market rate, and at reduced rates for those with qualified income levels.

Courtland Place offers some amenities you might not expect, including rooftop pea-patch planters and a miniature golf course.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds several rental assistance programs for seniors who qualify. These programs include public housing, or low-income housing which is owned and operated by a local housing authority. Individuals need to work with their local housing authority to apply.

Another option for those who are income-qualified is privately owned subsidized housing developed through tax subsidy programs managed by the federal government. The owners pass along the subsidy to qualified residents to cover the gap between the resident payment, generally 30 percent of adjusted income, and rent costs. Click here to search for apartments in your community.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

For people who want the option to access health care and skilled nursing services, even if it's not needed immediately, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) might be a good fit.

SHAG's Gowe Court is a pet-friendly senior community with beautiful gardens in Kent.

CCRCs offer a few types of services, all in one location, which gives individuals the chance to stay in one place if need for care increases. An individual or a couple can move into an independent living apartment, and then, if necessary, move into assisted living or skilled nursing rooms, all on the same campus. CCRCs also offer a range of services including nursing and other health services, meals, housekeeping, transportation, emergency help, and personal care. Most campuses offer a variety of social and educational activities for members, as well.

CCRCs are different from other types of senior housing options because they may offer a contract that says the CCRC will provide housing and services for life. Most CCRCs require a one-time entrance fee, possibly refundable, and then monthly payments thereafter. These fees vary by community, depending on the type of housing and services they offer. Other CCRCs operate on a rental basis, without an entrance fee.

Adult Family Homes

Adult Family Homes are homes in neighborhoods with staff to provide meals, laundry, and varying levels of care. Some homes specialize in mental health or dementia care, and most will provide occasional nursing care. The home can have two to six residents and is licensed by the state.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities may be a good choice for people who need some daily help, but not constant nursing care. These communities provide help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, getting dressed, taking medicine, cooking, shopping, housekeeping, laundry and getting around.

Emerald Heights, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Redmond, includes 290 retirement, 56 assisted living and 61 nursing units.

All of these services are provided in a setting that gives the individual the chance to stay active and lead an independent life. Assisted living communities may be part of a CCRC or aligned with a nursing home, or they may stand alone.

The Department of Social and Human Services has created this brochure, which can provide additional guidance on how to choose an Assisted Living community or Adult Family Home.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes offer round-the-clock care for individuals who are too sick to live alone, and also provide short term care for people who need to recover after an illness or operation. Nursing homes are licensed by the state to provide nursing care, personal care and medical services. They also offer different kinds of therapies to help a person recover after an illness or surgery. Nursing homes provide meals, laundry service, and housekeeping, along with a variety of social and educational activities for residents.

Contributor Sarah Miller directs Senior Living & Community Services at LeadingAge Washington, an association of not-for-profit and mission-focused senior living and care providers that promotes innovation, quality, and social responsibility in aging services.