What is Assisted Living?

A philosophy of service ... Assisted living is a philosophy of service that focuses on maximizing each resident's independence and dignity. This emphasizes flexibility, individualized supportive services and health care. Involvement of the community, as well as the residents' family, neighbors and friends is encouraged. The availability of staff to meet scheduled and unexpected care needs is a major aspect of assisted living care giving.

No Single National Definition of Assisted Living.
There is no single, nationally adopted definition. Additional perspective can be gained from the following definitions offered by (1) the two national assisted living associations, (2) the UNITED STATES Department of Health and Human Services.

National For-Profit Association Definition. (Assisted Living Federation of America) defines assisted living as a combining of housing, personalized supportive services and health care designed to meet the individual needs of persons who need help with the activities of daily living, but do not need the skilled medical care provided in a nursing home.

The Activities of Daily Living are generally considered to include eating, bathing, dressing, getting to and using the bathroom, getting in or out of bed or chair, and mobility.

National Not-for-profit Association Definition. (American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) defines assisted living as a program that provides and/or arranges for daily meals, personal and other supportive services, health care and 24-hour oversight to persons residing in a group residential facility who need assistance with the activities of daily living.

UNITED STATES Department of Health and Human Services Definition. DHHS defines assisted living as a residential setting that provides either routine general protective oversight or assistance with activities necessary for independent living to mentally or physically limited persons.

Age Range of Assisted Living Services.
Assisted living serves a broad range of elderly (70 to 90+ years of age) becoming, in effect, a bridge between active retirement living and, for some, care in a nursing facility.

Five Thousand Assisted Living Facilities.
A fully accurate count of assisted living facilities in the United States is unavailable. Best estimates are that they number about 5,000.

Variety of Assisted Living Settings.
Assisted living facilities may stand alone, be part of a continuing care retirement community, be attached to or within a nursing facility, be part of a housing complex or part of a hospital -- the combinations are almost limitless.

Assisted Living Resident Profile

Women 78%
Men 22%
Age of female residents 84
Age of male residents 82
With spouse in facility 3%
Number of ADLs Requiring Assistance 3

Age and assistance needs ... The typical assisted living facility resident is a woman in her 80s who needs assistance with an average of three activities of daily living.

Similarity to nursing facility ... The assisted living resident profile is not unlike the nursing facility resident profile which is also about 80% female, even fewer with spouses, but with heavier health care needs.

Increasing health care needs ... As the intensity of the health related services offered to their residents increases these will come to resemble the sophistication provided at the nursing facility level.

Another 20,000 Providers:
Those Who Bridge Independent Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) and the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs):

Types ... Providers in this category are known variously as residential care facilities, adult congregate living facilities, rest homes, homes for the aging, personal care homes, catered living facilities, retirement homes, homes for adults, adult foster care, board and care, domiciliary care homes, community residences and the like.

Numbers ... When all these types of independent living accommodations are counted, the total may reach as high as 20,000 or more such providers offering some combination of care.