Aging In Place vs. Assisted Living: A Guide for Seniors

Many adults prefer to age in place over assisted living, but there are pros and cons to each. Read on to learn how they compare and which is better for you.

Retirement + Aging in Place
March 13, 2023
Aging In Place vs. Assisted Living: A Guide for Seniors

How to Choose: Aging in Place vs Assisted Living

When we’re young, our fears are simple: snakes, spiders, and other “creepy-crawlies,” the elusive Bogeyman, and the dark. As we mature –– and familiarize ourselves with the real world –– our fears and anxieties begin to stem from our finances and relationships. For older adults, the fears take a turn for the existential: Does being cared for mean losing my independence? 

But like checking a dark closet and being reassured there’s nothing lurking there, easing these anxieties can be as simple as understanding the reality of your situation. Whether you’re considering assisted living vs aging in place for you or an older parent, exploring the pros and cons of these two options can quell any concerns you may have. Our team compared assisted living and aging in place to help you make the right decision for your future or the future of your loved one.  

What is Assisted Living? 

As the name might suggest, assisted living is designed for older adults who might not need the around-the-clock care that a nursing home can provide –– but can still benefit from an “assist” here and there. For some older adults, routine tasks like grocery shopping, cooking, and home maintenance can grow tiresome (and even dangerous). Assisted living facilities remove these tasks from residents’ lists of responsibilities. An assisted living community or facility allows residents to enjoy their own room or unit, similar to an apartment building, while offering a wide array of services as needed

Many assisted living facilities also offer recreational and social amenities, creating a more community-like atmosphere for residents. 

What Are the Benefits of Assisted Living?

There are numerous advantages to assisted living communities. Below are just a few of the many perks. 

1. Live How You Need 

One of the biggest benefits of assisted living facilities is how varied the experience can be. If you need the convenience of prepared meals and the community that assisted living facilities can provide, this option may be right for you. If you need help with personal and medical care, your assisted living experience can adjust to your needs. In other words: Residents can be as dependent or independent as they need to be. 

2. Get an “Assist” with Routine Tasks 

One of the primary goals of assisted living is to ensure aging adults are as independent as possible while still receiving the support they need. And while some residents need more extensive support, many assisted living residents find that the greatest benefit is the help they get with simple, daily activities and tasks. Laundry services, housekeeping, and on-site chefs can give aging adults hours of their day back — time which can be spent catching up with family, mingling with other residents, or staying active. 

3. Improved Nutrition

Studies have shown that older adults’ appetite and digestive systems change as they age, resulting in nutritional deficiencies which can have countless negative impacts on their overall health.1 By making quality, nutritious foods more accessible to aging adults, assisted living facilities can improve the health of residents. 

4. 24/7 Security 

For those with aging parents, the added security an assisted living facility provides may stand out as its greatest advantage –– as the risk of life-threatening accidents and emergencies is lowered by around-the-clock supervision. Given that slip-and-fall accidents can be detrimental to the health of aging adults, the peace of mind afforded by an assisted living community can be hard to replace. And knowing your parent is no longer vulnerable to an accident, emergency, or break-in as they might be if they lived independently can greatly influence this decision. 

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Understanding the Disadvantages of Assisted Living

While assisted living can be an ideal option for many aging adults, this path is not without its limitations. Here are some of the key downsides to assisted living: 

1. Adjusting Can Be Difficult

Simply put, older adults highly value their independence, and any perceived loss of control can be distressing. This can put strain not only on aging adults, but also on their relationships with their families. Even those residents comfortable forfeiting some of their independence in exchange for this professional and personal care environment may find the lack of privacy and familiarity equally challenging, inspiring a strong feeling of homesickness during what should be life’s “golden years.” 

2. Professional Care is Not Always Enough

For older adults without complex medical issues, the lower level of professional care offered at assisted living facilities can be enough. But for those with new or long-time complex health conditions, the care offered by assisted living facilities might not be sufficient. Further, many assisted living facilities simply don’t have the personnel on staff to provide personalized, attentive care –– and even residents not in need of regular care might find this service lacking. 

3. It’s Expensive

Perhaps the largest downside of assisted living is the price. According to information gathered in 2021, the national median cost of an assisted living facility topped $50,000 a year — or over $4,500 each month.2 Since assisted living is not covered by Medicaid, this out-of-pocket expense can be firmly out of budget for many. 

What is Aging in Place? 

An increasingly popular alternative to assisted living, aging in place is the decision to remain in your home or residence and bring any necessary care directly to you. Whether a home, an apartment, or a condo, this familiar residence can be a comfort to older adults, making aging in place the direct solution to many of the problems posed by an assisted living facility.  

What Are the Benefits of Aging in Place? 

There are a number of reasons why more and more older adults are choosing to age in place over assisted living options. Here are just a few benefits of aging in place to consider vs assisted living: 

1. It’s Cost-Effective 

For older homeowners, aging in place can be a cost-effective alternative to assisted living –– more than halving the annual costs at just $23,000 a year compared to $50,000 or more.3 This reduced cost creates added flexibility, allowing older adults to access the professional in-home care they need at a fraction of the total cost. 

2. Live Where You Love 

Besides the lower cost of aging in place, another benefit is that an older adult may not want to leave a home they’ve created. When you move into a house, condo, apartment, or any other domicile, you take the time to transform it into a home. Its four walls contain years (or decades) worth of cherished memories and stories; maybe children and grandchildren played in that room, or holidays were celebrated around that table. By opting to age in place, you can continue to live where you’ve built a life rather than starting fresh in an unfamiliar environment, growing old surrounded by the memories you helped make. Learn more about aging in place resources that allow you to do just that in a place you love. 

3. Stay Close to Family 

Relocating to an assisted living facility is a big decision, and should you decide to pursue this path it’s important to be sure that your chosen facility is right for your specific needs. In some cases, the best option for you might be miles from the friends, family, and neighbors who make up your community. Aging in place, on the other hand, allows you to remain at the center of your community –– engaging with friends, keeping up with family, and gathering your loved ones for holidays, birthdays, and catch-ups in your own space. 

The Cons of Aging at Home

As with assisted living, there are cons to consider when exploring aging in place. 

1. You’re More Vulnerable

Aging in place can offer older adults the freedom that comes without constant supervision, but this benefit can also pose a threat. Accidents happen regardless of your current condition, and living alone can put some distance between older adults and the help they need. At a certain point, aging at home may no longer be feasible without live-in care: a sacrifice many older adults may be willing to make if it means staying in a familiar setting. 

2. It Can Be Isolating 

Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store, a walk around the block, or taking a drive to visit a nearby friend, getting out of the house to socialize can be great for your mental health. But as we age and become less mobile, these regular social outings and daily activities become increasingly challenging — and the feeling of isolation that some who choose to age in place feel is very real. While relocating to an assisted living facility might not be ideal, some may find that the social benefits outweigh the reduced independence. 

3. Upkeep Can Be Challenging 

As we mentioned earlier, the increasing difficulty of routine household maintenance is one of the key reasons to consider assisted living –– and one of the most challenging elements of aging in place. Innocuous tasks like climbing a step stool to change a lightbulb can suddenly become dangerous, limited mobility can render high (and low) cabinets virtually inaccessible without the proper aging in place home modifications, and lawn maintenance may fall by the wayside entirely. 

Aging in Place vs Assisted Living: Which One is Right for You? 

There’s no easy answer in the aging in place vs assisted living debate, as this decision ultimately comes down to your individual and personal care needs. Those looking for a community may find one in an assisted living facility, while others may feel that their true community is the one centered around their home. The care found at an assisted living facility might be adequate for the needs of some, but older adults with chronic conditions might decide that live-in care at home is the way to go. 

At Truehold, we’ve done our best to support those who have made the decision to age in place, developing our sale-leaseback with these older adults in mind. Through our sale-leaseback, homeowners can tap into their home equity and apply it toward anything from accessibility modifications to top-notch care, all while they continue to live in the home they love. 

In exchange for rent, we’ll cover property taxes, insurance, and essential repairs, making aging in place as smooth as possible. What’s more: With the proceeds from the sale, you can adapt your home to your needs with the necessary modifications, ensuring your home is liveable and comfortable for as long as possible. You can also use your funds to cover the costs of home services like lawn care or a home health aid. Additionally, Truehold residents have exclusive access to the Truehold Care and Service team, along with geriatric care managers and occupational therapists on-call.       

No matter what path you choose for your future, we hope that we’ve helped ease some of the anxieties which may stem from this decision. For more resources to help you plan for tomorrow, or to learn more about Truehold’s Sale-Leaseback, download our Info Kit today.

Lisa Carson headshot
Written by
Lisa Carson
OTD, OTR/L, CMC, Director of Care at Truehold
Dr. Carson is the Care Director at Truehold. She brings together recent trends in aging research and direct feedback from the customers we serve to build products and services that help people live easier at home. She also leads the Truehold Care & Service team, which aims to advocate for residents and ensure that their experience living at home is safe and enjoyable. Her care management team provides residents with access to resources and information at any time.
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Truehold's blog is committed to delivering timely and pertinent insights in real estate and finance, purely for educational and informational purposes. Crafted by experts, our content is thoroughly reviewed to guarantee its accuracy and dependability. Although designed to enlighten and engage, our articles are not intended as financial advice and should not be the sole basis for financial decisions. Our stringent editorial practices ensure the integrity of our content, empowering our readers with valuable knowledge.

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