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Residential Facilities & Communities

If your elder is no longer able to access the care he or she needs at home, a variety of residential options are available.

Independent Living

Independent living is designated senior housing in which residents live in private homes or apartments and are almost entirely self-sufficient. Some elder-oriented community services and activities may be offered, but resident participation in them is voluntary.

Assisted Living

Assisted living falls somewhere between independent living and a nursing home. Assisted living facilities are for elders who need ongoing assistance with activities of daily living, but who can maintain a certain level of independence, as defined by the facility.

Board and Care Homes

Board and care homes are small group homes for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living, but who do not require ongoing skilled nursing care. A form of assisted living, board and care homes can be converted single-family houses with only two to six residents or they can be larger apartment buildings.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, also known as convalescent homes, provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care and personal care to seniors who can no longer live independently.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) combine independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes in one community, allowing residents to move between the three as their needs change.

Finding a Facility or Community for Your Elder

To find the right place for your elder, you can search the member directory of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. All of the members of this association are nonprofit elder service and housing providers, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) also has a free, online directory of residential options for elders, including independent living, assisted living and nursing home facilities. ALFA's Web site can help you determine which residential setting is best for your elder. It also provides assistance with financial planning.

In addition, the Medicare Web site provides useful tools for evaluating and searching for nursing homes.


If your elder or his or her spouse served in the U.S. military, you can call the Department of Veterans Affairs to find out whether he or she is eligible for care at a VA nursing home.

Ethnic, Religious and Sexual Orientation Communities

There are some residential options that cater to elders from specific ethnic, religious and sexual orientation communities.