The word “home” evokes specific memories for everyone and can often mean very different things to different people. However, most people associate “home” with a sense of comfort and wellbeing. However, home can often change or become more complicated as people age, especially when they find that living alone isn’t feasible anymore. Talking about assisted living or nursing homes can be a difficult conversation for families to have, but there can actually be many benefits for elderly who make a new home within these spaces. As America grays, the volume of people in assisted living or nursing homes will only increase, so it’s important to know what to look for and make plans now. Indeed, between 2007 and 2010, the number of beds in assisted living facilities had gone up almost 20% and that number only stands to grow. So what kind of care should you be looking into? What benefits do these facilities offer?

Assisted Living Versus Nursing Homes
In 2012, there were over 20,000 assisted living or other types of residential care communities in the United States. Most assisted living residents are elderly who are mobile but need help with between two or three daily living activities, such as perhaps getting dressed, bathing, or cooking. Over 50% of assisted living residents are 85 years old or older.

Nursing homes tend to feel more like a hospital than assisted living, which often feels like more of a home. The residents in assisted living tend to be more mobile and active. Though both facilities offer 24 hour care, nursing home residents tend to need that care more. Nursing homes also are guaranteed to provide skilled medical care whereas only about 40% of assisted living facilities offer some skilled care.

If your loved one is still fairly independent and healthy, but needs some help carrying out some tasks, assisted living is probably the way to go. If your loved one needs more extensive medical care and skilled caretakers, you’ll probably want to start looking at nursing homes.

What Are Some Benefits of Assisted Living?
Assisted living facilities offer housekeeping, caregiving, meals, activities, transportation, and help manage medication. They’re also flexible when it comes to needs changing and can provide increasing assistance with things like getting dressed or showering. With assisted living, your loved one doesn’t need to keep their home up, but still has the privacy and setting of a home. There’s also lots of time for socializing and spending time with those their own age. Assisted living facilities also offer scheduled activities that can help keep brain function sharp and provide a time for interaction. Assisted living also is usually much less expensive than a nursing home.

Why Being Social Matters in a Retirement Community
Whether your loved one enters a very independent retirement community, assisted living, or a nursing home, being socially engaged is one important thing that these places can provide. Many older people experience an onset of loneliness as they age, especially if they’re more sedentary. Indeed, a study showed that people who were physically active in their 70s and 80s experienced an onset of loneliness at a much lower rate (12.2%) compared to the onset of loneliness experienced by those who were more sedentary (22.6%).

This is further supported by data from 2015, which shows that the retirees who are the happiest partook in three to four activities on a regular basis. And, being socially engaged can also help slow down memory decline. According to a study in 2008, seniors who had high levels of social integration had memory decline at half the rate of their peers who were not socially integrated.

Maintaining a sense of home throughout your life is important and choosing a new home with your aging loved one should be a positive and thoughtful experience.