Learn about different housing options

Different housing options can help older adults meet their health, personal and social needs.

"Aging in place" means older adults stay in their home as they age. Often, aging in place involves making changes over time, such as:

  • Working with nurses, care managers, social workers, or physical or occupational therapists to manage health conditions and support independent living

  • Using assistive devices, or adding lighting, handrails, grab bars or ramps, or making other home modifications

  • Getting help from family, friends, community programs or paid in-home staff

Moving can help older adults age in a new place that's smaller, has more accessible living spaces, is closer to family or friends, offers more activities, or is in a community with better healthcare, transportation or other services.

Retirement, "active adult" or independent living communities can be single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums or apartment buildings designed for older residents. Many offer security, housekeeping, transportation and social activities, to make independent living easier and more enjoyable for healthier older adults.

Assisted living residences can range from shared homes to apartment-style buildings. They combine personal living spaces with meals, social activities, limited nursing care, and personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing and taking medications. Some states define different types of assisted living, based on the level of care offered.

Memory care offers a greater level of nursing care and supervision, along with living spaces and activities designed for people living with dementia or other memory problems, and staff trained to work with people with dementia. Memory care is often part of an assisted living residence.

Nursing homes include round-the-clock skilled nursing care and personal care, along with meals and social activities. Social workers, therapists and physicians also work with nursing home residents.

Continuing care retirement or life care communities combine independent living, assisted living and nursing home spaces in one location. They may be more expensive but allow older adults to avoid moving, if their health or needs change.

The costs of long-term residential care may be covered or reduced by:

  • Long-term care or life insurance, depending on policy

  • Medicaid, depending on state programs and eligibility rules

  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, a Medicare program in some areas

  • Veterans' benefits

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program and the websites BenefitsCheckup.Org and Benefits.Gov can provide information about national, state and local programs that help with housing.

Financial planners or state Medicaid offices can explain spousal impoverishment rules. These rules allow couples who are seeking Medicaid benefits for one person's housing to protect some assets for their spouse.