Changing Structures

Assisted Living Gains Momentum In Senior Care Preferences

Senior citizens are pictured in a fitness class in an assisted living facility.

A third of senior citizens would choose an assisted living facility, especially one that provides transitional care, over a traditional nursing home. In recent years, elderly care has undergone a significant transformation as more seniors enter their golden years in better physical health than in previous generations.

According to A Place for Mom, about 818,000 Americans live in assisted living communities, while the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicate that 1.2 million Americans live in nursing homes.

But online search trends find fewer Americans seek around-the-clock nursing home care, as assisted living facilities become more popular retirement destinations. A Google Trends report from 2017 to 2023 indicates a growing interest in assisted living over traditional nursing homes.

The reasons behind this shift provide insight into the modern elderly care landscape. This change isn’t just a blip or temporary inclination, but appears to be driven by a confluence of economic, societal, and cultural factors.

The Economics of Elderly Care

The cost of elderly care is a concern shared by many families, and as the financial landscape shifts, so do the preferences for specific types of care. The rising expenses of nursing home stays made headlines in recent years, pushing families and those nearing retirement to consider other avenues.

Anshul Sharma, a healthcare professional experienced in long-term care, says, “The cost of nursing home care has been rising steadily in recent years. This is making assisted living a more affordable option for many families.”

Neither option is inexpensive. According to A Place for Mom, the median monthly cost of assisted living in the United States is $4,807 per month. The median monthly cost of nursing home care is about $7, 908 per month. These costs vary by state and the level of care.

While cost plays a significant role, the evolution of assisted living facilities has been a game-changer. They’re very different from early facilities. They’re no longer just a place for seniors to live, but also communities brimming with life, activity, and innovation.

Jennifer Silver, a dentist and owner of Macleod Trail Dental, explains the evolution. “Over the past few years, there’s been a push to innovate within the assisted living sector, making these facilities more resort-like with spas, art classes, and other recreational activities.”

This innovation within assisted living communities isn’t merely about adding luxury but about enhancing the quality of life for seniors, making the proposition far more attractive. For families, the choice becomes clearer; why not opt for a place where their loved ones can receive necessary care and also enjoy a fulfilling, vibrant lifestyle?

Societal Changes and Their Impact

Society’s structure has seen a drastic change over the years. Once tightly-knit and often cohabitating across multiple generations, the family unit has spread out. Modern family situations present unique challenges, particularly regarding elder care.

Silver says, “Modern family structures and dynamics are changing. With more dual-income households and geographically dispersed families, there might be a leaning towards assisted living, where seniors can get support and maintain independence.” The essence of this is the desire to provide the best for our aging family members while managing the complexities of modern life.

Additionally, the concept of “aging in place” has increasingly found favor among seniors and their families.

Peter Evering, Business Development Manager at Utopia Property Management, explains, “Aging in place has gained significant traction in recent years, as more older adults and families opt for allowing seniors to remain in their own homes while receiving necessary care.”

The idea is simple yet profound: the reassurance of one’s home, coupled with the necessary care, offers the perfect blend of comfort, familiarity, and support.

Media Influence on the Elderly Care Narrative

The media plays a formidable role in shaping perceptions, and the narrative around elderly care is no exception. During the pandemic, the media raised concerns around nursing homes and COVID-19, casting a shadow over the entire industry.

Craig Fukushima from The Fox Group, LLC notes, “During the pandemic, there was a substantial amount of negative press surrounding nursing homes and COVID’s effect on their patients. This likely led many people to seek assisted living communities instead of nursing homes.”

Further cementing this shift in perception are the local news outlets that often spotlight incidents in care facilities.

Silver says, “Incidents, either positive or negative, in local care facilities that gain media attention, can shape search trends.” With the rise of digital media and social platforms, news about these incidents circulates quickly, causing ripple effects across states and influencing care decisions.

Regional Variances in Elderly Care Choices

Geography also plays a significant role in the choices families make about elderly care. Factors such as climate, local culture, cost of living, and the availability of facilities can sway decisions.

Silver weighs in on this, and says, “The sheer number and concentration of one type of facility over another in a state can influence search behavior.”

Elderly Care Evolution

The transformation in elderly care preferences, as illustrated by search trends, demonstrates the interplay of economic, societal, and regional factors. From evolving family dynamics to the impact of media narratives, the choice between assisted living and nursing homes goes beyond just the care requirements. It reflects a broader societal shift in how we perceive aging and independence and how we increasingly believe that health is wealth in our golden years.

While the digital realm offers a glimpse into these preferences, the real stories are in the experiences of families navigating these choices, ensuring their loved ones receive the care, respect, and vibrant life they deserve.

This post was produced by Wealthtender and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


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