The Origins of Assisted Living

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 09 May 2011

Assisted living emerged in the 1990s as a new level of care that fell between the extremes of independent senior housing, primarily designed/intended for active, self-sufficient seniors who are generally in good health, and skilled nursing care in a nursing home, a setting created for individuals with more complex medical needs who typically require round-the-clock supervision and services.

As many approached an age where the need for assistance increased, but not to the point of needing 24-hour care, assisted living filled the gap. Some seniors were beginning to find that living alone (and in some cases, isolated within their community) was not desirable, but being in fairly good health, a move to a nursing home was not practical. However, keeping up with household maintenance and scheduling/attending regular doctor’s appointments can get overwhelming, especially for those who may have just lost a spouse, or for those whose arthritis (or other chronic health conditions) makes accomplishing these daily tasks much more challenging.

Assisted living is most often licensed by state government, with each state defining and enforcing regulations differently. Consequently, no national definition of assisted living exists.

Regardless of the great variation among the states in terms of service provision and delivery, assisted living communities usually operate under a philosophy that promotes independence for as long as possible, and seeks to maintain the dignity of residents by providing assistance where and when needed (i.e. meals, transportation, activities, laundry services, medication reminders/help with medication administration, assistance with bathing, dressing, etc.).

- Michelle Seitzer


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