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Who Lives in Assisted Living?
What Types of Residents Live in Assisted Living Facilities?

People Living in Assisted Living

It's not just the curious consumers who want to know, "Who lives in assisted living," since senior housing grows in demand, the world-class associations, federal and state agencies want to know too. They spend hours and abundant resources digging through data, on-site housing visits, and phone research to better understand how senior living evolves.

Who are the residents?
Who are the residents?

To help you, the consumer, to better understand the demographic of assisted living facilities, The National Center for Assisted Living published an overview of in-depth studies conducted by top associations and agencies who research and survey senior housing in America.

Senior housing breaks records in growth due to aging senior citizens experiencing declines in personal and/or mental health. This is the time that assisted living care becomes a real option.

Residential care offers people with mild health problems a unique environment to live in, offering residents the comforts of home, as well as a social community to stay active in. It adds the comfort factor of receiving the medical supervision and minor medical care, along with basic daily living help, that residents need desperately want.

The typical assisted living resident is a senior citizen who suffered a mild decline in their overall health, usually due to an injury, an illness or simply because of aging. They may experience challenges performing daily functions such as bathing or dressing, or have mentally declined. The comfort of a community and the medical attention received helps residents thrive. Not all residents of these facilities are senior citizens.

Some assisted living residences serve young people with mental problems or impaired cognitive functions.

Who is the Typical Assisted Living Resident?

Widowed Elderly Women are the Most Common Residents

According to the Overview, published by The National Center for Assisted Living, here's what they found:

  1. Typical Resident - The typical resident is a woman about 87 years old who is mobile, but needs assistance with approximately two to three activities of daily living. She would have two to three of the Top 10 chronic conditions.
  2. Percentage Of All Residents By Age Groups: In 2010, 54 percent of assisted living residents are 85 years or older; 7 percent are 75-84 years old; 9 percent of residents are between 65 and 74 years; and 11 percent are younger than 65 years old.
  3. Gender - Seventy-four percent assisted living residents are female; 26 percent are male.
  4. The number of Residents - More than 735,000 people nationwide live in assisted living settings.
  5. Activities of Daily Living - Thirty-eight percent of residents received assistance with three of more needs. View more detailed stats about activities of daily living among assisted living residents.

That's the overview.

Deeper Dive into Demographics of Assisted Living

Assisted Living
Assisted Living

Let's dig deeper into a national survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by The Center for Disease Control in 2010 for details that address: Length of stay in assisted living, Where were they living before moving to an assisted living facility, and how did residents arrive to a facility.

Most residents living in residential care facilities, generally move there with the intent on living out their lives in the peaceful, yet social setting. However, because many offer short-term care. Some physicians use assisted living as an outpatient treatment post surgery. The patient might have need for help with normal activities of daily life, but only until they fully recover from a medical procedure. After recovery, these residents will return to their permanent place of residence.

When residents first moved into a facility, 11% admitted from a hospital, 9% from a rehabilitation facility, 10% from a nursing home, while 69% came from another place when entering into an assisted living facility.

When the resident first moved into this facility, was (he/she) directly admitted from a short-term stay at a: hospital, rehabilitation facility, nursing home?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (2%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

So, where were other residents living before moving an assisted living facility? 76% of the residents were living in an apartment, rented rooms, or family residences.

Where did (he/she) live prior to (his/her) (moving to this facility/stay at the (hospital/rehabilitation facility/nursing home))?
Responses of don't know (3%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

CDC found the average length of stay for residents assisted living stays are as follows: 35% of residents stay one year or more, 16% stay 3 years or more, 15% stay over 5 years, 14% stay 6 months or less, 9% stay more than 3 months, and 9% less than 3 months.

Length of Stay
Responses of don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Assisted living residents still manage their lives on their own except when they require assistance with daily activities of life and when their health begins to decline. Therefore, the assisted living care homes provide help with things such as: housekeeping, transportation, toileting, dressing, and cooking. Medical monitoring is available to help with medication management and other minor care they require.

In the CDC study, they found that kind of health residents, living in assisted living, experience the following: 5% are in excellent health, 16% are in very good health, 38% of the residents are in good health, 32% in fair health, and 10% are in poor health.

Overall, how is the resident's health?
Responses of don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

In-depth Description of an Assisted Living Resident

Does the resident still drive?
Responses of don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Currently, there are over one million people living under assisted living care. The typical resident is a senior widowed-woman.

Assisted living is mostly a private pay senior care option since Medicare does not pay for long-term options with custodial care such as assisted living. With that in mind, many assisted living residents pay for the service or have families who cover the expenses.

As the number of seniors increases, the number of assisted living residents has also been increasing. Although the level of care and type of facility varies greatly among residences, assisted living provides a much-needed senior care option that is not as hands-on as a skilled nursing facility.

The Center for Disease Control (2010 study of Residential Care Facilities) found 96% of all residents who first move into a facility can drive.

Does this facility have residents who speak limited or no English?
Responses of not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)
What percentage of facilities use the following methods to communicate with residents who speak limited or no English?
The data in this chart has been rounded and simplified.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

The CDC study found that 14% of the residents have limited English or no English at all.

When caring for the non-English speaking resident, 56% of the Caregivers speak the resident's native language.

29% of residents with limited English skills rely on family members to translate.

For the residents with little English-speaking skills, 64% communicate with the staff using non-verbal cueing, hand signs or gestures.

The Center for Disease Control (2010 study of Residential Care Facilities) found 70% of the residents are female.

Please tell me the resident's gender?

Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

In the CDC study, they found that 91% of all residents living in assisted living are White/Caucasian, Non-Hispanic, or Latino.

Race Ethnicity combined

Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Highest level of education achieved by 41% of the residents is college or some college or more.

What is the highest grade or level of education the resident completed?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (15%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

The marital status of residents are 13% currently married, 9% divorced, 1% legally separated, 63% widowed, and 14% never married.

Is the resident currently married, divorced, legally separated, widowed, or never married?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

This article used the following information and stats by: The National Center for Assisted Living Overview based on several studies conducted by world-class organizations like the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, American Seniors Housing Association, Assisted Living Federation of American, National Center for Assisted Living, and National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry and data from the 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities. The National Center for Health Statistics.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.