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Amenities that seniors want in assisted living

Preferences of Lifestyle

Preferred Amenities at assisted living seep into resident's rooms; adults want comfort, sensations of security, safety, and feelings of control. Amenities like controlled temperature, remote control for the TV, easy-to-use telephone or cell, and ease in getting around effortlessly. Above all, the 55 plus want competence in the environment. Residents in assisted living spend substantial time in the apartment or private space.

Features of Preferred Amenities of the Environment

Amenities in resident rooms
The data in this chart has been rounded and simplified.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Remote Controls

Remote controls for the air conditioning and heating system allow the residents to control the temperature.

Large remote control for the television gives visual ease-of-use controlling over complicated designs with small buttons and labels. Keep them simple. The best remote controls are simple, with large well-labeled buttons, yet are not so heavy that frail elders have trouble holding them.

Because the adults 65+ enjoy watching television, 95% of the residential care facilities offer cable TV access in resident rooms and apartments.

Internet Access

Internet access in assisted living
Internet access in assisted living

Internet connection fosters family communications. For the first time, half of adults ages 65 and older are online. A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the Internet or email. The study claims that adults (65+) are less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.

In the 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, 50% of residential care facilities offer Internet access and connection in resident's rooms and apartments.

One in three seniors use social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Read the full report.

Social networking sites usage among seniors has grown. Facilities recognize that residents want to connect with friends and family via email, Facebook, and another social site. In the Pew Internet and American Project, they found social networking use among internet users ages 65 and older grew 150%, from 13% in 2009 to 33% in 2011.

As of February 2012, one-third (34%) of internet users ages 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day.

The Pew Project found that email usage was the center of online communications for people over the age of 65. As of August 2011, 86% of internet users ages 65 and older use email, with 48% doing so on a typical day. Among all adult internet users, 91% use email, with 59% doing so on a typical day.

Once online, the Internet becomes a regular part of residents' lives. 70% of people 65+ use the internet on a typical day, and 82% of all adult internet users (18+) go online on an average day.

The CDC study confirmed that 60% of residential care facilities have public internet access elsewhere in the facility, if not in individual rooms and apartments.

Landline Telephones

Telephone connections

Easy-to-use landline telephones and cells are best sellers because they are least complicated. They have large buttons, a loud ringer, and speaker and holds up if dropped.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the number of U.S. households rely on cellular devices for phone service rather than landlines. The number jumped to more than 35 percent by the first half of 2012 from about 20 percent in 2008.

The 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities, they found 70% of residential care facilities offer landlines in resident's rooms and apartments.

Cell Phones

Seniors are buying cell phones but not necessarily replacing their landline. Seven in ten seniors own a cell phone, up from 57% two years ago. (Pew Project) 69% of adults ages 65 and older report that they have a mobile phone, up from 57% in May 2010.

Cells are growing in sales for people 76 and older, 56% report owning a cell phone of some kind, up from 47% of this generation in 2010. Despite these increases, however, older adults are less likely than other age groups to own these devices.

The 2010 CDC study found that 65% of residents have a landline telephone or cellular telephone in his/her room.

Does the resident have a landline telephone or cellular telephone in (his/her) room?
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)

Flexible living spaces foster a sense of community and companionship. In a Long Term Care article, Margaret Wylde, Ph.D. of Promatura (a consultant to 55+ housing and living), says, "It's not activities. You need to create a space in a community that makes it easy for people to come together and sit down and talk and just be together in a cafe and a bar. That's what people need instead of a big auditorium for the local banjo player to come in and perform yet another medley."

Easy movement and direction finding to negotiate walking in their space from one location to another; the more they do for themselves, the more control they have and the better they feel.

What else do residents want?

Vital living spaces for seniors

In the Sheehan, Editor of Long Term Life Magazine, and Wylde interview (mentioned above), Margaret Wylde, Ph.D. of Promatura, says, "They want comfort. And what gives you comfort; a sense of safety and security, a sense of control. The architect's design should foster independence. Things that make it more livable and comfortable like adding attractive grab bars instead of those ugly guns you see in bathrooms today. And we want plenty of windows for lots of natural lighting."

Sheehan: "Any other trends?"

Wylde: "Customization and immediacy are important. I can order something online today, and it will be in my office tomorrow. That will drive expectations more and more. Also, creating spaces that are flexible - to take on a new form and function without having to make major renovations. It's fostering a sense of community, of being with friends, not activities."

Please tell us, what kind of amenities and services are important to you and want to see in a residential care facility? What would you miss most of all if you moved from the home into an assisted living community today?

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.