Assisted Living: History of Senior Living

Long before the emergence of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, families have been taking care of loved ones regardless of cost, convenience, or care needs. In the so-called simpler times, seniors moved in with adult children and grandchildren gave up time, attention, and personal space to dote on their elders during the final years of life. As time marched on, families began to move to various locations to raise their families and make a living, separating seniors from their adult children and grandchildren. This changed the delivery of senior care with impacts still evolving today.

Previous Senior Living OptionsSenior man and woman riding bikes

Home with adult children

Nursing homes

Congregate care facilities

Almost four decades ago, assisted living facilities began offering a homelike alternative to the nursing home environment. The nursing home environment had grown out of the sanitariums and asylums of days gone by, improving the care practices and physical environment while remaining a congregate-care facility for the chronically and critically ill. Developers of the assisted living movement recognized that many of the residents of nursing homes could benefit from a less restrictive, homelike, and person-centered environment. They also recognized that by creating these assisted care facilities, they could reduce the cost of care dramatically per person.

Assisted Living Facilities

Less restrictive


Person-centered environment

As assisted living facilities evolved, so did the needs of the seniors in need of care. With families spread across the country and less involved – or less of an influence - in their loved ones’ lives, seniors waited longer and longer to seek residency at these facilities. The seniors for whom these facilities were built proved to be their toughest sale, often waiting for a crisis to make a move.

 Assisted living facilities vary greatly in the services they provide, requirements of staffing, as well as admission and retention requirements. Because of these variations, it is often challenging for seniors and their families to determine what will meet their needs. And, as many want this to be their last move, which facility will meet their needs for the longest period.

Meanwhile, in Florida….

In Florida, assisted living has been a high volume, highly evolutionary business. As of April 2022, there are 3,096 assisted living facilities (112,583 private beds) across the state. There is year-over-year growth in the number of facilities in line with the increasing number of seniors moving to the state – in 2018, Florida’s 65-and-over population was 21% of the total population, while the national average was 16%. (2019 Profile of Older Americans, Administration on Aging, U.S. Dept of HHS). The growth trajectory in the 65 and older category for Florida continues at a stunning rate through 2050.

Assisted Living Facilities continue to be a wonderful option for some seniors. Care needs, cost, and a strong aversion to getting rid of their “stuff” remain obstacles for families who are looking for the best option to take care of their aging loved ones. Understanding Assisted Living – and what it can and cannot do – is a logical place to begin a deeper exploration of senior living options in Florida.

This piece originally written as a guest blogger for Amy B. Van Fossen, PA!

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