Aging in Place Top Preference, Community Care Gaining in Appeal

Six in 10 seniors among a random sample of National Health and Aging Trends Study participants far and away prefer to age in place at their own homes either with family or paid assistance, but three in 10 of those surveyed stated a preference to receive care in an assisted living or continuing care retirement community (CCRC), indicating preferences have evolved over time. This is according to a study conducted by researchers at the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and published in the journal The Gerontologist.

The study, titled “Care Arrangements of Older Adults: What They Prefer, What They Have, and Implications for Quality of Life,” notes in the results statement of its abstract that respondents who were themselves already in an assisted living or CCRC facility were “significantly” more likely to respond with that form of living arrangement as their preference.

However, a minority of all respondents were in a living situation that aligned with their ideal optimal arrangement. “Only 1 in 3 older persons receiving care are in arrangements that match preferences,” the study says.

According to Genworth’s 2018 Cost of Care Survey, the monthly cost of employing a home health aide stands at $4,195, versus $4,000 a month for residence in an assisted living facility and $7,441 a month for a semi-private room in a nursing home.

While aging in place independently represented the wishes of the majority of respondents – 29.4 percent – aging in an assisted living facility edged out in-home care with paid help by one tenth of one percent, 27.8 percent to 27.7 percent. Preferences also came with key demographic differences, though not based on age. “Women gave highest preference to [paid help in their own home], while a higher percentage of men selected [family help in their own home] as the best option,” it reads.

Other differences were noted along demographics relating to ethnicity, marital status, and levels of both education and income. A respondent’s current living arrangement also affected their responses. One clear indicator that the study’s authors take from their findings is that while aging in place is still the most well-regarded preference, the option for assisted living or CCRC care is growing.

“Results from this study using nationally representative data confirm the growing visibility and acceptance among older people of residential care settings that offer services and varying levels of independence to residents,” the study reads. “Overall, as many prior studies have documented, aging in place, either with family help or paid help, remains the preferred option, and as many earlier studies documented, nursing home care remains least favored.”

Still, the study notes that while specific facility care is not as highly favored as in-home care options, the gap between them appears to be narrowing over time. “Close to one-third [of respondents] chose assisted living/CCRC as the best option, giving support to views that preferences have changed over the last couple of decades,” the study reads in its concluding section.

Written by Chris Clow

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