March 20, 2008
Editor’s note: MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ and brings together professionals and lay leaders from UJC agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency will present a column on eldercare issues. The Jewish Community Housing Corporation — which developed, owns, and manages five buildings with over 600 units of senior housing in the area, including independent living apartments and assisted-living units — is the sponsor of this month’s column.
AARP surveys of older adults in the United States routinely state that 90 percent or more wish to “age in place,” to grow old at home, surrounded by friends, family, and familiar surroundings and belongings. However, as people live longer, many older adults find themselves ready to find a new home.
If housing with some “help” built in is what you are looking for, there are two primary senior housing options (less than a nursing home’s level of care): independent living and assisted living. Finding the right senior housing situation requires considering a few choices.
Choice #1: Level of institutional support
The first issue for any older adult or family is to determine the appropriate level of institutional support, if any. While families and other private caregivers may be a part of a senior citizen’s support network, additional assistance may be required.
The option with the least support is independent living, apartment buildings that are designed with the senior resident in mind. Such buildings may or may not include amenities like meal service, housekeeping, social and recreational activities, and transportation services.
There are also a limited number of independent living facilities that offer assisted-living programs with services similar to those described below.
The assisted-living option offers a higher level of institutional support than independent living, but less than a nursing home. Assisted-living facilities are licensed by the State of New Jersey and must offer the amenities described above and more, including all 21 meals per week and assistance with some “activities of daily living.” In addition, an assisted-living facility must offer residents the options of medication management and higher-level service plans. Some facilities also offer programs that cater to seniors with memory issues, Alzheimer’s, and/or dementia.
Choice #2: Level of affordability
While some older adults can afford to live in luxury or market-rate communities, it can be especially difficult for a senior citizen living on a fixed income to find a housing option that not only provides an appropriate level of support but also fits within their budget.
Fortunately, there are subsidized options available for both forms of senior housing. In an independent-living apartment building, government support can assist owners to provide housing at reduced rents for seniors with limited means. For assisted living, the State of New Jersey provides a Medicaid waiver option for facilities to serve, at lower fees, low-income residents who are financially and medically eligible for the services offered by such a facility.
Choice #3: Location, location, location
Finding a senior housing option close to home allows older adults to keep their community connections intact. The value of remaining physically close to support networks should not be underestimated as research consistently shows that social connectedness and meaningful activity are key components of wellness for older adults.
The following resources offer more information about senior housing options:
- The New Jersey Housing Resource Center,
- The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Facility Locator,
- Local County Agency on Aging
Understanding these choices, as well as other factors that may be important to you and your loved ones, can be daunting. If your family may be approaching the time when a senior housing option is in the foreseeable future, it’s a good idea to start thinking about these items and talking them through with the decision makers in the family.Harold Colton-Max is the chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Housing Corporation. For more information about the JCHC and its senior housing options, email or call 973-731-2020. Families and caregivers needing answers to broader eldercare questions and help with community resources can contact Elderlink, a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families, can email or call 973-467-3300, ext. 511.
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