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Matching the Right Services With a Person's Needs

A variety of approaches and costs are available

By LeadingAge | June 14, 2012

Getting older is a fact of life, but how and where someone ages is also a matter of choice.

There are a variety of services available to older adults today that can help them remain independent while living in their own homes, meet new people, take part in activities and continue to live enriching and fulfilling lives.

Here is information about some of the services that are available to older adults.  Keep in mind that these services' cost and availability may vary by state or community.

It's also important to remember that planning and saving are key to ensuring an older person can receive care and services that meet their needs and preferences.

Home and community-based services

It's no surprise that most people want stay in their own homes as they age. But some may need help and support to stay there. That's where Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) can help. HCBS providers can offer everything from help with the chores to health care services, or even just someone to call and check in with an older adults. Also, these services often offer caregivers help, support and a much-deserved break from their duties.

While there are many different services available, not every community has them. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging for what services are in your area.

Some of these services include:

  • Adult Day Services (ADS): ADS provides a variety of health, social and related support services to seniors and disabled individuals in a safe setting during the day. Some ADS programs are designed especially for people with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Care Managers: Care managers help people figure out what services they need and how to pay for them. Together, managers and their clients come up with a plan that best fits an individual's lifestyle and the manager arranges the services for them.
  • Congregate Meal Programs: These programs, which are often sponsored by seniors centers or housing communities, offer free or low-cost meals to seniors in group settings.
  • Financial Counseling Programs: Participants in these program get help balancing a checkbook, filing taxes and Medicare/Medicaid forms.
  • Friendly Visiting: These volunteers will come visit and check in a person at his or her home.  
  • Home Health Care Services: These services include part-time nursing services, personal care, help with chores, medical supplies or equipment and different kinds of therapies (physical, occupational, and speech) to help a person recover from an illness or surgery.
  • Homemaker or Chore Services: These programs provide assistance with common household chores as well as harder tasks like washing windows or shoveling snow.
  • Hospice Care: Hospice program are well known for their care and services they offer people who are dying and their families. Hospice care is provided in the home, a nursing facility or a free-standing hospice. View our fact sheet for more information about hospice.
  • Home-Delivered Meals: Participants receive meals if they cannot cook on their own.
  • Information and Assistance Services: Use this service to find out more about  services and resources in a particular are.
Personal Care Services: Personal care attendants provide help with things like bathing and dressing.
  • Respite Care: These programs provide caregivers with a much-needed break from their responsibilities.
  • Senior Centers: Across the country, senior centers provide a place where  older people can come together for social and recreational activities.
  • Transportation Services: These services helps people get to and from shopping centers, medical appointments, senior centers and other places.

Senior Housing
  • Aging Services: What's Right for You
  • Homes and Services Directory

Senior housing is a good option for people who want to live on their own, but don't want to deal with the responsibilities of having a home. It's also a great choice for people who want to live in a community with other seniors. 



Depending on the community, a person can rent an apartment either at the market rate or if his or her income level applies, a lower rate. These apartments are often designed with seniors in mind. For example, there may be railings in bathrooms or power outlets higher up on the wall. Many communities also offer a 24-hour emergency call service if a resident needs help right away. Some places may also provide different kinds of services to the people who live there including meals, transportation, social activities and other programs.



The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds several rental assistance programs for seniors who qualify. These programs include: 

Public housing, or low-income housing that is owned and operated by a local housing authority. To apply for public housing or Section 8 certificates or vouchers, you must go to your housing authority. Each housing authority has a system for accepting applications. Their representatives can explain their system and how to find an available apartment.

HUD's Section 202 program includes apartments where the government provides subsidies directly to owners of qualified properties developed with loans or grants from the federal government. The owners pass along the federal rental assistance subsidy to qualified residents to cover the gap between the resident payment, generally 30 percent of adjusted income, and rent costs.

To apply for housing in a privately-owned affordable housing community, a person will have to visit the management office for each community. Contact your local HUD office to get a list of privately-owned communities near you.

Assisted living

Because assisted living provides a desirable, cost-effective and dignified living environment, it has seen phenomenal growth over the past decade. Consumers favor it because they get the help they need with everyday living tasks and often some health care in a residential setting -- and they have a range of assisted living models from which to choose.

Assisted living’s popularity is largely due to a philosophy which values residents’ independence, i.e., “we will help you take care of yourself” versus “we will take care of you.” Supportive services are provided in a way to maximize residents’ dignity, autonomy, privacy, independence, and safety. An estimated one million people are currently living in an assisted living facility.

The majority of assisted living Leading Age members are a part of a continuing care retirement community while others are free standing. Assisted living is state regulated and all fifty states have some form of regulation or licensure category for assisted living, although it may not be called by that name. State regulations vary on who can be admitted and reside in assisted living. Assisted living is primarily private pay, although 41 states currently have a Medicaid Waiver/Medicaid State Plan for a limited amount of residents.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) offer a several services all in one location which gives a person the chance to stay in one place even if his or her needs change. These services may include nursing care or other health services, meals; housekeeping services, transportation and emergency assistance. 

These communities also offer a variety social activities and  educational opportunities on the campuses.  

What makes CCRCs unique are that they offer prospective residents a contract that says the CCRC will provide individuals with housing and services for life. Most CCRCs require a one-time entrance fee and then monthly payments thereafter. These fees vary by community and depend on the type of housing and services they offer. Other CCRCs operate on a rental basis and do not require an entrance fee.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes offer round-the-clock care if someone is too sick to live on their own, or if they need to recover after having an illness or operation.

Some people stay for a short time in a nursing home and then go home. Other people may be sicker and need more care for longer. 

Nursing homes are licensed by the state to provide nursing care, personal care and medical services. They also offer different kinds of therapies to help a person recover after an illness or surgery. They provide meals, and do your laundry and housekeeping.

Finally, nursing homes offer different kinds of activities like art classes and religious services to help residents socialize and make it a place they can call home. 

There are so many options, but it's up to you to decide how much you give to pick one for you or a loved one.

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