housing + services: overview

What does it mean to connect housing with social services?

Older adults who may not need or choose care provided at a nursing facility, but seek some type of assistance to fully meet their needs, can select from a broadening array of housing models. Some arrangements, including assisted living residences and coordinated care retirement communities, offer service-enriched supportive housing. Models vary in size, cost, and other characteristics, but in general these developments have been specifically designed to offer supportive services in a residential setting that meets the needs and preferences of older adults as they age.

An alternative approach, which is the subject of this section, provides opportunities for older adults to access services while remaining in their homes. This latter arrangement does not involve relocating to an assisted living residence or other congregate setting, and allows older adults to age in place while receiving the assistance that they need.

Why are coordinated housing and social services arrangements important?

Programs that coordinate the delivery of social services with existing homes may bring service providers to residential developments or arrange access to services provided off-site. The resident makes the decision to participate in available services. This approach keeps the locus of control with residents and may also promote cost-effectiveness, as residents make use of only those services that they need. [1]

Where do these types of programs work best?

Coordinated housing and social services programs may be found in all types of communities, and can be resident-initiated and led, provided directly by property owners or managers, or arranged by a housing provider through contractual agreements or "purposeful partnerships" with outside organizations. Many developments with large populations of older adults employ a service coordinator to help facilitate this process.
What services can be coordinated with housing?

Depending on the community and resident preferences, a wide range of services can be made available to older adults who choose to remain in their own homes. In some cases, these arrangements may focus on health-related consultations or assistance with a set of instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), a term for activities such as mobility and preparing meals that allow an individual to live independently. Other arrangements provide in-home personal care services, such as assistance with bathing and dressing.

Commonly offered services include:
  • Transportation assistance
  • Group recreation and enrichment, including field trips, educational and cultural programs, and social events
  • Medical clinics and consultations, including dental care, foot care, nutrition and mental health consultations, and hearing aid clinics
  • Health education and preventative screenings
  • Housekeeping assistance, including meal preparation, cleaning, and handyman services
  • Educational and other services, including money management, form completion, computer centers, religious services, and exercise classes
  • Personal care, including assistance with activities such as bathing and dressing

Learn more about different housing and social services models, including naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), cohousing, and "villages"

Learn more about the challenges and solutions associated with connecting existing homes with services

BPIC Portland MaineGo back to learn about other tools that help to improve access to social services and transportation options

[1] Adding Assisted Living Services to Subsidized Housing: Serving Frail Older Persons with Low Incomes. 2002. By Robert Wilden and Donald L. Redfoot. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute.

The views expressed herein are for information, debate and discussion, and do not necessarily represent official policies of AARP.