Quality of Life Is Important to Residents of Assisted Living Facilities

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“Successful aging” is an umbrella term that describes a process of growing older while maintaining a high level of physical, psychological, and social functioning without major diseases. Similar concepts are embodied in such terms as “aging well,” “healthy aging,” and “active aging.”

While people can take steps that maximize the opportunity for successful aging, chronic diseases and physical and mental impairments become more prevalent with advanced age. Older adults sometimes need assistance with their activities of daily living. They may turn to supportive living options, including assisted-living facilities, to meet those needs.

Social science literature links housing satisfaction to successful aging. Quality of life should be a key consideration when older adults decide to receive supportive services outside of their own homes. A recent study asked seniors how they perceive their quality of life in assisted-living facilities.

Quality of Life

Quality of life is a concept that people understand intuitively. It is less easy to measure or define objectively. The study regards quality of life as “the degree to which an individual enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life.” Recognizing that this definition is subjective, the study’s authors suggest that quality of life encompasses such concepts as well-being, life satisfaction, and health status.

The study explored quality of life by interviewing residents of assisted-living facilities. The interview questions were grouped into three broad topics.

Physical environment encompassed the physical aspects of the facility. Residents were asked about the design and accessibility of the facility, its proximity to family and neighborhood attractions, the residents’ view, and the quality of outdoor spaces.

Social environment addressed relationships formed by residents. Those relationships include interactions with other residents, staff members, family and visitors. Participation in community activities was also a part of the facility’s social environment.

Home-like atmosphere was the third broad measure of quality of life. The atmosphere included the extent to which residents felt that their autonomy, independence, and privacy were promoted by the facility. The resident’s dining options also contributed to a home-like atmosphere.

Physical Environment

The study found that long-term residents of assisted-living facilities developed an attachment to the units they occupied. Residents who decorated their units and filled them with personal possessions tended to develop the strongest attachments.

Some residents expressed concern that their unit was less spacious than their family home had been. Downsizing poses challenges for residents who have furniture and possessions that won’t fit into their new environment. Over time, however, residents found ways to live comfortably in their units.

Residents who occupied units with windows and an outside view were more likely to be satisfied with their living environment. Units with kitchens contributed to a feeling of independence by giving the resident dining options beyond the facility’s dining hall.

A facility that offers easy accessibility to a neighborhood will likely contribute to a resident’s satisfaction with her surroundings. Facilities are less satisfying when they are located far from senior centers and other places that residents had grown used to visiting when they lived independently.

Social Environment

Residents appreciated opportunities that the facility provided to socialize with other residents. Most residents felt that they were easily able to form new friendships within the facility. Feelings of loneliness tended to dissipate during the resident’s stay.

Frequent visits by children and other family members, as well as friends who live outside the facility, contribute to residents’ satisfaction. Some residents reported that their children and relatives had little time to visit them before they moved to the facility. Their quality of life improved after moving to the facility because they were able to form new social relationships that alleviated their loneliness.

The availability of social activities within a facility also contributes to the quality of a resident’s life. While residents appreciated the assistance they received from staff members, they generally viewed social activities as the most important part of their residential experience.

Home-like Atmosphere

Study participants generally felt “at home” in their assisted-living facilities. While residents required assistance, many viewed that assistance as enabling a feeling of independence that was similar to living in their former homes.

Other residents emphasized the safety and security they enjoyed while living in the facility. A feeling of security enhanced their sense of living “at home.”

Residents who depended on the dining hall for their meals tended to complain about limited menus. Not having a wide choice of meals reduced the residents’ perception of a home-life atmosphere.

Limited options for transportation outside of the facility reduced feelings of independence and thus impaired the resident’s feeling of living at home. On the whole, while relying on others for transportation was not optimal, residents tended to accept that their medical condition made them reliant on family and friends for assistance beyond that provided by staff members.

Choosing a Facility

Adult children of parents who are searching for an assisted-living facility should bear in mind the features that affect a senior’s quality of life. A facility that is designed to maximize the convenience and privacy of residents will improve the parent’s sense of well-being. An environment that maximizes independence and autonomy contributes to successful aging. Adequate space to meet the parent’s needs, accessibility of neighborhood attractions, and well-maintained property will all contribute to a parent’s satisfaction.

Facilities help residents feel at home when they make community activities available. Friendly staff members also improve residents’ satisfaction with their environment. Most study participants thought staff members were friendly and helpful, but some complained about staff shortages. Adult children should investigate the number of staff members employed by a facility to make sure that their parent’s needs will be met.

Access to the larger community is important to a sense of independence. Adult children should investigate the availability of transportation services for individuals with a disability. Facilities that organize recreational opportunities in neighborhoods and that provide staff assistance to residents who participate in those activities are more likely to satisfy their residents.

Food and dining contribute to quality of life. Dining halls with large and varied menus enhance satisfaction. Dining schedules that force residents to eat within narrow windows of time can impair a resident’s feeling of independence. When parents are capable of preparing their own meals, a kitchen in the unit helps them develop a sense that they are living “at home.”

A room with adequate space to hold a parent’s cherished belongings will help her feel at home. A room with a window and a nice view also enhances the quality of a parent’s living experience.


The degree to which independence and autonomy can be fostered will vary from resident to resident. The nature and extent of disabilities may determine how independent a resident can be. Still, a residential setting that maximizes an aging parent’s feeling of independence may be the most important element of the parent’s satisfaction with her housing. Searching for a facility that makes it a priority to help residents make their own choices is important to a parent’s quality of life.


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