When is it time for assisted living?

Assisted living and other types of long-term care are a reality for many seniors today. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, adults 65 and older have almost a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care services and support in their senior years.

As we age, tasks that once came easily to us — including activities of daily living, or ADLs — can become more challenging. When do difficulties with these activities go from occasional nuisances to ongoing challenges that need attention?

ADLs can include:
  • Walking: Getting around as you go about your day
  • Transferring: Moving from your bed to a chair, or into a wheelchair or walker
  • Feeding: Eating meals on your own
  • Dressing: Pulling on pants and shirts, fastening buttons, operating zippers, etc.
  • Grooming: Personal hygiene like brushing your teeth or doing your hair
  • Bathing: Getting into and out of the bathtub or shower
  • Toileting: Using the bathroom, cleaning yourself and getting up without assistance
An older woman is holding hands with someone out of the frame.

Who needs assisted living?

There are quite a few signs it might be time for assisted living. If you’re having trouble handling any of the activities of daily living on your own, you might want to look whether assisted living is right for you.

Additionally, you may also want to consider moving to assisted living if you notice signs of:

Loneliness or social isolation

Challenges with medication management

Lags in correspondence

Poor nutrition

Falling behind on home upkeep


There can also be clear physical and emotional changes—they aren’t always black and white, but friends or loved ones you see often may be able to notice them.

If a loved one is currently acting as a part-time caregiver, talk to them about their abilities to continue doing so. If your condition has recently declined or is steadily declining, or if it’s becoming more difficult for your loved one to handle your care for any reason, it may be time for a conversation about assisted living.

Finally, if a trusted physician has recommended assisted living, it’s worth seriously considering the possibility. A medical expert may note signs of decline that you can’t see, don’t want to see, or overlook as an annoyance.

Transitioning to assisted living

For many seniors, the thought of transitioning to assisted living from a more independent lifestyle comes with mixed emotions. Even as you consider it, you may be feeling some uncertainty, anxiety and even fear.

A woman puts her head on a man's shoulder. Both are smiling.

Family members may experience stress about a possible transition, too, from sadness to guilt that they can’t take care of their loved ones themselves.

Here are five tips to manage the emotions surrounding a transition to assisted living:

  1. Start the conversation early. The idea of a move like this takes some getting used to! If you believe a move may be on the horizon, talk with your family members and the caregivers in your life about what that might look like.
  2. Do your research. Not all assisted living facilities are the best fit for everyone, so create a short list of locations and ask their sales teams plenty of questions.
  3. Visit — more than once. Beyond taking a tour, ask to meet some of the care employees or be introduced to residents. Find out if you can enjoy a meal on site, try out a chair yoga class or even sit in on book club. Get a sense of what life is like there.
  4. Begin downsizing proactively. Having to sell and pack up a home on top of the move to assisted living could feel overwhelming. Start downsizing sooner than later and take your time. We have room-by-room tips for the process.
  5. Surround yourself with favorites. Once you move in, create a comfortable living space by adding your own unique touches, from a favorite cozy chair to family photos.

Can you still be independent in assisted living?

Many families wonder whether their loved one can still be independent in assisted living. And the answer is yes!

Most assisted living facilities — including the care centers at all 10 Vi communities — encourage their residents to continue enjoying vibrant, independent lifestyles whenever possible. 

At Vi, the assisted living experience is similar to independent living on many levels, including chef-prepared dining options, a variety of lifestyle and fitness programming, and all the social benefits of living in a community of fellow seniors. 

The biggest difference: Residents get just a little more help in the areas where they need it.  And families, no matter where they’re located, can know their loved ones are living somewhere with additional measures in place to help them live their lives to the fullest.

If you’re taking early steps to proactively plan for care, you might consider a Continuing Care Retirement Community, also known as a CCRC or Life Plan Community. 

In these communities, seniors begin in independent living but may transition to assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care as the need arises, often with little to no increase in monthly costs. Learn more about CCRCs.

A couple speaks to a community team member.