Assisted Living: Optimal Person–Environment Fit

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Assisted living (AL) is a well-established alternative to nursing homes, promoting autonomy and choice in a residential environment. This article examines the opportunities that AL affords for older adults and areas for further research to optimize the fit between resident needs and the AL environment. The model of person–environment fit provides an organizing framework for our commentary. The environment of AL emphasizes choice, independence, and privacy. The acuity of health care needs in AL residents has evolved since its inception. Unlike earlier residents, many today live with multiple chronic conditions and need for functional supports. Regulated by states, there is high variability in oversight, staffing, and resources available in AL. Families play an important role in supporting residents, yet expectations for their engagement may not be clear. Descriptive research abounds but there is a need for more sophisticated approaches to understanding how the AL environment can provide optimal supports for older adults, across all states and across income and racial/ethnic groups. There are several methodological challenges to AL research, including the high variability among AL settings and across states, the lack of common data elements, and difficulty accessing representative samples. With the popularity of AL as an option, it will be important to continue to examine how this environment can evolve to meet the changing needs of the resident population, while balancing the elements of autonomy and affordability.


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