Living Your Best Life in Your Golden Years: What Is an ALF?

Acronyms are widely used. Unfortunately, we all frequently encounter these types of abbreviations and have yet to learn what they mean. Depending on your age, you may listen to a television sitcom from a couple of decades ago that featured an alien with that name when you see ALF. In that case, ALF stood for Alien Life Form. In our discussion today, ALF is the acronym for the assisted living facility, also known as an assisted living community.

What Does an ALF Do?

In basic terms, an ALF provides seniors with certain types of assistance as needed to allow them to live as independently as possible. ALFs are communities designed to provide seniors a place to live together with different types of services that include:

  • Personal care (help with activities of daily living)
  • Healthy and nutritious meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation
  • Socialization
  • Medication management

How Many ALFs Are There in the United States?

You would likely miss the mark if you were called up to guess how many ALFs are in operation in the United States at this juncture. If you are like most people, your guestimate likely would be too low.

At present, approximately 39,000 ALFs are operating from coast to coast across the country at this time. Nearly 1 million seniors are living in ALFs. The average assisted living facility in the United States has 54 living units for about the same number of residents. While this is the average, ALFs vary from small residential homes with 10 or fewer residents (often nestled in neighborhoods along with typical single-family homes) to large-scale buildings with hundreds of residences.

Who Lives in an ALF?

The average age of a person living in an assisted living community is 86. The average length of stay is about two years. The amount of time can vary considerably – upwards to many years and down to less than a year.

A Closer Look at ALF Assistance

As mentioned previously, ALFs offer their residents a place to live and different services depending on the specific needs of a particular individual. The most common types of services received by residents of assisted living communities are:

  • Meals – 87 percent
  • Medication management – 81 percent
  • Bathing – 64 percent

Dressing and toileting (assistance with using the toilet) follow these activities.

How Are ALFs Regulated?

At the current juncture in time, there are no federal standards associated with ALFs. Rather, each state defines how assisted living facilities should be operated within its borders. With that said, some federal rules and regulations affect ALFs on some level, but real regulation is on the state level.

Do ALFs Specialize in Who to Whom They Provide Services?

Certain ALFs specialize in the types of residents they serve. For example, there are assisted living facilities that focus on services for frail seniors who require more in the way of nonmedical assistance daily. Some facilities are open to individuals of a particular gender. Other ALFs are established to provide assisted residences for veterans.

What Do ALFs Cost?

The question of how much ALFs cost is a challenge to answer. The direct answer is: It depends.

There is a range in ALF costs across the United States. On average, as of the end of 2022, a person living in a private room in an ALF is paying over $3,500 a month upwards to about $8,000. A variety of fundamental factors come into play when ALF costs are concerned:

  • Location of an ALF, including part of the country and part of the city
  • Amenities offered by an ALF
  • Services provided by an ALF

Can People With a Medical Condition Life in an ALF?

People with certain healthcare issues or medical conditions can live in an ALF. Generally speaking, these need to be medical conditions that a person can address on his or her daily (like diabetes) or with the assistance of a nurse or doctor that a resident arranges for on his or her own. ALFs are not medical care facilities like nursing homes.

Who Pays for ALFs?

The most commonplace way residents pay for living in an ALF is through their funds. Even if private pay is not the only way ALF costs are met, many residents contribute at least some of their own money to pay these expenses. Other family members might also contribute to paying some of the expenses associated with living in an ALF.

Some governmental support is available to provide at least some financial assistance for some elements of care offered in ALFs. Various requirements exist for obtaining this type of financial assistance, like prior military service.