The History Of Assisted Living In The United States

“Assisted living” is something you hear quite often when talking about aging and senior lifestyle. Therefore, it might come as a surprise to you that this concept is fairly new. The idea started in the 1970’s with the help of Dr. Keren Brown Wilson and her mother Jessie F. Richardson, who both felt that there weren’t enough resources for aging seniors.

How Assisted Living Began & Why?

Before the 1970’s there weren’t many options for aging seniors. You could have someone come to your home to provide in-home care, or go to a nursing home, which at that time we’re not very pleasant places to be. During this period, nursing homes were institutions where lower income seniors were sent to… die out of sight. These facilities were cold and sterile, and the entire institution was known for neglecting and abusing elders.

After speaking to her mother about the horrors associated with these assisted living facilities, Dr. Brown Wilson felt she could come up with an alternative that was better for her aging mother.

history of assisted livingFor Ms. Richardson, the biggest problem with assisted living was the lack of privacy and respect. Considering these facilities had common bathrooms, communal showers, and rooms without locks, it’s this response seems only natural. Who wouldn’t feel captured and constrained in this type of environment. For these reasons, Brown Wilson’s mother asked if she could create a more independent lifestyle for seniors seeking long-term medical care.

Over the course of several years Dr. Brown Wilson traveled the country, asking seniors what they liked, and didn’t like about nursing homes. This research gave Dr. Wilson the information she needed to create the assisted living community of the future. By 1981 the first assisted facility opened in Portland, Oregon, and it pioneered a new lifestyle for seniors. This community gave seniors what they wanted – independence but also security if their health deteriorated and they needed more assistance. By 1986 this initial concept morphed into the institution we know today as assisted living. Residents were finally being offered care at all times of the day and night, facilities began offering social activities, fine dining, and more. And thus, the new age of assisted living was born.

Assisted Living Today

Thanks to Dr. Keren Brown Wilson and here mother, aging in place is a real reality for seniors. Today the majority of assisted living facilities want to provide seniors with a secure, but independent experience, which emphasizes quality of life above everything else. Assisted living communities, like Stellar, provide high-quality health care 24 hours a day, fine dining options, and a huge variety of activities for seniors to socialize and pursue their favorite hobbies.

The history of assisted living isn’t the pleasant to learn about, but we’ve come a long way since 1970. The 21st century assisted living facility is no longer a place for seniors to age where no one can see them–it is a place for seniors to age in place with dignity, independence and joy.

At Stellar we make it a priority to create a stellar environment that feels like home. Visit one of our communities, and learn how assisted living can benefit your entire family. Contact Stellar Senior Living today for more information about our assisted living facilities nationwide. Click here to find a facility near you or give us a call at 801.495.7000.

Stellar Senior Living, a family owned and operated senior living network, has been recognized as one of the premier providers of Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Respite Care nationwide. At Stellar, we take great pride in each of our communities, and in every single resident. We believe senior living is about more than healthcare. It’s about family. Come take a tour and feel the Stellar difference today.