Assisted living facilities are a rapidly expanding source of supportive housing with services. In the view of many, such facilities represent a promising new model of long-term care, one that blurs the sharp distinction between nursing homes and community-based long-term care and reduces the chasm between long-term care in one's own home and in an institution. In this model, consumer control and choice are central to the philosophy of "assisted living." Indeed, the ability of consumers to control both key features of the environment and to direct services, under a "negotiated" or "managed risk" model, and to receive care and supervision in a "home-like" setting are considered hallmarks of the philosophy of assisted living. Further, assisted living, at least conceptually, is distinguished by a flexible service arrangement, in which there is no set "package" of services but facilities provide services to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs of residents, allowing residents to "age-in-place."
Despite the growing interest in and expansion of places calling themselves assisted living facilities, relatively little is known about their actual role and performance and the degree to which they represent a viable option for frail and disabled elders. Indeed, there is not even agreement or information on the number of such facilities currently in operation. As a result, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is undertaking a national study of the role of assisted living. ASPE entered into a contract for a comprehensive study to be conducted by Research Triangle Institute (RTI), the Myers Research Institute, as well as its collaborators, Lewin, Inc., the University of Minnesota Long-Term Care Resources Center, and the National Academy for State Health Policy.