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Understanding the Characteristics of Older Adults in Different Residential Settings: Data Sources and Trends

Publication Date


Matthew Toth, PhD, Lauren A. Martin Palmer, PhD, Lawren E. Bercaw, PhD, Ruby Johnson, MS, Jessica Jones, BA, Rebekah Love, BS, Helena Voltmer, BA, and Sarita Karon, PhD

RTI International

October 2020

Link to HTML Version (59 PDF pages)


As the U.S. population ages, the prevalence of disability and functional limitations, as well as the demand for long-term services and supports (LTSS), is anticipated to increase. LTSS include a variety of personal care, mobility, and social services to assist individuals with functional limitations due to disability or other physical or cognitive conditions. Individuals can receive LTSS in a variety of settings ranging from traditional housing to community-based residential care settings (such as assisted living facilities) and institutional settings (such as nursing homes). We used multiple data sources to estimate the older adult (age 65+) population in the United States, their places of residence, and their demographic, health, and functional characteristics. We found a decline in the proportion of older adults residing in nursing homes and a corresponding increase in the proportion living in traditional housing, while the proportion of people residing in community-based residential care has remained stable. Increases in cognitive and functional limitations among older adults, coupled with a decline in the use of nursing homes, highlight the importance of meeting the LTSS needs of older adults in the community.

This report was prepared under contract #HHSP233201600021I between HHS's ASPE/BHDAP and RTI International. For additional information about this subject, you can visit the BHDAP home page at or contact the ASPE Project Officers at HHS/ASPE/BHDAP, Room 424E, H.H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201;,,

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and views expressed in this report are those of the authors. They do not reflect the views of the Department of Health and Human Services, the contractor or any other funding organization. This report was completed and submitted on September 20, 2019.