The Facade of Stability in Assisted Living

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The study sought to identify the varied types of change arising from internal and external influences in assisted living (AL) settings, expanding upon the literature’s limited focus on resident decline and staff turnover and clarifying the importance of changes to life and work there.


This analysis employed qualitative interviews and observations from 4 studies involving 17 ALs to identify elements of change largely absent from the literature. Case material identified by the research team members relating to persons, groups, and settings exemplifying typical changes, as well as variations across settings, are presented.


Multiple domains of AL change were identified, to include those in: (a) the external economic or competitive environments; (b) ownership, management, or key personnel; and (c) physical health or cognition of the aggregate resident population. In many cases, the changes influenced residents’ satisfaction and perceived fit with the AL environment.


Change of many types is a regular feature of AL; many changes alter routines or daily life; raise concerns of staff, residents, or families; or modify perceptions of residential normalcy. Environmental gerontology should more often extend the environment to include the social and interpersonal characteristics of collective living sites for elders.

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