Where you live is a defining aspect of your character throughout your life. Your “hometown” often plays a large part in the formation of your character; as adults we decorate our homes to reflect our interests, hobbies and loves; and the neighborhoods in which we choose to raise our children (city, farm, suburb) tell us a lot about our underlying values and where we feel safe and secure.

The idea that where you live is an important part of who you are doesn’t diminish as you get older—in fact, the longer you’ve lived in a place the more it seems to become a part of who you are, and vice-versa—so it’s no wonder that seniors are as choosy about where they live as any of the rest of us. What follows are some of the options for senior living arrangements. What you and your loved one will choose will depend on health, finances, community support, and of course—your family.

Most seniors would prefer to stay in the home they’ve known and loved. A senior or retirement community may look perfectly nice to a son or daughter; but mom or dad may see the retirement community as a first step toward losing their independence and being forgotten. Many senior citizens can stay in their homes for quite some time so long as they have the support of family and community and perhaps the help of an in-home caregiver.

Another option for housing is a senior or retirement community. These are often independent communities which provide age-segregated living opportunities for seniors who are still active. They usually provide social activities, regular transportation around town, and some personal care or nursing services. These communities can be the perfect solution for a still active senior who is unable to drive anymore, but be very cautious when choosing a community; with no regulation or governing body the non-social services they provide can be suspect.

A nursing home is the most drastic option for senior living, and is usually reserved for chronically ill people who need medical care and regulation in addition to help with the most basic of daily tasks. The decision to use a nursing home is a difficult and emotional one, and should not be put off to the last minute. Not only because nursing homes are expensive, and require as much advance financial planning as possible, but also because finding the right nursing facility for your loved one can take time.

Whatever housing option you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help or advice. A Geriatric Care Manager, Elder Care Support Services, or an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney can help your family make and implement this tough decision.