The number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to nearly double by 2060 – a shift that will increase demand for senior housing. In the coming decades, more people will ask themselves: “What is the cost of senior living communities?”
That’s a complex question, and our immediate answer is that it varies according to location, the level of care required, and other factors. In a June 2010 report, the US Government Accountability Office identified some top-level national averages:
- Assisted living options: $1,500-$6,500/month
- Memory care units: Price varies according to location
- Skilled nursing units: $1,500-$10,700/month
The same report also found that all-inclusive retirement living can cost anywhere from $1,800-$600,000 in entry fees alone. The range of that dollar amount is so vast that, in effect, it means that the amount you can expect to pay can vary substantially. Still, what do those dollar values mean? What do you get once you pay them? Let’s delve into the numbers, detailing the costs associated with the type of community so you can get a clearer idea of which option is right for you and your family.
The Cost of Independent Living Communities
Independent living communities are best suited for seniors who are able to live on their own without assistance provided by the community. With that said, many residents of independent living communities do have care needs and often choose to contract with outside home care providers. They may make this decision for any number of reasons – including the benefit of selecting services on a more a la carte basis than an assisted living community might allow for. (Many independent living communities also offer the option of moving to assisted living housing whenever residents are ready.)
The exact figure for how much independent living communities can cost varies according to where you live and the services and amenities that you can access. Upscale dining options, resort-quality features like swimming pools and wellness clinics, chauffeured car services and on-site medical concierge suites will all add to the cost of a lease. A community without any of those perks might not be as expensive.
The median monthly cost of senior independent living in the US was $2,552 in 2018, but many senior living communities do not display their rates and require anyone interested in moving in to speak to someone at the community. At Atria, we’re upfront about our prices, tax and veterans benefits that older adults might be able to access, and we also provide an affordability calculator that makes all the costs of our services transparent.
The Cost of Assisted Living Communities
Seniors often choose an assisted living option to maintain their lifestyle and independence in their own apartment, while benefitting from round-the-clock support whenever they need it. Assisted living costs can vary, but as of 2016, the average rent of a one-bedroom assisted living apartment with a single occupant was $3,628 per month.
Assisted living communities also include fees for care services based on an assessment of residents’ needs. The most frequently requested services include medication assistance and reminders, as well as personal care such as bathing, getting dressed, and scheduling appointments with physicians. Meals, laundry, and housekeeping are generally all included, and residents can still enjoy the ongoing programs, events, and workshops that the community hosts. Assisted living communities may also offer memory care neighborhoods for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The Costs of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
Continuing care retirement communities (or CCRCs) are designed so that residents can access higher levels of care when they need them without having to move to an entirely different community. They generally offer three levels of care: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing units. As with assisted living, some CCRC facilities offer memory care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia – a service that incurs an additional cost.
Since CCRCs do offer so many thresholds of care, they tend to be more expensive than communities that offer only assisted or independent living services. CCRCs usually charge an initial entrance fee, which starts around $100,000 for a non-purchase (or rental) arrangement, but they can climb to $1,000,000 depending on the size of the living unit and the community’s location. They also charge monthly service fees that typically range between $1,000-$5,000.
The types of services that assisted living communities and CCRCs offer often overlap, so it’s worth noting a few differences between them:
- CCRCs generally ask residents to sign a sizable long-term contract and pay a hefty buy-in fee. Assisted living communities typically rent on a month-to-month basis and charge a minimal new resident service fee. (Similarly, CCRCs ask for a lifetime commitment, whereas assisted living communities rent monthly.)
- CCRCs may rely on continued care service contracts with other providers at off-campus locations. Assisted living communities generally have an in-house staff who maintain the consistency of care.
- Most activities at CCRCs are resident-organized. Assisted living communities tend to hire professionals who specialize in developing monthly calendars of events for the residents. These events might include fitness classes or guest lectures.
The Costs of Living at Home
We realize that we’ve blitzed you with a lot of numbers that, by this point, might beg the question: “Isn’t it cheaper just to live at home?” That all depends on your circumstances.
Do you own your house or are you paying off a mortgage? Is your house or apartment equipped with aging-in-place modifications, or is that another investment that you’ll have to pay down soon? Are you able to perform maintenance or upkeep on your home, or do you pay someone to mow your lawn, rake your leaves, fix the backyard gate, and so on?
Answering those questions can help you determine how much you’re really paying to stay at home rather than move into a community. With that said, bear in mind this analysis that the costs of aging-in-place modifications (such as installing ramps, grab bars, better lighting, and safer flooring options) total about $20,000-$30,000. Other estimates peg that figure much higher.
The total cost of living in an assisted living community is around $48,000 per year. Compare that to some of the fees that can accrue when we choose to stay at home:
- The average cost of hiring a private duty aide who performs tasks such as cleaning or cooking is around $48,048 per year.
- Employing a full-time home health aide costs about $50,336 per year.
- Adult day health care typically runs around $18,720 per year.
As we age, the costs associated with ensuring that we’re receiving the care, social support, and daily maintenance we need can all add up. Older adults often find that paying one lump sum for peace of mind is worth the cost. With a provider like Atria, that sum pays for all these features that comprise an active, engaged life:
- Social Life: Social, cultural, and educational events to look forward to every day.
- Transportation: Car or bus service that couriers residents to outings, errands, and appointments.
- Dining: Chef-prepared meal options that meet residents’ dietary needs.
- Housekeeping: An attentive staff handles all maintenance requests and keeps apartments tidy.
- Emergency Assistance: Access to on-site help 24/7 in the event of an emergency.
- Exercise / Fitness: Daily opportunities to improve strength, flexibility, and balance with other residents.
- Independence: Assistance from a discreet staff to help residents live on their own terms.
Determining Senior Living Costs
Making sense of the costs that bubble up as we answer the “moving to a senior living community vs. staying at home” question can be overwhelming, but reviewing our financial resources is a great place to start.
If you or someone you know wants to learn more about Atria, visit AtriaSeniorLiving.com/FindACommunity to discover the location nearest you.