Weighing the options for retirement living is more complicated than choosing an affordable lifestyle. Chances are, you’ll want to factor in all of the top three costs after age 65 – housing, transportation, and healthcare – while also making a decision about who will care for you in your later years.
To help you know your options and compare them accordingly (or help parents plan), here are some real costs for senior living, assisted living, and living-in-place and what those common choices include.
Senior living typically means “active adult” or “55+”communities. About five percent of Americans choose to live in these age-restricted communities. Senior living campuses can be large or small, budget-oriented or with luxury homes and amenities. A choice of residences is typically offered such as single-family bungalows, attached homes, and/or condo buildings.
The main draw is low-maintenance living near people of your own age with access to a range of services and activities – a built-in way to make new friends and ensure an active lifestyle!
Real estate is the biggest cost. In a senior living community, upfront costs are for housing (sale or rent) and monthly maintenance or homeowners association (HOA) fees. HOA/maintenance fees may also include some campus amenities (a swimming pool and gym, for example), while other services such as dining hall meals, classes, excursions, and transportation may be available as separate charges or included in a mandatory monthly fee.
Monthly fees can range from $100- $1000 according to bestretirementcities.org. The popular Del Webb communities’ monthly fees, for example, average around $500 and include yard maintenance, a full-time activity director, staffed entrance-gate security, and sometimes utilities and/or campus amenities (like tennis courts or golf courses) depending on the location.
The difference in costs between one community and another will depend on desirability of location; size, age, and condition of the homes and facilities; available amenities; maintenance services; and staffing.
Other than community add-ons, the basic cost of living in a 55+ community is not very different than living independently. Active adult communities don’t include healthcare services or cover medical needs, so you’ll want to account for healthcare costs and home-assistance in your long-range cost projections and make sure the community is near doctors and hospitals.
Additionally, senior living communities typically have time restrictions on visits from young children and others younger than age 55. This might preclude having a live-in adult child or grandchild as your caregiver if you needed them (that’s something to check on before you invest!).
Assisted living provides for aging in a homelike setting – your own condo or rental apartment – but is set up to greatly expand the level of care that residents can receive. For example, a new resident may initially opt for housekeeping and meals but later may need a personal attendant, access to occupational or physical therapy, and/or other healthcare services.
The available levels of care allow assisted living residents to age in place longer than in any independent living arrangement. Because assisted living communities can provide such a range of attention and treatment, it’s common to find several levels of care alongside residential care, for example a skilled nursing care area, a memory care unit, and rehabilitation facilities.
Many older couples or individuals live quite independently in assisted living for a long time and appreciate that care is available as they need it. Assisted living is also a good option for people with disabilities who require continuous help and attention.
The cost of assisted living varies by state, the type of housing accommodations, and the amenities provided. According to whereyoulivematters.org, assisted living communities in 2020 had upfront costs ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 a month for a single occupant, with other services available for additional fees. Care is often is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and/or other health insurance.
Living-in-place is exactly what it sounds like – staying in your home of choice. This can be the least expensive option, especially if you’ve lived in your home a long time and paid off your mortgage. And it’s usually the most comfortable and familiar option!
Living-in-place works best when the home can be modified as your (or your parents) lifestyle needs change. This includes one-level everyday living, customized spaces to increase accessibility and safety against fall prevention, a separate room and bath to accommodate an in-home care professional, and other aging-related adaptations.
Home modification costs, like any remodeling, depend on the extent of construction. A “Live-at-Home”plan can provide a guide for updating your home. You can decide whether to have the work done and paid for all at once, or over time.
Even without a mortgage payment, living in place is not cost-free. Property taxes, insurance, home and yard maintenance, and HOA fees need to be taken into account. Those plus utilities, meals, and transportation become your basic monthly number to budget. According to Investopedia, the monthly median fee for independent living in 2018 – housing, utilities, food, transportation, and basic healthcare – was $2522.
To compare living-in-place to assisted living, factor in the additional cost of home assistance. The general rule of thumb is that if you and your spouse need 40 hours or less of paid in-home care a week, then your costs will be less at home than in assisted living.
You can calculate the average cost of eldercare living in your state here.
No one type of living situation works for everyone, or for every decade of life. The majority of older adults, however, say that they want to age in their home but don’t know if that will be possible. If you’d like to speak with someone about how to make your (or your parents’) home space safe and comfortable for living-in-place, schedule a consultation with Ruby online or call 1-833-MEET-RUBY.
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