Average Cost of Independent Living
When deciding if you are ready to transition to a senior independent living lifestyle, a top question you will want to know is: “How much does independent living cost?”
We have put together this guide to help give you a better idea of what various types of independent living communities can cost and some ways you can pay for them.
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How Much Does Independent Living Cost in the United States?
Genworth Financial publishes an annual survey of average assisted living, in-home care, and nursing home costs in the United States. Unfortunately, no such data is available for the average cost of independent living as a whole, and the cost varies greatly depending on the community type. On the lower end of the price spectrum are independent living retirement communities. On the upper end are continuing care retirement communities.
To help you decide which community fits within your budget, let’s look at some of the most popular forms of independent living, their services and amenities, and cost range.
Independent Living Communities:
Independent living communities are rental communities built for seniors with minimal care needs. They will generally have a minimum age requirement, often 62 or 65. Seniors who live in Independent Living communities are usually self sufficient but enjoy the interaction with others or the additional free time that comes from relief from the daily chores associated with living at home. Housing units are generally apartments, condominiums, or small cottages. Services and amenities often include housekeeping services, interior and exterior maintenance, community spaces, group fitness classes, and even on-campus bistros.
Depending on the services and amenities, the price for these types of communities generally ranges between $1,500 and $6,000 a month.
55+ Housing Developments:
When joining these communities, new residents may purchase or rent a single-family house within an age-restricted housing association. These homes are built with the needs of seniors in mind (such as having grab bars in the bathroom, barrier-free entryways, ability to accommodate chair lifts, etc.) and include maintenance services. Community amenities generally include a central clubhouse with a fitness center, pool, and meeting rooms. Many communities also offer outdoor recreation features like walking paths, tennis courts, and even golf course access.These communities offer many of the benefits associated with interaction with others in the development, but may not provide as many services relating to chores – cooking or cleaning would still need to be provided by the resident.
The purchase price varies depending upon the state and the community’s location. For example, the average cost in Durham, NC, ranges from the low $400,000s to low $600,000s. Near San Antonio, TX, the cost is around mid $200s to mid $500s. Outside of Seattle, WA, the cost can top $1 million. Residents can also expect to pay homeowner’s association (HOA) dues to cover outdoor maintenance and community amenities.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities:
In continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called life plan communities), residents who still lead active lives and don’t require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) live in a cottage, condo, or apartment in the independent living section of the community. However, if their care needs become more extensive, they will be relocated to the CCRC’s assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing facilities to ensure they receive appropriate care.
CCRCs are generally the most expensive independent living option available because they provide residents with housing and care services for life. Monthly rates for the independent living section of the community can range from $2,000 to over $4,000 depending on the housing type and floor plan. Moreover, a majority of these communities also charge an entrance fee that can range from $40,000 to over $1 million — according to the AARP, the average initial payment is $329,000 — to pay for the resident’s long-term care.
Local Advisors for Independent Living
As noted, many options are available to pay for independent living, so don’t let the initial cost impression discourage you.
Our local senior living advisors can help ease the transition into senior living and find the perfect independent living community for your needs. Unlike national agents, our local care experts live and work in the cities you are interested in and can provide expert advice about local independent living communities. They’ll help you determine your cost of living, evaluate communities, research payment options, and fashion a solution that fits your budget and funding sources.
Common Independent Living Services & Amenities
When evaluating different communities, some amenities you can generally expect to find across all forms of independent living are:
- Yard maintenance
- Community spaces (e.g., a clubhouse)
- Senior-friendly architecture (including enhanced emergency systems and security features)
- Easy access to hospitals, grocery stores, public transit
Depending on the community, they might also include:
- Utilities (except telephone service and cable)
- Restaurant-style meal services
- Weekly housekeeping
- Laundry services
- Concierge services
- Community events calendar
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Factors That Influence the Cost of Independent Living
1. Level of Care
It is important to realize that independent living is not the same as assisted living. The latter is for seniors who need 24/7 support and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as:
- Medication management
Meanwhile, independent living is intended for active seniors with few to no personal care needs who want to enjoy a low-maintenance lifestyle in a senior-friendly community surrounded by peers.
That said, some communities will contract with an outside provider to offer limited personal care services for an extra charge. For example, let’s say you have an injury that’s restricting your mobility. In this case, you can temporarily hire a home aide to assist you with ADLs until you recover. Another scenario is that you regularly require minor assistance with a specific ADL, but are otherwise able to live independently.
You can take our Senior Needs Assessment Quiz to get a sense of whether independent living is a good fit for your care needs.
2. Living Space
Another major cost factor for independent living is the size of the resident’s living space. The unit’s square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, proximity to community amenities (such as elevators), view, etc., are all calculated in the price point.
Just as the cost of real estate varies by geographic area, independent living costs vary nationwide. For example, independent living communities are generally more expensive in the Northeast and along the West Coast, and less expensive in regions like the Midwest.
4. Services & Amenities
Something else to consider is the community’s services and amenities. For example, luxury communities offer a resort-like experience with features like concierge services, private beaches, gourmet dining, fully equipped fitness centers, a private shuttle service, etc. As you might expect, these kinds of high-end perks do come at a higher price.
Ways to Finance Independent Living Costs
Most seniors cover the cost of independent living through private means. For instance, they might use their retirement funds, investment annuities, and/or monthly income. Here are a few ways seniors fund their new independent living lifestyle:
If you no longer want to be responsible for maintaining a house, converting its value into usable capital can be a great option to pay for independent living. This can be done in various ways, such as applying for a reverse mortgage, using the property as collateral for a home equity line of credit (HELOC) loan, selling the property outright, or renting it out for monthly income.
Life Insurance Settlements
A life insurance settlement is when a senior sells their life insurance policy to a third party for a lump sum of cash. In this type of arrangement, the amount of cash one receives is less than the death benefit, but more than the standard cash surrender value. The proceeds of a life insurance settlement can then be used to pay for an independent living community.
If you require in-home care while living in an independent living community (for example, you are recovering from surgery, or have a disability and need limited personal care assistance), you might be able to use Veterans benefits, Medicaid, or Medicare benefits to help cover the cost. To be clear, these programs do NOT pay for standard expenses associated with independent living (entrance fees, rent, HOA dues, etc.). Rather, the programs help cover specific personal care/medical services that happen to be provided in an independent living setting.
Bridge loans — also known as GAP financing or swing loans — are short-term, high-interest loans that help temporarily finance independent living until you can secure a more permanent solution. For example, you want to secure a new cottage that just opened up at your desired independent living community before anyone else can claim it. However, you don’t yet have the financing in place to pay the cost. Bridge loans provide a line of credit to finance assisted living costs in the short term while you sell your current home, convert your life insurance policy, or take other actions to line up funds.
Our local senior care advisors can help you find a quality independent living community that fits your specific lifestyle and budget needs.
It depends on the type of community and services you receive. For example, the entrance fee for a CCRC helps pay for medical and long-term care services, so you may be able to deduct a portion of it as a medical expense. You will want to consult with a tax professional.
Absolutely! A local senior care advisor can answer your questions about independent living costs and financing options.