Average Cost of Senior Living
Senior living offers you an opportunity to simplify your life and receive increased support, so you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy most.
But how much does senior living cost?
This guide will help give you a better idea of what various types of senior living communities can cost and some ways you can pay for them.
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How Much Does Senior Living Cost in the United States?
The term “senior living” applies to a variety of different senior housing and care types, including independent living, memory care, skilled nursing facilities, and more.
To give you a sense of the numbers involved:
- Independent living: Monthly costs can range from less than $1,500 to over $7,000, depending on the independent living community model.
- Assisted Living: According to the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the national monthly average for assisted living is $4,500.
- Memory Care: Memory care facilities generally cost 15-25% more than assisted living, putting the national monthly average around $5,371.
- Skilled Nursing: According to the same Genworth survey, a private room at a skilled nursing facility will cost an average of $9,034 per month.
Local Advisors for Senior Living
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of senior living options available across the US. A single city can support dozens, even hundreds, of senior living communities of different types. As such, you may not have the time or energy to research them all by yourself to find the ideal placement for your loved one.
Fortunately, our local care advisors are available to help take the challenge out of finding the perfect senior living community.
These senior living experts continuously follow up with senior living properties in their area to make sure you have the most up-to-date information available about their services, amenities, prices, and more — everything you need for your senior living community search. They will also help you determine your cost of living, evaluate communities that serve your care needs, research funding sources, and fashion a solution that fits your budget.
Common Senior Living Services & Amenities
The cost of senior living in the US varies dramatically depending on several elements, including the type of community, your lifestyle preferences, and your level of care. Here is a quick overview of some major cost factors that can influence the price of senior living.
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Factors That Influence the Cost of Senior Living
1. Level of Care
The higher level of care a senior living community offers, the more expensive it tends to be due to regulatory requirements, the need for specially trained staff, etc.
- Independent living communities are built for active, older adults to require no (or limited) assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, grooming, dining, etc.
- Assisted living communities and care homes are for seniors who require 24/7 supervision and daily assistance with ADLs to ensure their safety and well-being.
- Memory care communities are designed specifically for the comfort and safety of seniors with mid-to-late stage dementia. Like assisted living, they provide 24/7 supervision and ADL support, as well as specialized programming to promote cognitive health.
- Skilled nursing facilities offer the highest level of care and are the only form of senior living licensed to provide medical care in addition to personal care services.
Some senior living communities charge an all-inclusive monthly fee, but other facilities change based on the level of care needed.
Our Senior Needs Assessment quiz can help you get a sense of what kind of senior living community will fit your loved one’s care needs.
As with other types of real estate, the unit’s square footage, view, proximity to amenities, etc., is calculated into the price. Independent living communities offer the widest housing choices — including apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and cottages. Assisted living facilities offer a selection of different apartment floor plans, ranging from studios to two-bedroom, two-bathroom units. Instead of full apartments, care homes, memory care communities, and skilled nursing facilities generally provide residents with private suites or shared bedrooms.
A major consideration that influences the cost of senior living is the location. For example, senior living communities are generally more expensive in areas like New England and less expensive in regions like the Midwest. Say you are looking for a memory care facility. Moving from Washington to Idaho drops the average monthly cost by over 30% — from $7,020 to $4,490. Similarly, senior living communities in urban areas are generally more expensive than their more rural counterparts.
4. Services & Amenities
Finally, consider property amenities. Some senior living communities offer very basic services and amenities — an apartment, utilities, outdoor maintenance, and that’s it. Luxury senior living communities offer a resort-like experience, with concierge services, housekeeping, laundry, dining, private transportation, an on-staff activities coordinator, and more. As you can imagine, the more services and amenities the property offers, the more you can expect to pay.
Tips and Ways on How To Finance Senior Living Costs
Here are tips and ideas for ways to help finance your senior living lifestyle.
If you own your house, downsizing and converting its value into usable capital can be a way to finance your long-term care needs. Options include selling the property, renting it out, applying for a reverse mortgage, or using it as collateral for a home equity loan.
Unlike regular health insurance, a long-term care (LTC) insurance plan will help pay for custodial and personal care services provided in a variety of senior living options. LTC policies can be an important source of funding for assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities in particular. Since the rate is partially based on health, most people buy LTC insurance in their mid-50s to mid-60s, before they are diagnosed with a chronic illness, disease, or other medical condition.
Bridge loans (also called GAP financing or swing loans) are short-term, higher-interest loans that can help temporarily finance senior living. For example, say you or your loved one needs to move into assisted living immediately for safety reasons. The plan is to sell your home to pay for care, but you are still in the process of getting the house appraised and put on the market. In this case, a bridge loan can cover the cost of care until your house is sold.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a variety of benefits to help qualified veterans pay for their long-term care needs. For example, the Aid and Attendance program will help cover the cost of assistance with ADLs and other care services provided in a senior living environment.
Medicare can help defray some costs associated with senior care. For instance, the program will help pay for short-term, medically necessary home healthcare services, which can be provided in various senior living settings. Medicare can also help cover annual wellness visits, cognitive assessment, and medication. However, Medicare will NOT pay for non-medically necessary services provided by senior living communities — such as ADL support, room & board, etc.
Life Insurance Conversion
Another option to pay for senior living is to convert an existing life insurance policy into a life-term care benefit plan. The policy is sold to a third party for a defined monthly care stipend (which is paid directly to the care provider).
You could also make a life settlement, where you sell the policy to a third party for a lump sum. In this type of arrangement, you will receive a smaller amount than the death benefit, but more than the standard cash surrender value.
Medicaid benefits vary widely depending on which state you live in. However, many states help eligible seniors cover the long-term care services provided by senior living communities. In some cases, Medicaid not only covers the cost of care but room and board as well (memory care, for example).
Spend Down Strategy
To be eligible for Medicaid, your income and assets must be under a specified amount set by your state. However, if you are over the income limit, there are approved ways to “spend down” until you become financially eligible. For example, you can spend excess income on medical bills, personal care expenses, prescription medications, and doctors’ appointments. Once the excess income is spent, you can apply for Medicaid to receive assistance paying for your long-term care.
Spending down can also help you access a higher quality senior living community. Many communities will tell you that they accept Medicaid, but in practice, they never have a Medicaid bed available for new admissions. Rather, they reserve these spaces for existing residents who “spend down” to go on Medicaid. So, if you can pay for 12 to 24 months of care at a higher quality facility, you can then “spend down” and transition to Medicaid to continue paying for your care.
The cost of senior living will depend on your location, the community type, and your specific care needs. Monthly rates can range from below $1,500 to over $8,000.
Some types of long-term care services provided by senior living are tax-deductible as medical expenses. To learn more, visit www.irs.gov or consult with a tax professional.