Cost-wise, what’s the better choice? Aging in place at home? Or moving to a senior living community? The answer will depend on a variety of factors, including the cost of living in your area. But a careful review of your expenses, and a clear understanding of what you do and don’t get in your home vs. a retirement community, will help you discover how the cost of aging in place compares with the cost of senior living communities.
How Much Does It Cost to Age in Your Home?
According to a recent poll, most older adults plan to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Many people assume they’ll be more comfortable in their familiar setting and that aging in place is more cost-effective. The following steps will help you determine the true cost of aging in place and whether it’s the most affordable option in the long run:
Track Your Current Expenses
Even if you’ve paid off your mortgage, living at home isn’t free. There’s insurance, taxes, utilities, lawn care and, possibly, cleaning services to pay for. Then there’s the cost of occasional maintenance when you have to replace the hot water heater, roof, carpet or appliances, or call in the plumber or electrician to make repairs.
Make a list of your expenses over the course of several months. Also include the cost of groceries and any fees you pay for a gym, country club or community pool membership. These totals will give you a sense of how much it costs to support a lifestyle you enjoy in your current home.
Consider Age-Related Changes
Aging in place comfortably and safely often requires making home modifications. Some of these are relatively easy DIY jobs, like removing throw rugs, which can pose a tripping hazard, or installing non-slip strips to stairs. Others can require extensive remodeling and carry a hefty price tag. The national average cost of remodeling a home for aging in place ranges from $3,000 to $15,000, with some homeowners paying up to $50,000. Here are some common home modifications that make is easier and safer to age in place:
- Grab bars in the bathroom: $90 to $300
- Wider doorways: $300 to $2,500 per door
- Exterior ramp: $1,400 to $3,000
- Stairlift: $4,000 to $8,000
- Curbless shower: $2,500 to $9,000
As your abilities decline, you may also need to pay for more services, such as lawn care, snow removal, house cleaning and transportation. Both the expense of home modifications and of additional services should be included as you tally the cost of aging in place.
Include the Cost of Long-Term Care
A person turning 65 today has an almost 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care, with women needing an average of 3.7 years of long-term care and men needing 2.2 years. If you’re planning to stay in your home, family members or friends may be able to provide the support you need, but an accurate understanding of the cost of aging in place should include the cost of in-home assistance. In 2022, the national monthly median cost for homemaker services was $5,106, while the national monthly median cost for a home health aide was $5,302. It’s also important to note that those costs are for only 44 hours of in-home help per week, but the cost skyrockets when the need is for much more care. For example, if you needed a home health aide there 24/7, it would cost $20,246 per month (national monthly median cost).
Evaluate the Cost of Senior Living Communities
Senior living costs vary depending on a variety of factors, including location, type of community, the financial contract offered, and the size of your residence. A look at different senior living options can help you get a feel for which might suit your needs, but you’ll need to contact individual retirement communities to get the specifics on cost. As you compare the costs of each senior living option to the cost of aging in place, keep in mind the services and amenities included in senior living costs. In some cases, one monthly fee may replace many individual bills. and you may discover that senior living is actually the more affordable option.
Here are the most common senior living options:
Independent Living Communities
Sometimes called active adult communities, these communities are designed for older adults who need no (or only minimal) assistance, but are looking for services, amenities, and a community that will enrich their retirement years. Age specifications may vary — there are 55+ communities or independent living communities where the minimum age is 62. Depending on the community, you may find single-family homes, townhomes, or condominiums for sale or rent. The cost will depend on geographic location, the type of residence and the amenities offered. Monthly fees may include meals, outdoor maintenance and other services, and access to a clubhouse, pool, fitness center or other features.
Higher levels of care, such as assisted living or memory care, may not be available in the community. If they are, you’ll likely have to pay the prevailing market rate, which has been increasing faster than the rate of inflation since 2004.
Assisted Living Communities
Seniors who choose an assisted living community do so to maintain their independence in a private apartment while having around-the-clock support from on-site caregivers. The most commonly needed services in an assisted living community are medication reminders and personal care (bathing, grooming, dressing). Housekeeping, meals, laundry, and life enrichment programs are included. Some form of transportation service is usually offered.
Generally, in a stand-alone assisted living community — which may also offer memory care for people living with dementia — residents pay a monthly rental rate, plus the costs of medication and other medical services. In 2022, the national median cost for assisted living was $4,635 a month.
Life Plan Communities
Also known as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), these senior living communities offer independent living plus a continuum of care, which may include assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation and skilled nursing. If a resident’s health changes, they can transition to a different level of care within the same community. In addition to the on-site continuum of care, Life Plan Communities typically offer a variety of services and amenities and multiple dining venues. The details will vary depending on the community and the specifics of the financial contracts they offer, but typically the cost of a Life Plan Community includes:
- A one-time entrance fee. This fee secures your independent living residence and gives you priority access to the continuum of care, prepaying some of the cost of your long-term care. The fee can range from $100,000 to $1,000,000 or more, and is typically covered by the sale of your home. Depending on the contract, a portion of the entrance fee may be refunded when you leave the community. You may also be able to deduct some of the entrance fee cost on your taxes.
- Monthly fees. According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, the average monthly fee for independent living in a Life Plan Community was $3,555 in 2021. This fee covers home maintenance, property taxes, a meal plan, fitness membership, a well-maintained campus, access to on-site long-term care, and a host of other amenities and services. You may also be able to deduct a portion of this monthly cost on your taxes.
Finding the Right Option for You
There’s some homework required as you compare the cost of aging in place vs. the cost of senior living communities. You’ll probably have to crunch numbers and read the fine print in senior living contracts to find the solution that fits your needs and goals. Our community finder can help you with your search, as will in-person visits to the communities that pique your interest.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.