What Does it Cost?

Cost-wise, what’s the better choice? Aging in place at home? Or moving to a senior living community? You’ll need to crunch the numbers for your own particular situation, because the cost of living varies all across the country. But a careful review of expenses, a clear understanding of what you do and don’t get in your home vs. a retirement community – that’s where you begin. And in the end, if you’re like most people who consider a move to an independent living community, you’ll discover that the costs of community life can compare favorably to the costs of aging in place at home.

Living at home isn’t free.
Living in a retirement community probably costs less than you think.
In a senior living community, you start with upfront costs.
Senior living communities offer a wide variety of choices.
Conclusion: Compare actual costs before deciding

Living at home isn’t free.

As a homeowner, you know the costs. There’s insurance, taxes, property maintenance and improvements. There are utilities and groceries and, possibly, landscaping or cleaning services. Every so often, there’s a new hot water heater, new faucets and fixtures, or new appliances. Once in a while there’s a new roof, carpeting, painting, HVAC, sewer lines to clear, and water where it shouldn’t be or not showing up where it should. How much does all this homeownership cost you? Well, add it up – including any mortgage payments you’re still obligated to make. When you have that set of numbers in hand, you’ll have a good starting point for understanding what it costs to live at home.

And then there’s more. Because when your plan is to age in place, you’ll also want to think about the modifications your home may need to keep you safe and life simple. These can range from small – get rid of those liable-to-trip-you throw rugs and install grab bars near the tub and toilet – to mighty, like widening doorways, remodeling a bathroom or two, installing lifts or ramps, and even replacing doorknobs with handles. While these are mostly one-time expenses, they can add up to a major price tag. It’s part of the price you pay to age in place at home – all those homeownership costs, plus the costs of ensuring your home is an even safer, more secure place for the years ahead.

And then there’s even more. Aging in place at home also means being prepared to bring into your home the service providers who can help if you have a health care need. You can (and probably should) research the costs for in-home care in your neighborhood, but national averages have Home Health Aides at $19 to $20 per hour and Home Health Care at $135 per visit. What’s more, you may want to wire your home with smart technologies that can monitor your behavior or medications and alert health professionals when you have a need. Beyond the thousands required for installation, monthly monitoring fees run about $40. And if – heaven forbid – the day comes you must move from your home to assisted living or skilled nursing, those levels of care average $3,600 and $6,600 a month, respectively – on top of the continuing costs for that home you’ve left behind. Add it all up and it’s clear: Living at home isn’t free.

Living in a retirement community probably costs less than you think.

It’s absolutely true that all the costs of aging at home are worth it for some people, who consider the value of staying in their home to be beyond reproach. But if you’d like to consider an alternative, take a closer look at your neighborhood senior living community. Compared to the true costs of homeownership outline above, a retirement community can provide a surprisingly affordable alternative.

In a senior living community, you start with upfront costs.

Assisted living communities and independent living communities generally have a monthly rate that could range from $1,500 to $6,000, and may make certain hospitality and care services available for an additional monthly fee.

Some assisted living communities and independent living communities may require a move-in fee, which could equal one month’s rent or less. To know your actual costs, you’ll need to visit with the community sales counselor.

A Life Plan Community (also known as a CCRC, or continuing care retirement community) usually has an entrance fee. It’s the upfront cost most people handle with proceeds from selling their houses. Entrance fees range from around $100,000 upward, depending on floor plans and residential contracts, or the region where you reside.

In addition, Life Plan Communities typically have monthly service fees, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 or more. To know your actual costs, you’ll need to visit with the community sales counselor.

Remember that when you make your home at a senior living community, those homeownership costs for taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs and so forth are all covered by your monthly service fee. Even broken-down appliances (and burned-out light bulbs!) can be replaced, at no additional cost – and those replacements typically happen immediately.

Likewise, there’s typically a meal plan, recreation and entertainment, possibly a fitness center, a library, beauty salon/barbershop, craft workshops, scheduled transportation – and it’s all covered by your monthly fee. In fact, all the services and amenities of a community that make everyday living simpler – it’s all made possible by the monthly fee.

Senior living communities offer a wide variety of choices.

Independent living community services include full calendars of life enrichment programs and events, plus transportation, wellness opportunities, trash removal, maintenance and repairs. Some communities offer additional à la carte services such as housekeeping, concierge services and laundry.

Average cost of independent living: Because independent living communities are so varied, pricing ranges. On the lower end of the spectrum are rental communities. If the community is a stand-alone, 55+, multi-unit, senior apartment community with few benefits and services, monthly rental prices may be comparable to conventional apartments. Add more services and amenities, and costs rise.

Seniors who choose an assisted living community do so to maintain their independence in a private apartment while having around-the-clock support from nearby 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. Average cost of assisted living nationwide: The median price for a one-bedroom assisted living apartment with a single occupant is $3,628 per month in 2016. Average fees increase annually.

When you choose a Life Plan Community instead of deciding to age in place at home, you’ll have access to care – right on campus – if you ever need it.

Assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, rehabilitation services – depending on the services your community provides and the residential contract you select when you move in, you’ll have a plan in place for care at a Life Plan Community, at a cost that’s much lower than what you would pay for the same care if you moved to it directly from your family house. Residential contracts are usually similar to these:

  • Extensive or life care contracts provide lifetime access to health care, with either no increase in monthly fees or just a small increase when a higher level of care is needed.
  • Modified or continuing care agreements require smaller entrance fees, but limit access to health services to a specific number of days. When the limit is met, residents pay more each month. This is best for seniors who don’t see their health care situation changing significantly and can afford to pay more if it does.

Conclusion: Compare actual costs before deciding

Homework’s required. Calculate your homeownership costs and estimate what care will add to your monthly expenses – before you conclude that aging in place at home is a cheaper alternative. And find out the actual costs of living in a retirement community before concluding it’s too expensive.

To learn more about senior living costs, visit Genworth Financial’s 2016 Cost of Care.

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