Senior Living Pricing

How to Compare the Cost of Senior Living Communities

Moving to a senior living community is a major life decision where factors like location, staff, levels of care, programs and activities come into play. However, one factor often carries more weight than others: cost.

When selecting a place to call home, you may be tempted to choose the cheapest senior living community. But cheapest doesn’t mean best. When touring communities, it is better to think of price in terms of value rather than cost. In other words, what are you receiving in exchange for your money? This methodology of thinking is also helpful when you begin comparing the cost of different senior living communities.

Community Type

Comparing senior living communities can be challenging. One may be closer to your grandchildren but not offer your preferred floor plan. Another may offer world-class dining but no transportation services. Since different communities provide different benefits, it can be especially difficult to compare the prices of communities. One place to start is by evaluating the community type.

Independent Living

Independent living communities are designed for healthy, active older adults who are seeking a maintenance-free lifestyle. Residents are provided with access to amenities and services like housekeeping, on-site dining, lawn care and more. Independent living communities are often more affordable than other senior living options, the average price being $2,552 per month.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities are perfect for individuals who need assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, cooking and mobility. In these communities, trained staff offer 24/7 care; however, residents are encouraged to live as independently as possible. The average price for an assisted living community is $4,000 per month.

Memory Care

Memory care communities provide care to older adults who are suffering from cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Staff provide assistance with activities of daily living as well as programming that works to slow memory loss. Since individuals with dementia are prone to wandering, these communities also emphasize security. Memory care is a more expensive senior living option, averaging $5,000 per month.

Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing communities provide older adults short- or long-term rehabilitative care following an illness, surgery or accident. Since these communities are staffed with medical personnel who provide 24/7 support, the price is significantly higher than other senior living options. A single month of skilled nursing can cost $8,000.

Amenities and Services

Many individuals transition to senior living communities because they desire a maintenance-free lifestyle. They want more time for themselves and would prefer that someone else handle the housekeeping, laundry, cooking and yard work. Conveniently, many communities roll the price of these amenities and services into the monthly charge. However, others use an a la carte pricing system; that means you must pay extra for certain conveniences.

Typically, senior living communities provide the following amenities and services at no additional cost:

  • Housekeeping
  • Lawn care
  • Home maintenance
  • Dining
  • Scheduled transportation
  • Social events and activities
  • Wellness programs

Many communities will require that you pay extra for the following services:

  • Laundry and linen
  • Delivered meals
  • Additional housekeeping services
  • Beauty salon and barbershop
  • Medication management
  • Bathing/shower assistance

Again, as you explore different communities, it is critical that you determine which amenities and services are included in your monthly bill and which will be provided at an additional charge.

Location and Floor Plan

As in all real estate, the price of senior living communities varies dramatically from city to city. The average cost of independent living in Raleigh, North Carolina, for example, is $2,809 per month. Comparatively, the average cost of independent living in Houston, Texas, is $1,994 per month. If price is a concern, it may be worthwhile to consider communities in more affordable cities or states. For instance, while the average cost of independent living in Florida is in line with the national average, there are numerous tax incentives that make life cheaper for older adults.

Similarly, which floor plan you choose will also affect the price. Many independent living communities offer standalone townhouses with patios and modern furnishings. Others allow residents to select between studio and one- and two-bedroom apartment homes. Consider what type of space will best suit your budget.

Future Care Options 

Another challenge in selecting a senior living community is anticipating your future needs. While you may not need assistance with daily tasks right now, an illness or injury could quickly compromise your independence. As such, it is important to consider if a community provides independent living residents with home care services. If not, ask if residents are allowed to hire third-party caregivers.

It is also worth considering continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Also known as life plan communities, CCRCs provide residents with a continuum of care. If, for instance, you enter the community as an independent living resident but later decide you need more support, you can easily transition to assisted living or memory care. These communities typically offer rehabilitative services as well. Of course, this convenience comes at a cost. In addition to monthly fees, nearly two-thirds of CCRCs require residents to pay an upfront payment. This entrance fee ranges from $329,000 to $1 million.

Choosing the Right Community

For better or for worse, the “right” community looks very different for different adults. However, no matter your budget, it is important to not let price fully dictate your final decision. Even if a community’s sticker price is low, it may not include the services and amenities that you need. Similarly, just because a community is more expensive, does not mean it provides an all-inclusive fee structure.

Finding a community to call home requires patience. Once you have narrowed the search to three or four communities, list the pros and cons of each. Price may very well be on this list; however, it should be considered alongside the other factors.