Senior Living: Your Definitive Guide for 2022

Senior Living: Your Definitive Guide for 2022

Discover what senior living looks like today

What is a senior living community?

By Arthur Bretschneider, last update August 8, 2022

While senior living communities may be a common concept, many seniors and families still may not completely understand what the communities offer. The term “senior housing,” "nursing home,” and “retirement community,” are often used synonymously with senior living as well as many other variations of the term. They all describe living arrangements for seniors, but all options offer far more than just housing. 

The term “senior living community” is used to describe several different types of housing for seniors that are 55 years or older. These residential areas are built to accommodate several types of lifestyles and medical needs. From independent senior living to assisted living, your loved one can be matched up with the perfect community for their needs and preferences, while still being surrounded by their peers. 

The definition of “retirement home,” is also used as the equivalent to senior living. A retirement home is a generic term that refers to a community of seniors, 55 and over, living in something similar to a multi-residence apartment or condominium complex. 

Along with peace of mind, these communities also give seniors a strong sense of purpose and freedom. Below is a few examples of amenities that may be offered in senior living communities:

  • Weekly housekeeping
  • Apartment-style accommodations
  • Personal furnishings
  • Kitchens or kitchenettes
  • Laundry services
  • Regular outings
  • Common areas for residents to gather
  • Comfortable outdoor living for residents to gather
  • Transportation services

Why move into a senior living community now?

The term “senior living” may sound like a negative thing to some people because they think of it as sitting around and aging instead of getting up and living. In fact, senior living can be more of a vacation while you enjoy all the amenities, activities, and make new friends. Senior living allows seniors to age in place safely with the peace of mind that all their needs will be taken care of.

As you transition further into your retirement years, retirement communities allow you to:

  • continue to meet all your health care needs
  • keep your independence
  • make new friends and thrive in a new community
  • enjoy several service options (i.e. transportation)
  • have daily necessities handled for you
  • never worry about home maintenance or yard work again
  • pay one monthly price for most of your expenses
  • not worry about moving again in the future

Instead of spending your retirement years in a home that requires upkeep and maintenance there is no time like the present to look into senior living. Live retirement on your own terms and choose the community now that truly feels like home.

Are you ready to meet new people and leave behind all of the extra obligations? Start here with a Seniorly Advisor:

How much does senior living cost?

Senior living costs range from high to low based on a variety of factors, including location, care type, length of stay, property amenities, community type, etc. Some senior living facilities focus on offering a resort-like experience with luxurious services while others focus on providing a more home-like experience.

You may be asking yourself what is the price of senior living? Payment options can vary dramatically depending on the type of facility, the care needed, and which state you want to live in. For example, Medicare doesn’t cover independent living communities but will help pay for skilled nursing facilities. Meanwhile, some states provide income-based financial aid to cover the cost of assisted living facilities, while other states do not.

 

How to pay for senior living

The cost of senior living can vary from $1500 to $8000 a month depending on several factors. The price will vary depending on what type of community you live in (independent living vs assisted living, for example), the level of care needed, the size of the space you are living in, and the area you chose to live in. Here are a few options on how to pay for senior living:

  • Savings Account. This is the most traditional way to pay for your retirement if you have saved enough to pay out of pocket.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance. This insurance policy will reimburse residents a daily amount for activities of daily living (ADLs). This policy is best utilized when purchased before it is actually needed. In order to use this insurance you will need to be assessed by a medical professional to determine if you need long term care.
  • VA Benefits. Most veterans are eligible for senior living costs through the VA. Take a look at our piece on VA benefits to learn more.

Why is senior care so expensive?

There are different levels of housing and care depending on what you can afford. Care can go from basic to advanced. The price will be contingent on what type and how much care you need. 

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. Senior living is no exception. While the senior population keeps growing the need for staffing,housing, doctors, nurses, caregivers, administrators, support staff, and engineers keeps growing as well. 24-hour care is offered in most communities, which in turn has the communities paying their staff around the clock to take care of your loved ones needs. 

Just like a home there is housing, food, laundry, electricity, and many other costs that need to be covered. If you break down each in the cost of a senior living community you might be surprised at how reasonable the price really is. 

For an idea of the range of cost for different types of senior living, here are some monthly averages from the Genworth Financial 2020 Cost of Care Survey:

Average Monthly Cost Based on Senior Living Community Type

When assessing the cost of a senior living community, remember that the price can include room and board (meals), maintenance and landscaping, personal care services (if applicable), and life enrichment programs. Often, seniors find that the cost of senior living is lower than trying to pay for each of these elements, plus transportation, property taxes, etc. when maintaining a private home.

Ready to take the next step in your retirement journey?

How to pay for senior living

The cost of senior living can vary from $1500 to $8000 a month depending on several factors. The price will vary depending on what type of community you live in (independent living vs assisted living, for example), the level of care needed, the size of the space you are living in, and the area you chose to live in. Here are a few options on how to pay for senior living:

  • Savings Account. This is the most traditional way to pay for your retirement if you have saved enough to pay out of pocket.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance. This insurance policy will reimburse residents a daily amount for activities of daily living (ADLs). This policy is best utilized when purchased before it is actually needed. In order to use this insurance you will need to be assessed by a medical professional to determine if you need long term care.
  • VA Benefits. Most veterans are eligible for senior living costs through the VA. Take a look at our piece on VA benefits to learn more.
  • Medicare: Medicare does not pay for assisted living. There are other ways it can help with hospital stays, rehab, and memory care, however. To learn more about Medicare, take a look at our article:
  • Medicaid: Medicaid can help with some of the costs of care, half of Medicaid’s funding comes from the federal government and half from your state, so details of coverage and copays vary tremendously from state to state. To learn more about what Medicaid does and does not cover, take a look at our article:
  • Selling Your Home.  Once you have decided which type of retirement community is best for you, selling your home is the logical first step. The monies from your house sale can help to finance your retirement living expenses.
  • Life Insurance. Some life insurance policies have “living benefits” available. A life settlement is the sale of an existing life insurance policy to a third party for more than its cash surrender value but less than its death benefit.
  • Support From Loved Ones. Families can sometimes pool their finances together to help a loved one afford their senior living.

The benefits of choosing a senior living community

Research shows that staying active and socially connected becomes more important as we age. Isolation is a serious health risk for older adults , physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Don’t wait until a health crisis or emergency hits to look into senior living. There are several advantages to looking into or discussing senior living before it is a necessity: 

More time to research your options

Less stress while making decisions

The freedom to choose where you would like to live and not where you have to live

Less restrictions because you are still active and independent

It is never too soon to start looking into your options. The benefits of senior living can improve both the quality and the length of life. Senior living communities create opportunities for older adults to engage and enjoy daily experiences through:

Life Enrichment Programs

Volunteering Opportunities

Peer-to-Peer Support

Well-balanced Meals

Planned Fitness Programs

Types of senior living communities: Which one is best for you?

If a medical emergency requires you or your loved one to find housing immediately or you are just starting to make a healthcare plan for yourself or your loved one, choosing senior housing can be confusing and feel overwhelming. 

While the options seem vast, we will break them down to make them less confusing. This information will help you to start your search when looking for the perfect community for you or your loved one.

Age restricted

Age restricted communities allow 55+ and older residents to live in a community where 80 percent of all units have at least one resident 55+. There are many benefits to living in an age restricted community:

  • No to low maintenance of the exterior of your home
  • Pools and exercise equipment
  • The ability to join clubs and volunteer groups
  • Attending social events
  • Quiet surroundings
  • Pay one monthly fee for for almost everything

Do note that healthcare is not provided for residents in this type of neighborhood.

Assisted living

Assisted living communities provide 24-hour non-medical care delivered in a residential setting. In assisted living communities, residents maintain a sense of freedom with the assurance that staff is always on-hand to help when needed. They enjoy daily opportunities to socialize with unique services and amenities. Also, they form new friendships within the community.

Living in these communities you can expect the following care and amenities:

  • Care with personal hygiene
  • Help with household management
  • Communication/Companionship
  • Financial assistance
  • Help with feeding
  • Help with continence management
  • Care with ambulating
  • Assistance with dressing & toileting
  • Transportation assistance
  • Medication management
  • 24-hour assistance with ADLs
  • Home maintenance, housekeeping & laundry services
  • Opportunities for social engagement
  • Options for wellness programs

Be sure to read our article on how to evaluate assisted living facilities to help you determine which community would be the best fit for you or your family member.

Independent Senior Living

Independent living communities offer a maintenance-free lifestyle for senior adults who don't require assistance with their ADLs or medical care, but who want to streamline their lives and live in a community of peers. Because most adults that move into an independent living community are older adults that don’t need medical care, medical care is usually not offered. 

Sunrise of La Jolla, CA

An example of an independent living community at Sunrise of La Jolla, CA

There are various levels of amenities that are provided. Some examples are:

  • Private apartments
  • 24-hour staff
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation services
  • Social events
  • Various dining options

Aging-in-place

Aging in place allows elderly adults to live in their own home or with their family while still maintaining some independence.  Senior apartments or homes can offer the independence the senior is in need of. If the older adult is independent but still needs some level of help this is still a good option for them. According to a survey given by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), more than three-quarters of Americans age 50 or older want to stay in their own home for as long as possible, even if they will need assistance now or in the future. Here are some examples of the care that you can experience:

  • Using a caregiver service
  • Help with cleaning your residence
  • Meal deliveries
  • Employing a home health care service

Memory care

Memory Care is a senior living community built to care for seniors who have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Many assisted living communities have special wings designed specifically to help residents with memory issues. Memory care residents benefit from a structured environment that provides specially designed routines to help them feel secure and comfortable. 

An example of a memory care community at Courtyard Terrace Memory Care, Sacramento, CA

Living in these communities you can expect the following care and amenities:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Help with feeding
  • Continence management
  • Help with ambulation
  • Assistance with dressing & toileting
  • All meals will be provided
  • Housekeeping
  • Available social activities
  • Transportation services
  • Comfortable rooms
  • All laundry services
  • Available exercise programs
  • Cognitive therapy is provided
Find memory care communities near you

Respite care

Respite care is a type of short-term senior living situation where older adults temporarily stay in assisted living communities, receive short-term home care, or spend time in an adult daycare program. Respite care is an important option for seniors who need additional care as they recover from an illness or surgery or for family caregivers who need a short break.

Since respite care is a short-term stay at an assisted living community the care is the same. The following care and amenities can include:

  • Personal hygiene
  • Household management
  • Communication/Companionship
  • Help with financial assistance
  • Assistance with feeding
  • Continence management
  • Assistance with ambulation
  • Help with dressing & toileting
  • Transportation services
  • Medication management

CCRCs

Continuing care retirement community (CCRC) provides seniors with the ability to age in place by combining independent living, assisted living and 24/7 nursing home care into one property. You can easily transition to the appropriate level of care facility as your needs change. However, you remain a part of the same overall community, allowing you to maintain social ties and enjoy your social activities and hobbies uninterrupted. Many couples choose this option because it allows them to stay with each other even if their needs should change.

What type of care is provided in a CCRC community?

CCRC communities offer the following care and amenities:

  • Physical and nursing care
  • Skilled nursing facilities care
  • Assisted living care
  • Memory care
  • ADLs
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Onsite pharmacy
  • Available dentist
  • Mental health and nutritional counseling
  • Barber and beauty salon
  • Cable and internet
  • Postal service
  • Banking service
  • Transportation services
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services
  • Community & social activities and services

Nursing home

The term “nursing home” is a catch-all phrase for senior living facilities that most typically means an assisted living community. Don’t be misled by the word “nursing,” since most people who live in a nursing home don’t need skilled nursing. Rather, they require non-medical assistance with their ADLs. However, other types of senior living might use the title “nursing home” so always confirm beforehand what types of care and services they offer.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)

The term skilled nursing facility (SNF) is different from other types of senior living communities as the services can only be performed by medical professionals. Also known as rehabilitation services, SNF services can take place at home or in a SNF facility. 

SNF communities offer the following care and amenities:

  • Post hospital and post surgical care
  • Assistance with ADLs
  • Incontinence care
  • Restorative rehabilitation
  • Medication administration
  • Laundry services
  • Medication management
  • Housekeeping
  • Beauty salon
  • Private dining rooms
  • Cable and internet services

Unlike other forms of senior housing, which are often private pay, skilled nursing facilities are generally covered by Medicaid and Medicare, although some restrictions may apply.


How much does senior living cost?

<p>In 2019, the cost of senior living ranged from $4,051 for assisted living to $7,513 for a semi-private room at a skilled nursing facility. Other kinds of senior living options include independent living, memory care, and even short-term respite care stays. Prices vary based on care needs, room type, and geographic location.</p>

What is senior housing?

<p>The term “senior housing” is a broad term that can refer to assisted living, independent living, senior apartments, memory care, SNFs, and low-income housing for seniors.</p>

Why are senior apartments cheaper?

<p>The cost of apartment living can be much less expensive than other options. Apartments don’t require as much upkeep as a house nor do you have to purchase anything above and beyond what you need. They also offer maintenance and amenities for one standard fee and most handicap accessible apartments don’t charge any additional fees.</p>

Is senior living the same as assisted living?

<p>Independent living tends to cost less than assisted living, but is usually not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Assisted living requires a level of care that can not be found in independent living. This tends to make assisted living more expensive.</p>

Does Medicare cover senior living?

<p>Medicare and Medicaid can be options for a stay in a skilled nursing facility. That is the only senior living option that you can be assured will work those government programs. Once you start exploring independent living or assisted living, private pay becomes the way to pay. If you’re a Veteran or the spouse of a Veteran, don’t forget to explore all of the Veteran’s Benefits available for senior living.</p>

How to pay for senior assisted living?

<p>Paying for senior assisted living is usually handled through private pay. There are circumstances when a community might have a Medicare or Medicaid option, but this is few and far between. Long-term care insurance is a great investment early in life to help cover assisted living costs later in life. Finally, Veteran’s can often get assistance from the government if they are qualified.</p>

What is a senior living advisor?

<p>Senior living referral agents, sometimes also called elder care referral agents or senior placement agents (we call them Seniorly Partner Agents), can be a company with several employees or just one senior living expert. In either case, they have a wealth of valuable information about all the various senior housing options, care services, and types of senior living available to you and your loved ones in the local area you are searching.&nbsp;</p>

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Arthur Bretschneider is a Co-founder and CEO of Seniorly and third-generation senior housing operator

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