What is the Cost of Independent Living For Seniors?

The cost of independent living for seniors rarely compares to the benefits it provides. Many seniors want to live independently and are looking for ways to ensure a high quality of life after retiring. However, household chores, errands, and yard work can be a struggle and take away from hobbies, friends, travel, and other leisure activities. What’s more, as we age, we may not be able to complete some of these tasks as easily as we were once able to. When seniors remain in their own homes, sometimes the work that upkeep requires can be too much, and it can get in the way of our retirement goals, such as travel and spending time with friends and family.

Independent living offers a practical solution while not taking away from your independence. Independent living facilities give you the freedom to live your life while taking care of the things that may have become too challenging or time-consuming for you. These facilities allow you to raise your quality of life, ensuring your time is spent doing all the things you want to do rather than the things you have to do.

In independent living communities, the focus is on happiness. Seniors who live in these facilities spend their time engaging in their favorite hobbies and activities and spending time with family and friends.

If independent living is a possibility for you, planning for the costs ahead of time is crucial. How much does senior independent living cost? In this guide, we’ll go over the costs of independent living, what’s included in those costs and what options exist to help pay for life in an independent living facility. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about independent living and offer helpful tips on planning for it ahead of time. Let’s jump in!

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What is the Average Cost of Independent Living?

How much does independent living cost? Independent living facilities are all very different. Each has its own menu of amenities and services that it offers to its residents. For instance, some may have a heated swimming pool or tennis courts, and others may just have limited exercise equipment. As such, the cost of independent living communities varies greatly. Additionally, the location of the independent living facility is going to be reflected in the fee structure as the cost of living changes from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.

So, what is the average cost of senior independent living? How much do independent living facilities cost? Generally speaking, you are likely to pay an average cost of independent living for seniors that is between $2,000 and $5,000 per month to live in an independent living facility. Every state has a different average, and there’s a wide spectrum. For instance, in Alabama, the average monthly cost of independent living facilities is $1,890 monthly, or $22,680 annually, while the average cost of senior independent living in Delaware is $4,014 per month and $48,168 each year.

To find out what you’re likely to pay to live in an independent living facility, it’s good to call around to the different retirement communities where you want to live and get a breakdown of the cost of independent living facility. You’ll find, as well, that the type of facility will impact the price. Let’s look at some of the different types of independent living facilities.

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Types of Independent Living Facilities

Independent living is a term that encompasses several different types of facilities. Each of these different types of facilities will offer differing degrees of independence, household services, medical care, and amenities. Let’s explore the varying types of independent living facilities and how they differ.

Retirement Homes and Communities

Retirement homes and communities are a wonderful choice for seniors looking to have a townhome or, in some cases, even a detached house. Many of these types of communities are independence-focused while offering services such as transportation, medical, emergency, meals, housekeeping and laundry, and more. They also tend to offer a lot in the way of amenities and social opportunities like trivia nights and yoga lessons. Retirement communities can be situated on a sizable property, and your costs can reflect that.

Retirement communities can cost up to $10,000 per month.

Congregate Care Housing and Senior Apartments

Senior apartments, also known as congregate care housing, are similar to retirement homes in many ways. However, senior apartments are run out of one or two buildings rather than a large community with separate homes or townhomes. As such, the property may be smaller, which means fewer services or amenities may be available. These factors can make this type of independent living more affordable than retirement homes and communities. You’ll likely be able to choose from a one or two-bedroom apartment with kitchenettes, while meals will be served in a communal dining room to encourage socialization. Leisure activities are often offered in senior apartments, as well as fitness programs, social events, and even classes from time to time.

Senior apartments can cost from between $2,000 to $7,000 per month on average.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Life Plan Communities

Continuing care retirement communities often offer the full spectrum of long-term care, from independent living spanning all the way to nursing home care. These types of communities have medical services on-site, and seniors enjoy the peace of mind knowing they can stay in one community no matter what level of care they may need.

Some Life Plan Communities have an entrance fee which can come in at upwards of $100,000 and monthly fees range from $1,000 to $5,000.

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What Do Independent Senior Living Costs Cover?

Unlike paying rent in your own apartment or your mortgage payments in your own home, your monthly fees in independent living facilities include a lot more than just a roof over your head. Your costs include many extra services and amenities that you can’t get at home without paying a great deal more. From maintenance, meals and housekeeping to leisure activities, fitness classes and social events, senior independent living costs can include your whole lifestyle. For many seniors, the community living lifestyle is worth every dollar.

Depending on the specific facility and what style of community it is, what your costs will cover can vary a great deal, however, so it’s important to check with the facility and find out what is covered exactly.

Let’s take a look at what may be included in the cost of living in a retirement community or independent living facility.

Utilities, Home Maintenance, and Meals

For many seniors, this is the biggest draw to living in a retirement community. Staying in your own home or apartment comes with the burden of upkeep and housekeeping and for many retirees, this burden may be too much in their later years. Tasks like cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn and repairing appliances may not be something you want to do anymore, and they may also be too difficult or even dangerous for you to complete them. When you choose to live in an independent living facility, these tasks are taken care of. Instead of spending hours on your feet cooking nutritious meals everyday, the kitchen staff will do it for you while you socialize with other residents and enjoy your retirement years. You won’t have to trim back trees anymore or clean your dryer ducts. You don’t have to worry about leaks or drafts. The fees you pay to the facility can include all of these services so that you can focus on enjoying your life.

Onsite Amenities

Depending on the type of independent living facility, amenities that will be available on site vary widely. However, independent living facilities most commonly have a dining hall for residents to enjoy social meals together. Other amenities that are often found in independent living facilities include libraries and gyms to work your mind and your muscles. You may also find that some have swimming pools, saunas and hot tubs. Others can have tennis courts, and some might have hair salons and cafes. Some communities may even be centered around a golf course. Your monthly fees may include access to these amenities as well as maintenance and staffing.

Activities and Recreation

In many communities for independent living, residents can take part in numerous leisure activities, recreational programs as well as classes. You may find that the facility you’re looking at offers books clubs, spin classes or card games. Bingo is a common activity, while in some facilities there may be walking clubs or aqua aerobics classes. In some facilities, you might be able to join in on some art classes and paint nights. Residents may also be taken out on excursions to different places around town, or they can stay in and enjoy an organized movie night.

The activities offered will depend on the facility so it’s great to familiarize yourself with the different activities facilities near you offer before selecting the one you want to live in.

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Financial Assistance for Independent Living

Most seniors are living on some kind of budget. Your fixed income may not be able to cover the costs of living in a retirement community. You might be collecting Social Security or income from an annuity, but that still may not be enough for independent living. That’s why planning ahead is so important. When you plan for independent living before you need it, you give yourself the opportunity to take advantage of different types of financial assistance that are available to you to pay for life in a retirement community.

For instance, if you have planned ahead by purchasing long-term care insurance, these benefits can help pay a portion of your monthly fees in independent living. You may also be able to get assistance with the cost of a retirement community from your Veterans benefits. Additionally, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD also provides subsidies for low-income seniors who want to live in some form of senior housing. Relying on HD subsidies, however, requires a lot of planning ahead, as wait lists can be very long. You can see what the requirements are and whether or not you qualify by visiting the HUD website.

Planning ahead is key for seniors living on a fixed income who would like to live in a retirement community one day. The sooner you start your planning, the better.

Is Independent Living Tax Deductible?

Is there an independent living tax credit for seniors? Is independent living tax deductible? The costs associated with independent living facilities are usually not tax deductible. There is one notable exception, however. A portion of the Life Plan Community or Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) entry fee may be tax deductible if it is considered a pre-paid healthcare expense. Itemized medical expenses may also be deducted.

Does Medicare Cover Independent Living Costs?

Does medicare cover independent living costs? Generally speaking, Medicare and Medicaid are not options for paying for independent living. Your coverage does not include the costs associated with living in a retirement community.

However, there are some services that come as a part of your independent living fees that may be covered. For example, if you’ve opted for a Life Plan Community and you end up requiring some time in a skilled nursing facility, Medicare may cover it in the short-term. Outside of limited exceptions, though, your Medicare or Medicaid coverage will not take care of the costs of independent living facilities for you.

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What Should You Consider When Choosing an Independent Living Community

With so many different possible amenities, recreational programs, services and living spaces in independent living, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when you’re choosing an independent living facility. The choices may even seem overwhelming.

The best way to narrow down your choices is to understand what your own priorities are first. While a swimming pool and hot tub may sound inviting and fun, is it truly a key to a better quality of life for you? For some it may be and for others, it might just be a small perk. Consider what is most important to you while taking into account the following factors:

  • What social opportunities do you want to have access to? For many of us, it’s important to be able to get out of our house and see friendly faces, and it can make a real positive impact on our mental wellness.
  • What recreational opportunities are important to you? Is it important for you to get off the grounds and see the world around you? Do you want to have access to fitness classes or creative opportunities?
  • What amenities do you want to have access to? Is it important to be able to access gym equipment or a sauna? Do you want to be able to walk through beautiful gardens on the grounds each day?
  • What are the extra costs? Does laundry incur additional fees? What about internet access or phones?
  • What are the cleaning services like? Try to find out how often living quarters are cleaned as well as the amenities around the community.
  • Does maintenance work quickly? When things break around your home, you’ll want to know that someone is coming to fix it as soon as possible.
  • Are there lifestyle extras on site? Sometimes independent living communities have a hair salon or a community store.
  • What are the dining services like? Do they serve well-balanced nutritional meals? Do you have meal choices?

Ask the facilities on your short list for a copy of their calendars to find out what they have planned in an average month. You may also request menus as well as the fees associated with any extras they may offer. All of these considerations can help you choose the right independent living facility for you.

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Is Independent Living Right for You?

Some seniors are a perfect fit for independent living, while others may be better off looking at other options. Seniors well suited for independent living are:

  • Able to complete their activities of daily living (ADLs) on their own. These include bathing, eating, getting dressed, etc.
  • Wanting to spend more time socializing and enjoying life and less time doing chores and errands.
  • Not in need of medical care regularly.
  • Wishing to remain independent while enjoying assistance with cooking, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Wanting to improve their social life.
  • Liking the idea of living with a support staff nearby and emergency protocols.

Seniors who are not suited for independent living are:

  • Unable to perform several ADLs.
  • In need of regular medical care.
  • Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Preparing in advance means you may not know what you need, but you can put together a plan for what you want with the ability to adapt to what you need in the future.

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Our content is created for educational purposes only. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Everdays encourages individuals to seek advice from their own investment or tax advisor or legal counsel.


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