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10 types of senior living options

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As baby boomers reach retirement age, they’ve recognized the need for more retirement living options than their parents had. These days, retirees have a wide variety of choices for where they live and how they spend their retirement years.

If you or your loved one are ready to discuss senior living options, keep reading. This article will give you the basics of 10 different options for senior living and tell you who might benefit from them.

Independent living

From at-home care to senior apartments, people have many options for independent senior living.

1. Aging in place

What is aging in place?

Aging in place is a term used to describe when an older person keeps living in their current home instead of moving to a retirement facility. They often modify their current home to address any mobility issues, and they often work with home health care professionals to get assistance where needed.

Who should consider aging in place?

Older people can likely stay in their homes if they can handle most tasks on their own and already have a supportive community to help if problems come up. With the help of a caregiver, many people can age in place, even after their health declines to the point of needing regular assistance.

What are some benefits of aging in place?

  • People retain independence.
  • It’s often cheaper than an assisted living facility.
  • Programs and services are available to help people stay in their homes as long as possible.

What is the average cost of aging in place?

The average cost of aging in place includes remodeling the home with mobility aids and hiring a skilled nurse or in-home care provider if needed:

  • Modifying your entire home for aging in place can cost $20,000 to $40,000, but one of the benefits of aging in place is that you only have to get the modifications you need. You also don’t need to get all the renovations at once, which lets you spread out the cost.
  • Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey found that in-home care costs an average of $4,576 a month for a home health aid. However, the cost of home care varies greatly, depending on the location, type and frequency of care. For reference, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that the median monthly cost for noninstitutional long-term care was about one-fifth of the average monthly nursing home cost.

2. 55+ retirement communities

What are 55+ retirement communities?

Age-restricted communities are housing options where residence is limited to people over a certain age. Depending on the community, residents might live in a single-family home, a condo, a townhouse or an apartment. Whether they rent or own their residence will depend on each individual community.

Some age-restricted communities are called niche retirement communities. They cater to those with specific interests. There are neighborhoods built near college campuses for retired professors and those who want to be surrounded by an intellectual community. Other communities exist to create open and accepting places for older LGBT people.

Who should live in age-restricted communities?

These are ideal for those who need little to no additional assistance and want to live near people around their age.

What are some benefits of age-restricted communities?

  • People can easily develop friendships with their neighbors.
  • Buildings are usually designed for people with limited mobility.
  • Home maintenance and lawn care are taken care of in senior apartments.
  • People living in communities where they own their homes keep the financial and tax benefits associated with homeownership.
  • People in niche retirement communities might be more active because they share interests with those around them and live in an engaging community.

What is the average cost of 55+ retirement communities?

Some 55+ communities offer apartments for rent or lease, while others are neighborhoods where residents purchase their homes. As such, the cost of living in a 55+ retirement community is highly variable, ranging from $1,000 per month to over $1 million to purchase a home. Costs are usually based on the following factors:

  • Type of living arrangement
  • Location
  • Square footage
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Available services
  • Available amenities
  • Homeowner’s association or community fees

The price of renting or purchasing a home in a 55+ community is typically slightly lower than the market value of other homes in the area.

older lady in a wheelchair being comforted by a nurse

Options with assistance

People suffering from certain illnesses and ailments need extra help with daily tasks. It can be hard to accept that you or your loved one needs help, but knowing all the options available can help you choose the right facility.

3. Assisted living

What are assisted living facilities?

Assisted living facilities are housing options that provide help with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), like cooking and bathing, but not necessarily a lot of medical assistance. Residents usually have a private or semiprivate bedroom and bathroom, but they share all other areas.

Offerings in assisted living facilities vary greatly. Typically, assisted living facilities provide meals, housekeeping, laundry, recreational and exercise activities and transportation to doctor’s appointments. Some might have a limited nursing staff for medical assistance. They could also have on-site beauty shops and entertainment venues.

Who should live in assisted living facilities?

Assisted living facilities are designed for people who need help with basic activities, like cooking and doing laundry, on a regular basis.

What are some benefits of assisted living facilities?

  • Residents get the professional help they need with daily activities.
  • There are lots of choices available, so you’ll likely find a residence you and your loved one like.
  • State and local agencies regulate the facilities to ensure appropriate care.

What is the average cost of assisted living facilities?

The average monthly cost for a private, one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility nationwide is about $4,000 per month, with state averages ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, according to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey. These prices depend on the facility’s:

  • Room sizes
  • Amenities
  • Level of care
  • Location

Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), access to skilled nursing care, a wide range of amenities or activities and a flatter staff-to-resident ratio increase the cost of assisted living.

4. Nursing homes

What are nursing homes?

Nursing homes are senior living facilities that offer a high level of medical care. Like assisted living facilities, nursing homes have numerous amenities and help with basic activities. However, they also provide medication management and 24-hour supervision, leading to a more clinical environment.

Who should live in a nursing home?

People who need a lot of long-term medical assistance should consider moving to a nursing home.

What are some benefits of living in a nursing home?

  • Nursing homes provide quality medical care to people with complex medical problems.
  • These facilities are licensed and regulated by state agencies, so there’s oversight to ensure they offer proper care.

What is the average cost of a nursing home facility?

Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey shows that the average cost of nursing home care is $7,756 to $8,821 per month, depending on whether you choose a semiprivate or private room. The cost of nursing home care generally depends on the facility’s:

  • Services
  • Level of care
  • Occupancy
  • Location

Don’t underestimate the influence of location on the cost of a nursing home stay. Prices range from under $200 per day in Oklahoma to over $1,100 per day in Alaska.

5. Respite care

What is respite care?

Respite care facilities can take many forms. In general, these are assisted living facilities or nursing homes that cater to individuals who need care for a short amount of time.

Who should stay in a respite care facility?

Respite care is a helpful option for those recovering from surgery or a serious illness. It's also good for giving caregivers a much-needed break from the demands of caring for someone else.

What are some benefits of staying in respite care?

  • Residents can get help 24 hours a day.
  • Patients can get extra help while recovering from a surgery or illness.
  • Short-term stays offer a break to caregivers.

What is the average cost of respite care?

Facility-based respite care costs an average of $100 to $250 per day. The price depends on location, services and type of care needed. Skilled nursing or physical therapy typically costs more than assistance with ADLs or daily check-ins and meals. The cost also depends on how long the stay will be and what type of facility you choose.

6. Memory care facilities

What is a memory care facility?

Memory care facilities are usually part of a nursing home or an assisted living community that is specifically for people with dementia. These facilities typically have a larger staff that offers more supervision, and they include security features to prevent residents from wandering outside unsupervised.

Who should live in memory care facilities?

Anyone with dementia is a candidate for a memory care facility.

What are some benefits of living in a memory care facility?

  • Memory care units have security features to keep residents safe.
  • These facilities have design features to make those who suffer from dementia feel more at ease.
  • Staff in memory care units may be specially trained to care for people with dementia.

What is the average cost of memory care facilities?

Memory care comes with a higher level of supervision and personalization, so it tends to be one of the most expensive types of care for older adults. Memory care is often available as an add-on service at assisted living facilities for an average of $1,000 more per month. In a nursing home, memory care is typically included in the cost. The cost for specialty memory or dementia care depends on:

  • Your loved one’s medical needs
  • The level of care provided
  • The location of the facility

7. Hospice

What is hospice?

Hospice is a type of care for those with a terminal illness. People may receive hospice care in their home or in a nursing home. Hospice focuses on providing services like pain management to make the person’s life as comfortable as possible.

Who should have hospice?

Anyone diagnosed with a life-limiting illness may benefit from hospice care. Hospice is right for anyone who decides to transition to care that treats their symptoms instead of fighting their disease.

What are the benefits of hospice?

  • Patients can focus on enjoying the time they have left.
  • Patients receive emotional and spiritual treatment in addition to medical care.

What is the average cost of hospice?

The average cost of hospice care depends on the provider and the level of service:

  • Acute care with inpatient stays can cost up to $10,000 per month.
  • Hospice home care costs around $150 per day for routine services.

Medicare covers hospice at certified facilities if you’re terminally ill.

older couple sitting on a bench outside of a apartment complex

Other senior living choices

As people age, they can get a wide continuum of care. People who can’t live alone, are unable to move in with a friend or relative or don’t want to go to an assisted living facility or nursing home have many options. If you and your loved one are looking for less traditional options, this section is for you.

8. Continuing-care retirement communities

What are continuing-care retirement communities (CCRC)?

Continuing-care retirement communities (CCRCs) include several types of housing options for older people. CCRCs vary, but one might have senior apartments, assisted living facilities and nursing homes all on the same property. Residents can move from one area to another as their needs change.

Who should live in a CCRC?

CCRCs are good options for those who no longer want to deal with the demands of owning their own home and don’t intend to move in with friends or relatives at any point in the future.

CCRCs let residents transition from one type of care to another, so they’re a good choice for anyone who’s still independent and ready to move into a senior community but who may need more assistance in the future.

What are some benefits of a CCRC?

  • Residents can move to a place that offers a higher level of care without losing access to their social community.
  • Residents can get to know the staff who will help them long before they move into an assisted living facility or nursing home.
  • CCRCs often offer a lot of social activities to keep people active and engaged.
  • Couples who need different levels of care can live near one another.

What is the average cost of CCRCs?

The cost of living in a CCRC depends on the community’s payment structure. The average entry fee for a CCRC is $329,000, according to AARP. Most CCRCs charge this fee in addition to a monthly fee of $2,000 to $4,000. However, others operate on a rental basis, charging $3,000 to $6,000 per month with no upfront fee.

9. Senior cohousing communities

What is senior cohousing?

Senior cohousing communities (SCCs) are one type of cohousing in which a group of seniors gets together to design and/or purchase a housing complex with private rooms or apartments and shared common areas. The goal of cohousing is to share resources and build a tight-knit community where residents support each other while maintaining a degree of independence. Cohousing communities are planned and operated by the residents themselves, not a developer, and often reflect the shared values of the people who live there. Cohousing is also available in general family settings where all ages are welcome. You can visit the Cohousing Association of the United States website to see lists of communities.

Who should consider senior cohousing?

Older adults who would like to stay in a private home or apartment but want to have a community of neighbors to share responsibilities and costs should consider senior cohousing. For those who are not living near family, a cohousing arrangement comes with a group of friends who can help with daily tasks and provide companionship. Cohousing offers shared spaces, making private areas smaller to keep costs down, so this could be an affordable option for seniors who are downsizing.

What are some benefits of senior cohousing?

  • It’s geared toward sharing resources and space to keep costs down.
  • General cohousing offers older residents the chance to be around children and gives children the benefit of forging important relationships with their elders.
  • Residents retain independence while being able to depend on neighbors.

What is the average cost of senior cohousing?

The cost of senior cohousing depends on the community you choose and the state where it’s located. While certain cohousing communities might cost slightly more than the market-value rent or mortgage, others are designed to be affordable for older adults. Residents might share costs for upkeep, appliances, supplies, energy and water, which can save money on bills.

10. Senior home-sharing

What is senior home-sharing?

There are different types of senior home-sharing, but generally speaking, it’s any arrangement where older adults share a living space. One type of arrangement involves an older adult renting out a room in a home or apartment they own to a college student or young single person to share housing costs and possibly receive help with tasks such as shopping, cooking and housework in exchange for reduced rent. Another type of home-sharing involves older adults pooling resources to rent or purchase a home where they can live together and support each other instead of moving into assisted living. To learn more about home-sharing and find a potential roommate, visit the National Shared Housing Resource Center website.

Who should use home-sharing?

People who want to live with someone else and those looking for general companionship should consider home-sharing. For those who want to maintain independence and age in place, home-sharing helps older adults stay in their homes longer. This option is especially popular with single women who don’t want to live alone but who don’t want (or need) to move into an assisted living facility.

What are some benefits of home-sharing?

  • Reduced housing costs.
  • Homeowners keep getting the tax benefits from owning a house.
  • Shared responsibility relieves some of the burdens of living alone.
  • Older adults can maintain a degree of independence and stay in their homes longer.
  • Companionship is known to have health benefits for older adults.

What is the average cost of senior home-sharing?

Home-sharing is arranged ad hoc, so it’s hard to make generalizations. Costs vary significantly, depending on the:

  • Living arrangement
  • Local home or apartment values
  • Services rendered (if applicable)

Exact costs are specific to each home-sharing situation and closely tied to the local cost of housing. Make sure to figure out costs before you or your loved one moves into a home-sharing agreement, and get details in writing if possible.

older couple sitting at a counter looking at a laptop

5 steps for deciding on a senior living option

Meeting current residents can help you tell if a community is a match.

As you or your loved one ages, you’ll have to think about housing options. There’s a lot to consider, so make sure everyone involved has thought about their choices and priorities. Make sure to do these five things while considering the senior living options.

  1. Do your research. Just by reading this article, you’ve already started this process. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the stress of a change. Knowing your choices can help make the process easier.
  2. Talk about expectations for daily life. Someone who wants to be surrounded by a community of people their own age should make a different choice than someone who wants to be active in a broader community.
  3. Talk to a doctor. Before making a home purchase, modifying an existing home or investing in a retirement community, see if the doctor has any concerns about the resident’s mobility or health.
  4. Sit down with a financial advisor. Healthcare can be very expensive. Before making a final decision, talk to a financial advisor who has experience dealing with Medicare or Medicaid, pensions or retirement accounts.
  5. Visit potential communities. If you or your loved one is considering moving into a nursing home, age-restricted retirement community or any other senior living option, visit several. During your visit, talk to residents, have a meal and check out the activities schedule.

Bottom line: Which senior living option is best for me?

By considering all your options and talking about what everyone involved wants, you can find the best place for you or your loved one to live. Having a conversation about a changing living situation might be stressful, but the above options can make this an exciting time instead of a scary one. Regardless of your or your loved one’s situation, you should be able to find a good housing option.

Article Sources

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:

  1. Genworth. “Cost of Care Survey.” Accessed March 8, 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “Measuring the Costs and Savings of Aging in Place.” Accessed March 8, 2021
  3. AARP. “How Continuing Care Retirement Communities Work.” Accessed March 8, 2021.
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