How Can I Afford the Cost of Senior Living?

Senior living residents discuss pricing while enjoying a drink together.

Senior living communities are busy, bustling places full of great amenities, friendly neighbors, and helpful team members who are there to lend a hand when needed.

It’s no wonder why active older adults look to senior living as an option for retirement living. Today’s senior living communities aren’t just for those who need assistance with personal tasks or those who are trying to manage a complex medical condition. There are senior living options for nearly everyone, no matter their preferences or challenges, and here is even better news: Most older adults can afford it.


If you are wondering how senior living will fit into your future plans, you have likely considered how it will impact your financial outcomes and retirement budget. You are wise to plan ahead, and you might even be pleasantly surprised to realize that senior living can be part of your future without breaking your budget.


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Costs of Senior Living

Senior living communities are designed to provide amenities, resources, and services to adults living with specific needs. Typically, there are four general categories of lifestyle options in senior living: independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing.

  • Independent living communities are known for their maintenance-free lifestyle, wellness amenities, and services that make life more convenient. Living in an independent living community is similar to living at your current home, but with the added benefits of friendly neighbors, social opportunities, and other perks. Learn more about independent living pricing here.

  • Assisted living communities feature similar amenities, similar services, and the maintenance-free lifestyle that independent living communities offer, but with the addition of experienced caregivers available around the clock. Caregivers are there to offer a helping hand or an encouraging word during personal care tasks such as bathing, dressing, or grooming. Learn more about assisted living pricing here.

  • Memory care communities are designed specifically for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These communities feature a safe and homelike environment as well as specially trained caregivers who deliver personalized interventions and assist with personal care. Learn more about memory care pricing here. 

  • Skilled nursing communities, once referred to as “nursing homes,” deliver around-the-clock skilled nursing services to residents who have complex medical needs or chronic conditions. Skilled nursing services can include wound care, condition management, and inpatient physical, occupational, or speech therapy, to name a few.

Each type of senior living community bills its residents in one of two ways. The first type of payment plan is common among Life Plan Communities, or continuing care retirement communities, and it includes a large entrance fee payment upon move-in (sometimes called a “buy in” fee), and then a monthly fee that covers services, home costs, a meal plan, and other amenities.

The second type of payment plan is more common and includes a simple monthly fee. This fee includes more than just rent for the cottage home or apartment in the community. It also covers maintenance-free living and access to perks such as meals in the dining room, wellness resources and amenities, transportation services, and a vibrant life enrichment program designed to increase social wellness and foster meaningful relationships.

Depending on the lifestyle option you choose, that monthly fee might increase as the type of care expands. For example, it is common for an assisted living monthly fee to be higher than an independent living fee but lower than a skilled nursing fee.

Senior living costs also increase or decrease based on other factors beyond the care provided. Fees can vary based on where the community is located and the real estate costs in that area, as well as factors like the types of amenities offered or the size of the floor plan.

The good news is that once you know the prices of communities you are interested in, you can start to review how those monthly fees compare to your current monthly bills. If you take some time to jot down expenses such as your mortgage, homeowners insurance, utilities, your gym membership, groceries, entertainment costs, and other fees you pay, that total will often be more than or comparable to a monthly fee at a senior living community, where all of those services are included.


Offsetting the Costs of Senior Living

Now that you know how your current monthly bills compare with a senior living monthly fee, you can research potential ways to further offset the costs associated with community living. For example, you can learn more about your long-term insurance plan. Some plans do pay a certain amount or percentage of senior living costs, but you need to check the terms to see if there are specific requirements.

If you are eligible, you can use your Department of Veterans Affairs Aid and Attendance benefits for assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing. If you live in an independent living community and receive home care services there, you can also use the benefits to pay for the home care costs.

Medicare can't be used to pay directly for senior living. However, if you are staying in skilled nursing for rehabilitation or chronic care management after a qualifying three-night stay in a hospital, you can use Medicare benefits. Medicare will pay for 100 percent of your skilled nursing fees for the first 20 days and then 80 percent of your fees on days 21-100. Medicare recipients have this benefit for 100 days per year.

Finally, if you are concerned about paying for senior living, meet with a financial advisor before you commit to a community. You can work together to determine whether you can, indeed, afford a certain amount for community living and then research communities within that price range.

Next Steps for Finding a Senior Living Community

Learn more about average senior living pricing by downloading any of our free Insider’s Guide resources for assisted living, memory care, and independent living.

Then, consider scheduling a tour at a Cedarhurst community near you to experience the lifestyle and gain the opportunity to candidly ask questions or address any financial concerns you might have.

Questions about senior living? Contact us to learn more.

Originally published January 2022. Revised August 2023.

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