The Cost of Senior Living: Can You Afford it?


Written by:


Key Takeaways

  1. There are different types of retirement communities. Senior apartments, 55+ communities, independent living, and CCRCs all offer different experience and involve different costs.
  2. Many factors play into monthly pricing. Exactly how much a resident pays depends on supply and demand, geographic location, floor plan, services, and amenities.
  3. The median monthly cost of independent living is about $3,400. That’s more than twice the cost of a senior apartment and about $1,900 less than assisted living.
  4. The median monthly cost of a senior apartment is about $1,400. These planned rental communities are typically reserved for residents 55+ and include senior-specific design features.

Retirement communities are collections of homes or apartments reserved for active and independent seniors. They’re designed to meet the needs of senior residents as they move into the next phase of life. These communities give residents a sense of purpose and freedom, enabling them to release responsibility while staff attend to cooking, housekeeping, laundry, and other daily maintenance.

Understand the three main types of retirement communities, so you can choose the living situation that best fits your needs, preferences, and budget.


Senior apartments and homes in 55+ retirement communities

Senior apartments are planned rental communities that come in a variety of forms. They’re similar to standard apartments, but they have a minimum age requirement, often 55 or 62. Senior apartments often have senior-specific design features, like low-threshold showers and other safety considerations. Residents are not responsible for landscaping and maintenance services.

55+ communities include condominiums, townhomes, or freestanding houses available for a senior to purchase. Owning a home in a 55+ community is just like owning any other home, typically involving a mortgage and a down payment. Depending on the community design, some may have extensive grounds with amenities such as senior centers and gyms with pools. Residents can also sometimes opt for extra services like housekeeping or meal delivery for an additional cost.


Independent living communities

These communities are designed for older adults who want a maintenance-free lifestyle but don’t need full-time medical or personal care. Most stand-alone independent living communities don’t provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) or the individualized care that assisted living and memory care facilities offer. However, residents can take advantage of communal amenities and individual services such as housekeeping and meal preparation.

A Place for Mom partners with over 3,000 independent living communities. About 64% of them share a campus with different combinations of assisted living and memory care facilities, and 11% provide on-site skilled nursing services.[01] Keep this in mind if you’d like to choose an independent living community that can accommodate your needs as they change.


Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs offer the entire spectrum of senior care: independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing — all on a single campus. They vary in the type of housing they offer, including apartments, suites, and houses, so you can find an option that fits your lifestyle.

CCRCs, also known as life plan communities, are geared towards seniors who want an all-in-one option that allows them to age in place. As your care needs increase, the services you need are readily available. Assisted living care provides help with activities of daily living (ADLs), while skilled nursing care typically focuses more on significant medical needs. Advanced care services usually include skilled nursing care, 24-hour supervision, assistance with ADLs, and rehabilitation services.

Retirement communities strive to offer aging adults a stress-free lifestyle, but that comes at a cost. The cost of retirement communities typically depends on the size of the unit, available amenities and services, and location. That’s precisely why you should always compare fees, amenities, and pay structures specific to your area to find the most suitable option.

The cost figures below represent national medians and averages of retirement community costs, including rent and care services. The monthly price can drastically vary between different locations across the country.

Type of retirement community Senior apartments Homes in 55+ communities Independent living communities Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)
Estimated cost per month $1,400[01] $2,300[02] $3,400[01] $3,600[03]


Cost of homes in 55+ retirement communities and senior apartments

The national median cost of renting a senior apartment is approximately $1,400 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s internal data.[01] Senior apartments are typically the least expensive retirement community option, but depending on where you live, the cost of monthly rent can vary significantly. Please also note that this number doesn’t reflect any community or maintenance fees.

The cost of purchasing a home in a 55+ community is usually about the same as purchasing a home in any planned community. You’ll typically have to secure a mortgage and provide a down payment to own a home in this type of community. For context, the average monthly payment for a new mortgage in the U.S. is around $2,300.[02]

Of course, pricing greatly varies depending on the number of bedrooms and included features. Many seniors see a home in a 55+ community as an investment opportunity, or they may use the money from the sale of their former house as a down payment. Homeowner’s association (HOA) or entry fees typically apply, but they may cover lawn care, snow removal, and senior-specific amenities.


Cost of independent living communities

The median cost of independent living in the U.S. is approximately $3,400 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s 2024 internal cost data. That’s more than twice the monthly cost of renting a senior apartment and about $1,900 less per month than the median cost of assisted living.[01]

Independent living communities usually cost more than senior apartments and 55+ communities because of the abundant amenities and the all-inclusive, maintenance-free lifestyle. However, independent living costs vary by supply and demand, geographic location, floor plan, services, and amenities.


Cost of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)

CCRCs are typically the most expensive option for seniors looking for a retirement community. The average cost is around $3,600 per month.[03] However, monthly costs can vary dramatically by location and available services and amenities. Additionally, some CCRCs offer a payment model without an upfront fee. This model gives seniors the option to pay a higher monthly fee for their future care services instead of paying for future care up front.

Many CCRCs also charge an entry fee, which is essentially a health insurance package that allows you to live in your home within the community while having access to skilled nursing care whenever it’s needed. Entry fees can vary greatly by age and circumstances, but they’re typically high due to the skilled nursing care services. The average initial payment was around $402,000 in 2022.[03]

Depending on the contract, a substantial part of the entry fee may be refunded to you or your beneficiaries when you leave the community. For instance, if a senior passes away without using their community’s nursing care services, their family may receive a portion of the CCRC entry fee. The senior themselves may be partially refunded if they move out of the community without using nursing services. However, we recommend checking with your prospective community about their entry fee refund policy before signing your contract.

Pay structures of retirement communities

In addition to differing costs, retirement community pay structures often vary by care type. From monthly rent to fee-for-service contracts, consider which option is best for you or your loved one.


Homes in 55+ communities and senior apartments

Senior apartments generally have standard, long-term leases with rent due each month and little to no upfront entrance fee other than a deposit, like traditional rentals. Rent typically includes senior-accessible amenities and services such as fitness centers and pools in higher-end buildings, planned activities, on-site security, and maintenance. Optional services such as housekeeping and dry cleaning may be offered by third-party companies for an additional fee.

Homes in 55+ communities are purchased like any other houses. Residents may have to secure a mortgage and provide a down payment. Some 55+ communities require buy-in fees to cover amenities such as pools, parks, and senior centers, along with landscaping and maintenance. Communities may have a list of recommended vendors that provide additional on-site services for a fee, like housekeeping or meal delivery.


Independent living communities

Independent living communities are usually all-inclusive, unlike a 55+ community or senior apartments. Utilities, landscaping, maintenance, housekeeping, security, and sometimes even meal services are typically bundled into rent payments. Independent living services, such as light housekeeping, transportation, and senior-oriented activities, may also be included in monthly costs.


Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)

The higher cost associated with CCRCs covers more benefits, mainly peace of mind for seniors who wish to remain in place as their health and needs change. When aging adults move into the independent living neighborhood of a CCRC, they begin paying for future care as well as current amenities. Thankfully, there are several ways to cover these additional assisted living costs — Medicare, bridge loans, and reverse mortgages are a few examples.

Understanding your local retirement community options and costs is crucial to finding one that fits your lifestyle and budget. Let our Senior Living Advisors make your retirement community search easier. At no cost to you, they’ll provide local recommendations that fit your unique budget and preferences.

This article originally appeared on APlaceForMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

More from MediaFeed:

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.