8 Popular Living Options for Seniors

Many questions could arise that cause you to wonder about living options for seniors. Is your old family home larger than you presently need? Is the lawn becoming too much to maintain, or are the stairs difficult to navigate? As we enter new phases of life, our housing needs change, which is why it can be useful to review popular living options for seniors.

Whether you are considering modifications to your long-time home, a move to a new location, or realizing there are assistance needs looming, the many different options and conflicting information can be confusing. With terms like aging in place, home health, CCRCs, and assisted living flying around, it can be difficult to understand what option is right for you or your loved ones. How to pay for alternatives is often unclear or misunderstood. Most stressful is when a medical or life emergency necessitates an immediate move. The overwhelm can be staggering and mistakes are often made.

We want to simplify that process in this article by providing you with an overview of popular living options for seniors.

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Aging in place refers to continuing to live in the residence of your choice, comfortably and safely, as you age. It often includes making some modifications to your present home to make certain tasks easier and safer. This can include simple measures, such as moving furniture to mitigate fall risk, or more complex projects, such as installing a walk-in shower or stairlift. This is a popular living option for many seniors – an AARP survey showed that nearly 80% of seniors would prefer to age in place.

Also called Active Adult Communities, these complexes or neighborhoods cater to residents over a particular age, such as 55, 62, or 65. They include everything from income-qualified and market-rate apartments to campuses of luxurious single-family homes. A range of amenities are typically available, and a sense of community is often fostered. The designs are senior-friendly, with features suitable for aging in place. Security, exterior maintenance, and fitness and social activities are appealing benefits. There are options that also offer dining, housekeeping, transportation, and additional services; for clarity, we will call these full-service Independent Living Communities.

Naturally occurring retirement communities, also known as the Village Movement, originated about 20 years ago, and have gradually spread across the United States. These communities can range from a single apartment building to an entire neighborhood, with a minimum of 40% of residents being over age 60. While NORCs vary widely, they typically pool some resources and offer services that allow residents to age in place, making them a popular living option for seniors.

Services may be funded by local agencies and/or the residents themselves. With group purchasing power, services and resources can be vetted and provided at a lower cost. Supportive social services are also sometimes available. The community that is created provides opportunities for a range of activities, social engagement, and personal connection.

Beacon Hill Village in Boston is perhaps the best known and has celebrated its 20th Anniversary. For more information on this movement and locations, see the Village to Village Network site.

Independent Living with full services is ideal for seniors who can handle personal care needs on their own but need or prefer help with transportation, meal preparation, and house cleaning, as well as the social benefits of living in a community. Independent Living may be available on its own, adjacent to assisted living, or be part of a full CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community-see below).

Many older adults will opt for an exclusively Independent Living Community, seeking an ‘Active Adult’ lifestyle. Others prefer to avoid multiple moves and prefer having additional living options on-site should care needs increase. For the more socially-included seniors, or those living alone, Senior Living communities can enhance their well-being and overall quality of life.

Assisted living communities are for seniors who need, or anticipate needing, additional support with personal care tasks. This can include medication management, help with showering and dressing, mobility, and wellness oversight. Full dining, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and entertainment services are typically included in an assisted living community. This can be an excellent option for an aging senior who has physical or cognitive challenges that would make being alone in his or her own home difficult. The move to Assisted Living is typically driven by care needs, but these communities can provide wonderful opportunities to develop new relationships, stay mentally engaged, and enjoy day-to-day life.

There are significant costs involved with assisted living; according to Genworth Financial, the U.S. national median cost of assisted living facilities in 2021 was $4,500 per month or $54,000 annually, while the NIC reports the median cost at $5380 per month. The costs can vary widely depending on the location, the amenities provided, and the care needs of the individual resident. Over 800,000 Americans currently reside in assisted living facilities, with just over half of the residents over the age of 85.

Memory Care is for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementia who require 24/7 supervision and support to navigate their day. Many elderly individuals with cognitive decline can live successfully in Assisted Living, but if the decline progresses to the point where safety is a significant concern, Memory Care may be necessary.

Memory Care provides a more supportive, structured, and engaging environment specifically designed to support the needs of the residents. Care staff and the Life Enrichment/Activity team will have specialized training in person-centered care. The right Memory Care Community will support the well-being of the person with dementia and provide peace of mind to their loved ones.

An AARP article reported that 2021 NIC statistics list the average monthly rent for memory care at $6,935 in the U.S. The AARP article goes on to note that this is significantly more than assisted living but a lot less than the $10,562 average monthly cost of a nursing home. Costs can vary considerably by the area and facility.

These options offer the highest level of care. They also may offer short-term rehabilitation stays that are typically covered by medicare. Beyond the short-term rehabilitation stay, these facilities are for people who require 24/7 skilled nursing and medical oversight. Residents are usually frail elderly people with highly limiting physical conditions, or later-stage dementias. In areas with limited populations, a nursing home may be the only senior care option available. A nursing home may also be the only option available that is licensed to accept Medicaid. Unfortunately, this means that many individuals with lower-level needs have no option but to move into a nursing home.

According to The World Population Review, the average semi-private room in a Nursing Home in the United States is $7,441 per month or $245 per day. The average cost of a private room is $8,365 per month or $275 per day. Annually, a semi-private room costs an average of $89,297 and a private room an average of $100,375.

CCRCs house multiple popular senior living options on one campus. As needs change, the ability to stay on one campus can be very beneficial, as it eliminates the need for a more significant relocation. The presence of a skilled nursing option can be especially beneficial for couples when one spouse needs a higher level of care, either temporarily or long-term. Close proximity is often important to both the spouses and family and friends visiting regularly.

CCRCs are more popular on the east and west coast, as well as major cities. They are often expensive; entrance fees can range from $100,000 to $1 million, and additional monthly charges vary. Terms vary widely and some offer a guarantee of care if funds for monthly costs are depleted. Many offer a prorated refund at the end of the residency. CCRCs require careful due diligence to ensure that you understand the fine print!

Next Steps

Do you have an idea now where to start? To explore further, see our articles on these specific options. If you are unclear, overwhelmed, or don’t have time to sort through options, send Kathy your question or a request for a brief complimentary consultation. You don’t need to navigate this journey alone!

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Kathy’s mission is to use the Age Better Resources platform to share the knowledge she acquired over many years to help seniors understand how they can optimize their later years. Her hope is that the content on this site, the associated services or products available, and the experts she will share, will help you or your loved ones create a plan to live as many good days and years as possible. If immediate or more personalized support is needed, personal consultations are available.

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