Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities include active adult communities, independent living communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. They provide a wide range of personal care and medical care services. Choosing a senior living community depends on your needs and finances.

Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
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APA Turner, T. (2022, June 17). Senior Living Communities. RetireGuide.com. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/senior-housing/senior-living-communities/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Senior Living Communities." RetireGuide.com, 17 Jun 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/senior-housing/senior-living-communities/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Senior Living Communities." RetireGuide.com. Last modified June 17, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/retirement-life-leisure/senior-housing/senior-living-communities/.

What Is a Retirement Community?

Retirement communities — or senior living communities — include a wide range of care and senior housing for people 55 and older.

They cater to any kind of lifestyle and levels of care from active retirement lifestyles to facilities that can provide advanced medical care based on your stage in life and medical needs.

Types of Senior Living Communities

Senior living communities fall into a wide range of options that aim to give residents a sense of purpose and belonging. They are designed to provide an optimal quality of life for residents.

Examples of Senior Living Communities
Active adult communities
Active adult communities offer low-maintenance independent living. Residences include free-standing homes, townhouses, condos, apartments and mobile homes. Under federal law, 80% of homes or apartments must have at least one resident who is 55 or older. They provide a peer-based community that are typically near shopping, restaurants and other services you may need.
Independent living communities
Like the name suggests, people lead independent lifestyles in an independent living community. But they provide services that make day-to-day life easier — home maintenance, food preparation and housekeeping are among the amenities most often offered. Travel, exercise programs and other activities may be included as part of a healthy aging experience. A popular example is the Village Movement which is a relatively new concept that is rapidly growing.
Assisted living
Assisted living communities provide personalized care to people who need help with daily activities, such as bathing, getting dressed or standing up from sitting or lying down. Assisted living facilities don’t provide as advanced care as a nursing home.
Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
Also called life plan communities, continuing care retirement communities provide evolving services and care as you age. You can start out living independently in a house or apartment and move to assisted living within the same community as your needs change with age.
Low-income housing
States and the federal government offer low-income housing programs to help seniors with limited resources. Typically, you must be 62 or older and meet state and federal income requirements to qualify. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides counseling, loans and housing programs for seniors.

Pros and Cons of Senior Living Communities

The alternative to retiring to a senior living community would be staying in your pre-retirement home — often called aging in place.

Both options come with pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Different Senior Living Options

Housing OptionProsCons
Aging in place
  • Can hire home care services if you need them
  • Less expensive
  • Staying in a familiar community
  • Maintain the freedom and comfort of your home
  • Must take care of home maintenance
  • Potential mobility issues
  • Potential isolation or loneliness
  • Safety concerns
  • May not get the same level of care
Independent living communities
  • Amenities — fitness centers, pool and other benefits
  • Choice of living options — house, apartment, condo, etc.
  • Community of peers
  • Cost —can be expensive, so compare costs before deciding
  • Lack of on-site medical care
  • Stress over downsizing from your home
Continuing care (CCRC)
  • A health care support system adapting to your changing needs as you age
  • All-inclusive — meals, housekeeping, laundry and other expenses are typically covered.
  • Social network of your peers
  • Cost — the initial or buy-in cost averages more than $400,000 on top of fees that can be $40,000 to $2 million.
  • Inconsistent living arrangements in some CCRCs
  • Tends to be only older adults
  • You must adapt to a new lifestyle
Assisted living
  • Company of your peers
  • Provides a feeling of independence
  • Provides staff to help with daily living activities you can no longer do alone
  • Cost — average monthly cost in 2021 was $4,500 according to a survey by Genworth
  • Limited privacy
  • May not provide the medical care you require

It’s important to consider all the pros and cons of each living arrangement to make sure your choice fits your senior living lifestyle, as well as your financial situation and health care needs.

Why Move to a Senior Living Community?

Any move to a new home — at any age — involves taking a risk. But there are several reasons you may decide to move into a senior living community, including:

  • A rising risk of safety such as risk of falls or other household accidents if you live alone.
  • Loneliness and the need to be around people your own age.
  • A need for increased health care or assistance with personal care needs.

You should carefully consider the cost of moving. Buy-in costs and monthly fees may be prohibitive for your budget, so plan carefully. On the other hand, prices may appear steep at first glance, but shopping around can result in senior living options that could fit within your budget.

What Do Seniors Want in a Retirement Community?

Most Americans over the age of 50 — 77% according to a 2021, AARP survey — prefer to age in place in their own homes. Those numbers have held steady for at least a decade of similar surveys.

But among the 23% who may be considering retirement communities, there are some common demands that stand out.

What People Want Most in a Retirement Community

Amenities
Amenities ranging from putting greens and tennis courts to swimming pools and business centers are among the biggest bonuses that attract people to retirement communities.
Food and nutrition
Food preparation is a common perk of retirement communities. People considering a retirement community place a priority on good-quality food and nutrition to keep them healthy.
Healthy living
Fitness centers and programs, group fitness classes and clubs promoting physical activity are important to people wanting to stay healthy in retirement.
Low maintenance lifestyle
Many retirement communities provide household maintenance, housekeeping and laundry services to reduce the number of chores you have to deal with in retirement.
Personal care
Assisted living facilities are specially focused on personal care for people who can no longer take care of many daily activities on their own.
Safety
Home accidents can be a serious risk if you live alone. Retirement communities offer a higher level of personal safety for people who are older and more prone to serious accidents.
Socializing
Aging can come with a sense of loneliness. Senior living communities can provide you with a sense of belonging and the ability to socialize with people your age.
Transportation options
Aging can limit your ability to get around. Senior living communities often provide transportation options to restaurants, shopping, doctor’s appointments, and other destinations that can enhance your sense of freedom and mobility.

When considering a retirement community, you should carefully consider your own personal preferences for how you want to live — especially in the latter years of your retirement.

Cost of Senior Living Communities

The cost of senior living communities varies widely depending on the type of community.

Aging in place may have some of the lowest additional costs, but you’ll still need to modify your home to accommodate your needs as you age as you may require home supervision or home health care services at some point.

Among other senior lifestyle options — and care needs — retirement communities tend to be the least expensive, while continuing care retirement communities tend to be the most expensive. CCRCs have more overhead since they provide independent living, assisted living and nursing home care all in the same facility.

Monthly costs for care range from $1,500 to $10,000 a month, depending on where you live.

Average Monthly Home and Long-Term Care Costs, 2021
Type of Senior Living SituationCost Per Month (National Average)
Average Monthly Home and Long-Term Care Costs$4,957
Aging in place with a home health aide$5,148
Adult day care with health services$1,690
Assisted living community$4,500
Nursing home, private room$9,034
Source: Genworth

Some types of retirement communities may also charge an entrance fee, which may not be refundable if you decide to leave. The fees help cover amenities or services in the community, and in 2010, ranged from $1,000 to $600,000, according to a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office. That’s likely much higher today.

Other factors can also influence the cost of facilities, including the level of care you require and where the community is located.

Factors that Can Affect Costs of Senior Care Communities
  • Charges beyond basic services which may include charges for room, board and housekeeping
  • Time of day (home health care visits are more expensive on holidays, weekends and evenings)
  • Variable rates based on extra events or activities

Some communities may also charge monthly fees. You should be aware of any fees a community requires before signing anything.

Last Modified: June 17, 2022

5 Cited Research Articles

  1. U.S. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 8). Residential Care Communities. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/residential-care-communities.htm
  2. Genworth. (2021). Cost of Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
  3. Administration for Community Living. (2020, February 18). Costs of Care. Retrieved from https://acl.gov/ltc/costs-and-who-pays/costs-of-care
  4. Hartman, R. (2019, February 6). Where-to Woes of Retirement: The Pros and Cons of Retirement Housing Options. Retrieved from https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/aging/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-retirement-housing-options
  5. National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 1). Residential Facilities, Assisted Living and Nursing Homes. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/residential-facilities-assisted-living-and-nursing-homes