Senior Living Communities
Senior living communities include active adult communities, independent living communities, assisted living facilities and skilled 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.
- Written by Terry Turner
Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator
Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).Read More
- Edited ByLamia Chowdhury
Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.Read More
- Reviewed By Bart Astor
- Published: June 13, 2022
- Updated: August 7, 2023
- 7 min read time
- This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
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.
- 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 skilled 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 and even skilled nursing care 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
|Aging in place|
|Independent living communities|
|Continuing care (CCRC)|
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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Type of Senior Living Situation||Cost 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|
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.
- 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.
5 Cited Research Articles
- 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
- Genworth. (2021). Cost of Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
- Administration for Community Living. (2020, February 18). Costs of Care. Retrieved from https://acl.gov/ltc/costs-and-who-pays/costs-of-care
- 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
- 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