Whether you are quickly approaching retirement or simply beginning to dream about what that might look like for you, a question that might pop up in your mind is, “How much does independent living cost?”
After all, independent living communities look beautiful and feature luxury amenities like swimming pools, spas, and on-site restaurants. It’s no wonder why so many adults are leaving the responsibilities and chores of home ownership behind and choosing to find home sweet home among new friends at an independent living community.
But before you can start researching communities near you, it’s wise to begin forming a realistic expectation of independent senior living costs so that you can budget appropriately.
The cost of senior living communities varies based on factors ranging from location to amenities. However, independent living communities, in general, can cost an average of $1,800 per month to more than $5,000.
How can you determine if the cost of independent senior living is worth it for you? And are there ways to potentially offset some of those costs? Let us help by giving you a rundown of independent senior living costs and what to expect.
The Cost of Independent Senior Living: Value vs. Price
Most people considering independent living are concerned about finances. Many seniors worry about the costs of long-term care, and most report that they won’t be able to afford it. This concern makes it easy to look only at the price tag without considering what you’ll get — or what you’ll save.
When you look at price alone, sticker shock is inevitable. But think about how high the cost of a car or home can seem to someone who doesn’t understand the value of investing in these purchases. Independent living is similar.
Unlike assisted living, independent living doesn’t offer continuous care, nursing care, or caregiver support. Instead, you’re paying for your apartment and other amenities — including peace of mind, new social connections, and simplified and predictable expenses.
Every independent living community offers something a bit different, so ask lots of questions before taking the plunge. Here’s what you can expect from the community lifestyle in most independent living communities:
An Engaged and Active Lifestyle
Everything you need is conveniently located on-site in your independent living community, including transportation and plenty of social opportunities. You can expect to find a variety of events, programs, and excursions planned regularly so that you can try something new or pursue a favorite hobby. Even better, social events are the perfect place to meet a new friend or strike up a conversation with a neighbor.
A Chance to Grow and Learn New Things
Independent living communities offer a wide range of classes and activities. Most also offer access to local events and opportunities to ensure your horizons remain broad and your mind stays active.
An Amenity-Rich, Worry-Free Life
You’ve lived well and worked hard. You shouldn’t have to spend your golden years dealing with leaky roofs, dirty dishes, and endless piles of laundry. Staff members at independent living communities take care of most tasks for you. Most communities also offer on-site assistance with tasks such as cooking, nutritional planning, and self-care.
A Chance to Give Back
Quality independent living communities offer a range of volunteer opportunities tailored to people of various ages, interests, and ability levels.
Forget about juggling utilities and other bills. In an independent living community, your monthly fees cover most expenses, making for a simplified budget.
If you love to cook, then continue enjoying the fruits of your labor in independent living. But if you’ve had enough, independent living communities offer a range of food options. At Arbor, our expert chefs craft healthy and delicious meals every day.
Peace of Mind
Although independent senior living doesn’t offer the around-the-clock caregiver oversight and support that is available in assisted living or memory care, it still offers peace of mind to residents who live there. Team members and neighbors check in on one another, and overnight security staff members are there to respond to emergencies if needed.
Calculating Independent Senior Living Costs: Could You Save Money?
When it comes to independent senior living costs, some adults think that the luxury amenities and modern home floor plans mean that senior living is simply outside of their budget. But there is good news: It may be possible to live more richly for less than your current cost of living.
To calculate the true costs of a senior living community, begin by considering your current cost of living. Grab a piece of paper and jot down your monthly and recurring expenses. Take into account the following factors:
- Utility bills such as power and gas. Average utility costs vary from region to region and provider to provider, but utilities can cost several hundred dollars per month.
- The cost of groceries or a meal prep service. The typical senior spends more than $6,200 annually on groceries.
- The cost of home maintenance. Be sure to account for recurring costs (e.g., landscaping, lawn service) as well as one-time expenses you might have to save for (e.g., a leaky roof or a burst pipe).
- Transportation costs, including car insurance and gasoline. With gasoline prices skyrocketing unpredictably during the past few years, it is no wonder why many older adults are spending more of their monthly budget on gas costs. If you no longer drive, consider the inconvenience of relying on loved ones for transportation, as well as the costs of paying for public transportation or rideshare services.
- Entertainment costs. When you live at home, and especially if you live alone, it can be expensive to remain active. Meals at restaurants, movies, performances, continuing education classes, and other expenses can quickly add up. As you age, you’ll likely spend more time on recreation and less time at work, which can mean a higher entertainment budget.
- In-home care. Some seniors pay for regular assistance with housework, meal planning, and other tasks that can become challenging with age and health issues. With a chef providing meals, laundry service readily available, and most other basic needs taken care of, most healthy seniors won’t need additional help. That means more money and greater independence.
If the above costs exceed the cost of an independent living community’s monthly all-inclusive bill, moving could mean you get more by spending less. Even if you have to spend a bit more for independent living, some costs are difficult to quantify. Your time and security matter, too. Independent living means:
- Easy access to an active, social lifestyle
- Neighbors and friendly staff members to keep you from feeling isolated in your home
- More free time to do what you want
- Less stress for children and other loved ones who worry about your current living arrangement
- A healthier lifestyle that includes great food, lots of activity, and meaningful connection
How to Find an Independent Living Community You Can Afford
The transition to a senior living community should feel like turning a page to a bright new chapter of your life. Take time to do your research so you can feel confident that you’ll enjoy this next step.
Asking the right questions can help you ensure the independent living community you’re considering is affordable. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What is included in the base price?
- How much are additional amenities?
- Does pricing change based on what I use or do? For example, can I save money by cooking my own food?
- Are there other fees, such as a down payment or community membership fee?
- How are payments structured? Do I pay monthly? Make a one-time payment? Pay for services as I use them?
- Do I need to pay a deposit?
- What if I need assisted living? Does this community offer assisted living in the unit I’m considering? What is the price difference?
- Can I see the unit I’ll get for the advertised price?
Offsetting Costs of Senior Living Communities
Now that you know more about senior independent living costs, it is time to investigate options that could offset those monthly or annual fees. For some older adults, selling a home can provide the income they need to invest in their independent living community life. Others might be able to use long-term care insurance benefits. Finally, if you or a spouse are eligible, you might be able to offset costs using VA Aid & Attendance benefits. Learn more about this option from our experts by checking out our free webinar, Senior Living LIVE! Understanding the VA Benefit for Independent Living.
The question you have now should not be, “How much does independent living cost?” but rather, “How can I find an independent living community that meets my budget?” Independent living communities are designed for active adults like yourself, and it is common for residents to wonder why they didn’t move in sooner. Begin your financial planning by comparing independent senior living costs to your current regular expenses, then search for a community that meets your budgetary needs. You’ll find one you love in no time!
This post was updated in September 2022.