senior living pros and cons

This blog was published on March 14, 2016 and updated on January 8, 2020.

More seniors than ever are choosing senior living communities. There are nearly 30,000 communities in the United States serving more than 800,000 seniors. The conundrum of whether to rent or buy can be tough to solve, especially if you’re new to the world of assisted living. There’s no right decision, nor are there any universal principles that apply to everyone. Instead, making the decision requires some detective work, an honest assessment of your needs and budget and a clear understanding of what’s included in the price of admission to the community.

Here are some factors to consider as you weigh your options. 


Many seniors consider renting because of the flexibility and potential cost savings. The average assisted living resident is 87. Moreover, residents must explore the long-term value of buying when they may be in the final decade of their life.  

When renting, you can typically be released from your contract within 30 days, and some assisted living communities offer earlier release if medical needs warrant it.

Renting, beyond its flexibility, also offers the opportunity to include utilities and other lifestyle services such as regular housekeeping in your monthly rent check. This rental cost often includes meals as well. It is nice to know the flat amount of fees that you will pay each month for your apartment and services. Because you don’t own your home, you won’t have to worry about repairs, sudden unexpected expenses and other common frustrations of ownership. This offers a more predictable budget with lower stress. 

However, renting presents some serious drawbacks. Renting may not be right for you if: 

  • You are young and relatively healthy, and can reasonably expect to live for many more years. 
  • You do not have a chronic or progressive condition and have no family history of such conditions. 
  • You want total control over your home and do not want to have to seek a landlord’s permission to make improvements or repairs. 


Although renting does offer flexibility that ownership does not, there are still benefits to choosing to own your assisted living apartment. Many communities that offer a “buy-in” option in assisted living also offer a continuum of care that makes your investment worthwhile. This means that if you own your assisted living apartment and require an extended stay in a skilled nursing community for therapy services after a fall or surgery, you will have money from your buy-in available to cover the significantly more expensive skilled nursing costs. Furthermore, if you need to stay in the skilled nursing facility on campus, the marketing staff at the community might help sell your apartment for you.

Owning can also offer you a feeling of long-term commitment. This familiar feeling can be comforting as you navigate the unfamiliar world of assisted living. Your apartment truly becomes your home. This can help you cultivate a sense of belonging and purpose, as well as a connection to the community. These feelings of pride and interest may inspire more involvement in community decisions and activities. Communities that offer an ownership option are referred to as continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs.

Ownership may not be right for you if: 

  • You have a terminal condition. 
  • You live on a fixed or very tight income, and cannot afford home repairs. 
  • You prefer an all-inclusive approach that ensures that someone will always be available to make repairs. 

As you compare communities, you may find that the most important factors have little to do with owning or renting. Instead, it’s important to look at the other services a community offers. How good is the food? Are there enough activities? Do you like the other residents? Choosing a community you love is the most important consideration of all. In many cases, your love of a particular community can make the decision for you, because the community may offer only one of the two options.


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