Aging isn't a one-size-fits-all model. Today, there are plenty of bespoke housing options for the elderly that can accommodate specific needs.
But choosing the right option can be confusing and overwhelming-and sometimes very expensive. That's why it's important to plan for it financially so you have enough funds tucked away to cover emergencies. The long-term care expense of a nursing home, assisted living facility or in-home care is often higher than many expect, and only continues to rise.
Here are some common housing options for seniors that may help simplify the process of choosing the right home.
Aging in place
With the right help, a lot of healthy elderly individuals can age in the comfort of their own homes. Often called "aging in place," this option is preferred among many because it costs less and can be more comfortable.
It's best suited for older adults who are relatively independent and able to live on their own. Additional home services can be added as needed, allowing them to stay at home longer. For example, someone can come clean your home or cook for you — such options can help ease the burden of aging while keeping you comfortable at home.
Technology also has helped the elderly age in their homes. Devices like wearables, smart medication dispensers, GPS locators or voice-enabled technology aren't just for the young: They can greatly assist the elderly by monitoring their movements and alerting family members in case of an emergency. Technology has also helped offset the cost of having a home health aide.
There are, however, modifications that you might need to make to your home that will raise the cost of this option. For example, designing a wheelchair-accessible shower can cost upward of $1,000, according to the AARP.
Active adult communities
Active adult communities are designed to create the feel of a friendly neighborhood for baby boomers and individuals over the age of 55. Residents who live in active adult communities are typically self-sufficient and greatly appreciate regular social contact. The cost of a home in these neighborhoods varies widely across the country and can come in the form of a stand-alone house, townhouse, apartment or condo.
Independent living communitiesIndependent living is a great option for older individuals who don't require around-the-clock care, but would like to have assistance when they need it. The cost to live in one of these communities covers rent, meals, laundry, transportation, entertainment options and sometimes even medical care or housekeeping services. It's also usually much cheaper than the cost of assisted living.
Assisted living community
Like independent living, an assisted living community provides plenty of support to the elderly, but includes personal care services to those needing assistance with daily activities, such as bathing or getting dressed in the morning.
Because assisted living provides more care and services, it is more expensive than the independent living option. Since 2004, the cost of assisted living has risen 67 percent, and in 2018, the average annual cost was $48,000.1
Residential care homes
Residential care is an option for seniors that provides personal care in a home-like setting. These facilities offer long-term, personalized services at varied levels of assistance to smaller groups of adults. This type of living arrangement can be a good choice for seniors who require individual care.
Nursing home or skilled nursing facility
Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities offer advanced, around-the-clock medical care that cannot be provided at home (in both long-term and temporary situations). Nursing homes can be incredibly expensive. In 2018, the national median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was $100,375.2
Planning for future housing needs
Given the cost of some of these options, it's important to start thinking about the future housing needs of you and your loved ones as soon as possible. Here are a handful of tips to get you started.
- Determine how much you have in savings and in various retirement accounts.
- Establish an emergency fund with several months' cash in savings or money market account.
- Make a monthly budget that accounts for items such as rent, food and medication (which can be one of the largest expenses in retirement).
- Compose a list of your top three options and be sure to research and visit all facilities in person.
- Find a city or senior housing option that can meet your budget and specific healthcare needs.
If you're still concerned about how you will afford housing late in life, you might consider renting, downsizing or taking on a renter.
1. "Cost of Care: Trends and Insights," Genworth, https://www.genworth.com/agingand-you/finances/cost-of-care/cost-of-care-trends-and-insights.html
2. "Cost of Care Survey," Genworth, https://pro.genworth.com/riiproweb/productinfo/pdf/131168.pdf