Every new experience can be scary, and aging is no exception. But seniors are living longer, happier, more productive lives than ever. Nearly seventy percent of seniors say that the past year of their lives has been normal or better than normal. Most want to remain active members of their communities and trusted confidants to their families. Though most seniors say they want to live at home, just 43 percent of seniors over 70 find living at home easy.
For many seniors, the next chapter of life means balancing the desire to continue living independently with the increased challenges associated with living at home. Independent living communities offer the freedom to continue living the life you choose, with the safety of additional support if you need it. So how much does independent living in a senior community cost? Less than you might think.
The Cost of Independent Living: Value vs. Price
Most people considering independent living are concerned about finances. A third of seniors worry about the costs of long-term care, and 15 percent say their money might not last them through retirement. This makes it easy to look at the price tag, without considering what you’ll get—or what you’ll save.
When you look at price alone, sticker shock is a near inevitability. 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 or nursing care. Instead, you’re paying for your apartment and other amenities—including the amenity of peace of mind.
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 most independent living communities:
- An engaged and active lifestyle. Everything you need is right there, including transportation and plenty of social opportunities. No longer will you have to worry about driving long distances, scheduling activities, or asking a loved one to drive you.
- 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. Independent living communities can take care of most tasks for you. Most 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.
- Worry-free finances. Forget about juggling utility and other bills. In an independent living community, your fees cover most expenses.
- Quality food. If you love cooking, 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. Should you experience a health issue, independent living communities can seamlessly transition you to greater assistance. And if you’re worried about what you’d do in an emergency, an independent living community could be the best option. You’ll be living near peers, with people invested in your well-being standing by when you need them. This means you don’t have to worry about lying alone in your house if you fall or have a health crisis.
Calculating Costs of Independent Living: Could You Save Money?
It may be possible to worry less and live more richly for less than your current cost of living. To calculate the true costs of an independent living community, consider your current cost of living. Take into account the following factors:
- Utility bills such as power and gas. The average cost varies from region to region and provider to provider, but can cost several hundred dollars per month.
- The cost of groceries or a meal prep service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that two seniors will spend between $500-$700 per month in groceries.
- The cost of home maintenance. Be sure to account for recurring costs (landscaping, lawn service) and saving for one-time expenses (a leaky roof or a burst pipe).
- Transportation costs, including car insurance and gasoline. Owning and driving a car can cost $9,000 or more per year. If you no longer drive, consider the time and financial toll of relying on loved ones or a service for transportation.
- Entertainment costs. When you live in your own home, and especially if you live alone, it can be expensive to remain active. Eating out, movies, performances, continuing education classes, and other expenses can quickly add up. The average household spends more than $2,000 per year on entertainment.
- 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 these costs exceed the cost of an independent living community, 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
- No longer 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
Choosing Independent Living 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’s 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’s the price?
- Can I see the unit I’ll get for the advertised price?
So often in life, saving money means sacrificing something. But independent living communities are a great bargain for many seniors. They offer quality food, luxury living, access to plenty of entertainment, and peace of mind at a price comparable to or less than what many seniors pay to live at home. Don’t give up your quality of life just because you’re anxious about making a change. Compare the cost of senior living to staying at home with our free cost calculator.