How much does senior living cost? This is a question on a lot of people’s minds. In our recent Senior Living Live broadcast, we talk with Meredith, the associative executive director of Renaissance on Peachtree, about the cost of senior living and how to compare those costs to living at home. Watch below or read the transcript of our conversation.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments, and we will be sure to answer them.
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And, if you'd like to watch past episodes of our live broadcast, you can find them here.
Chris: What is the cost of senior living compared to what you are paying today in your home? I'm sure that's a question that you have. Hey, everybody, I am Chris and this is Senior Living LIVE. This is a show that's designed to dig deep into the world of senior living and give the answers that you need so that you can make informed decisions and live the life that you want to live, because that's ultimately what we want to do, right? We want to live the life we want to live. So, I'm so happy to be joined by Meredith today. Meredith is the associate executive director at Renaissance on Peachtree, and that's one of our communities here in Atlanta. It's something I like to say is also our tallest community. You're a high-rise, right? How many [floors]?
Meredith: It is [a high-rise]. Sixteen floors.
Chris: Sixteen floors. It feels like more than that.
Meredith: It does.
Chris: Two elevators, right?
Meredith: Three elevators.
Chris: Three? Oh my goodness, look at that. But it is a beautiful building. Your apartments are huge. They've got beautiful views of the Atlanta skyline. I would totally live there one day as long as someone could empty my dishwasher for me. Are there dishwashers in the apartments?
Meredith: There are.
Chris: Oh, see?
Meredith: We don't empty them, but we do housekeeping once a week so at least you got that going.
Chris: I got that coming for me. But laundry, I guess, right?
Chris: So, you know, one of the things that I know that people are really interested in—because we've seen it in comments and questions that we've gotten here on our Facebook page with the Senior Living LIVE show—is, "What does senior living cost?" And so, we actually, a while back, created a cost calculator on our website and it's really been wildly popular, and that's why we wanted to go through it on our show today with you. But I do want to say before we get into that that we're so happy if you're joining us live here on Facebook. I see we've got some folks watching at home. I see you. Oh, Scott Burford says fold—so in our pre-show, we were talking about the things that you don't, you would love to give up from your home and have someone else do for you. So, Meredith's was laundry. Mine was emptying the dishwasher. I've got Scott. Scott says folding laundry is definitely something he would like to move on from. So, Scott, that is fantastic. And my mom says, "How did...?" I know you are watching because Facebook tells me that. Facebook knows everything, Mom. And we've got Leslie from Arbor Terrace Sudley Manor joining. That is in Manassas, Virginia, so we have folks all the way up in Virginia.
Meredith: Hi, Leslie.
Chris: So, let us know in the comments if you're watching. Say hi. We would love to hear from you, and we would also love to hear what is your thing that you would love to give up. That's our question of the day: what could you give up from your home that, you know, would be very, would make you very happy if someone else did that for you? We'd love to hear that. And, you know, let us know that you're watching in the comments. We'd love to hear those. I see “cooking” in the comments. That is a big one that, you know, somebody wants to give up.
Meredith: That's something my husband does.
Chris: Oh, that's nice.
Meredith: So, I don't have to do that, luckily.
Chris: Is he a good cook?
Meredith: He's a great cook.
Chris: Okay. I don't think he's watching so you could be honest.
Meredith: Yeah. No. He's a great cook.
Chris: That's good, that's good. So, is dinner gonna be like waiting for you on the table when you get home?
Chris: You just kick off your shoes and go in?
Meredith: Yup, yup.
Chris: That is fantastic.
Meredith: I know.
Chris: That is fantastic.
Meredith: I'm a lucky girl.
Chris: Yes. So sometimes, I mean, sometimes, we just have to wait and cook after the children go to bed.
Meredith: Oh, we definitely do that.
Chris: It's like it doesn't always work out.
Meredith: That's more relaxing that way.
Chris: And then, sometimes, we can get some takeout. You know, you just do what you gotta do, right?
Meredith: Yeah. Uber Eats.
Chris: Right. Uber Eats, yeah, or Amazon or wherever you get the coupon that week, right?
Chris: So, love to see your comments coming in, keep bringing those in. So, let us know that you are here. Now, what we're gonna go through here, in a second, is an affordability calculator, and it's based on nationwide averages. So, your mileage in this may vary a little bit, but what it does is it allows you to think about all of the places where you might be spending money today. So, those are things like rent, taxes, groceries, your car—and it puts them all in one place for you. So these are things that you know. You know what you spend in different areas, but it gathers it all together so that you can look at it together. And then it helps you to add those up and then compare them to the national average cost per senior living, based on the type of care that you want. So, things like independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Those are the type of communities that we operate, but of course, there are other types of senior living out there. So, Meredith, I know one of the big roles that you have in your community is in the sales process, in helping people see if the Renaissance is the right move for them. Do you get questions about costs from people?
Meredith: All the time. That's the main concern.
Chris: Obviously, that's the thing, right?
Meredith: Affordability and just comparing it to what they're paying for now and if the Renaissance is a good fit for them.
Meredith: So, we go over that every tour. Yes.
Chris: Every tour, every tour. And so, what are their questions beyond just what the cost is? I mean are they asking about how that may compare to their current situation or … ?
Meredith: Well, I think a lot of people are surprised when you say one figure—"This is our monthly fee"—and it's a one-stop shop, that initial shock value I guess is pretty intense when you hear the first number. But then once you add in all the things that you're already paying for and you really understand what it covers, it makes a lot of sense. So, it's just a matter of guiding people through that process.
Chris: Okay, great. Well, so I think what we can do here at this point is switch to our cost calculator and we can just start going through this and see.
Chris: And so, if you're following along, we're gonna show it up on the screen here. This is just a tool that we have on our website. You can access it for free. You don't have to give us any of your contact information or anything to do that. We don't store the data. We don't know who you are, necessarily, going through this. We just got a signal to sit up so we're sitting up. If you didn't notice, both of us sort of sat up at the same time. Don't be alarmed. So—oh, actually you didn't see that because that's not on the screen right now. But anyway, we're still moving. Hey, it's a live show. We're...
Meredith: We're rolling with it.
Chris: Yeah, we're rolling with it. This is so much better having another person here, by the way. Last week, I was by myself...and Trevon [SP] wasn't here either, so I was doing everything. It was like that whole octopus arms and it worked.
Meredith: Wow, multitasking.
Chris: It worked. Yeah, it was a snow day. So anyway, so this is on our website and it's something that you can go to. It's a free tool you can use. You can share it with other people. If it's something that you want to get a link to, you can just head over to arborcompany.com and click on the resources link, or if you type the word "show," S-H-O-W, in the comments right below this video, I will send you—I've got a little system that will send you a Facebook message with a link that you click on right there that will take you to this tool. So, let's go ahead and take a look at this. So, the step one of the calculator is looking at your current costs, and so I'm gonna go through and look at our mortgage or rent payment. So this is, you know, the current cost that you may have living at home. Now, let's just say for argument’s sake, I think maybe $1,000, and that's probably different for different people. Maybe you own your house outright. You don't have a mortgage. Maybe you pay rent, but $1,000 in a lot of places is a …
Meredith: It's pretty good. Yeah, because rent is obviously gonna be more and mortgage might be less, so that's probably a good average.
Chris: Yeah, that's probably a good average to start with and you can put in your own numbers here, of course. Utilities, we're thinking maybe $200 or so. So, that would include things like your power, your water, your cable TV, probably telephone. Yeah, so we're probably undershooting it right there. Maybe we need to make this $300 just to be safe. Home or renter's insurance? Probably in the...
Meredith: Two hundred.
Chris: Two hundred dollar range.
Chris: And hey, guys at home, tell us in the comments if we are doing this incorrectly. If our numbers seem way off to you, let us know. We wanna hear about that. Leslie has joined us and she says that she would love to give up housekeeping in her house. I do not blame you there.
Chris: I have a toddler who likes to throw food on the floor. So...
Meredith: Do you have a dog?
Chris: No, but we would like to have a dog right at dinnertime.
Meredith: That's what dogs are for.
Chris: That's like from 6:00 to 7:00 is when we need a dog, but we don't want it at any other time.
Meredith: I could not do toddlers without a dog.
Chris: We have enough mammals, but we don't want reptiles, either. So, okay, property tax. Maybe the $200 again? We're kinda giving round numbers and you can do that, too. You don't necessarily have to go in and put the actual numbers, you know, look at every single receipt. Just give it as a general idea. This is just to give you a starting place that you can look at. Groceries and food. What do you think, Meredith?
Meredith: Grocery and food, I would say 250 would be a good number.
Meredith: I mean, but you also have to think about the quality of food. So, are you a frozen dinner person or do you enjoy, you know, salmon and … ?
Chris: The full-cooked...
Meredith: Yeah, fresh vegetables and so, you have to put quality into that number, as well.
Chris: Yeah, that's a good point. I know we've heard stories before about people who maybe didn't want to leave their home and go to a senior living community because they say, "I don't get a chance to cook." And a lot of places do have kitchens. A lot of independent living, you can cook for yourself, of course. But then once we dig into that a little bit more, we find, yeah, you love to cook, but some people aren't doing that.
Chris: You think you're going to, but then you don't and you end up eating TV dinners that are high in sodium and preservatives and all of these things that, you know, don't let us live long.
Meredith: Right. Exactly.
Chris: So, you want to go somewhere that's got a nice healthy meal and restaurant-style dining. That's a big piece.
Meredith: Four-course meal, always fresh fruits and vegetables.
Chris: Yeah, that's fantastic. I have not had my dinner yet so ...
Meredith: Am I making you hungry?
Chris: Yes, you are. You are, so let's move on to the next thing. Entertainment, hobbies, et cetera. So, I don't know. Maybe about 100 bucks a month. That's probably going to vary. You know, you've got to go out and see movies and do your hobbies and things.
Chris: Concerts, things like that. So, you know, that's gonna ebb and flow month to month, but I think $100 is pretty good just for our arguments here. Lawn care, and I estimated that this was cheaper than I thought. But as I was talking to someone before the show, he said, "Oh, I think about $300."
Meredith: A month for lawn care and cleaning services?
Chris: Yes, and cleaning services. Is that … ?
Meredith: Yeah, I mean cleaning is at least $200 a month and that's only for every other week. I mean if you're getting weekly, it's gonna be a lot higher, I would think.
Chris: In a typical senior living community, independent living has [housekeeping] once a week, usually.
Meredith: Weekly housekeeping, full weekly housekeeping, and we will even do some of your laundry for you.
Chris: That's like your linens, your sheets, and your towels, and stuff like that. You know, those are the big things.
Meredith: Yup, and remake your beds and do that big chore.
Chris: Yeah. And I think the people watching aren't necessarily—they don't necessarily live near our communities or, you know, they're not going to move to the Renaissance, but that's kind of typical in senior living. It's particularly in the independent living and then assisted living. I would say it's about once a week housekeeping, sometimes more.
Meredith: Sometimes more in assisted living.
Chris: Yeah, it depends on the community and the state and things like that. So, it's something to think about. And then, of course, lawn. You can get rid of your lawn mower. You don't need that, right?
Meredith: That's a good thing.
Chris: I have a very small yard so I don't have a lawn mower. We have...
Meredith: What do you do?
Chris: Our neighborhood association kind of does it. I mean it is a tight ...
Meredith: Wow, that's nice.
Chris: If I did have a lawn mower, it would be like battery powered or the little push things because it's just so tiny. So, okay, maintenance and repairs. It's like an allowance of say, 200 bucks a month and some months you spend zero, and some months ... your hot water heater goes out and it's a $5,000 repair or whatever that is. So, hopefully that does not happen to you. Transportation, so that's things like our vehicle insurance, registration, gas, maintenance, repairs—things like that.
Meredith: And that's if your car is paid off. I mean, what if you … ?
Chris: Yeah, if you’ve got a car payment, right? And so that's a good thing: When you move to senior living, you don't have to give up your car. A lot of people do, or a lot of people don't necessarily at the beginning and then they realize later and they do, right?
Meredith: Right. At my community, in particular, we're in the heart of the city so why would you want to drive around anywhere if you could be chauffeured? So, a lot of people initially bring their car, but then realize very quickly that they don't want it anymore.
Chris: Yeah, you guys have a couple of really nice buses, a limo, right?
Meredith: We have two town cars.
Chris: Town cars, okay.
Meredith: And now we have two buses, yeah.
Chris: Okay, nice.
Meredith: So, we can shuttle around anywhere.
Chris: Yeah, and then, Uber is an option in a lot of cases.
Chris: I actually read a statistic recently that said, you know, senior or not senior, but if you drive an average of like 8,000 miles per year or less, which I actually fall into that category because I live so close to work, that you might be better off to just use Uber or Lyft, a ride-sharing service versus having your own car because of the costs of car ownership or leasing and, you know, the insurance and all of that kind of stuff. Isn't that crazy?
Meredith: I mean, that makes sense. Yeah, we have an Uber account, as well, in the community, so...
Chris: And you use that a lot of times, too.
Chris: So, that's really interesting. So, we've got Sharon. She says that she thinks one of the best things for her living in a community would be the social aspect. Living alone can be depressing. That is totally true, right?
Chris: I think we see that a lot. So, have you seen that in your experience of someone moves into the community and their social life changes?
Meredith: Definitely. I mean, I feel like sometimes seniors don't realize how lonely they are until they do move into a community because not only do you have activities and things to do on the social calendar, you just get to chat with somebody over coffee in the morning. I mean, there's just … you're seeing so many faces and then you make friends who you see every day, who you enjoy seeing and look forward to that. And then when you look back at living in your home, you realize how lonely you were. So, that is a big, big part of senior living, a big benefit for sure.
Chris: Yeah. That's a huge piece of this and, you know, things like this cost calculator can't really capture some of those, you know ...
Meredith: The values.
Chris: … the values that you get from that. So, that's something else to keep in mind as you're going through this. Julie Hall—I think you know her, right?
Chris: She works for the Arbor Company. She says, "Hey, Chris and Meredith."
Meredith: Hi, Julie.
Chris: Hey, Julie. How are you? I see from Wendy Whitney. She says, "Hey, Meredith. Looking good there in your blue shirt."
Meredith: Hi, Wendy.
Chris: We love that.
Meredith: Both my bosses, by the way.
Chris: Hey, that's okay. That's okay. She's actually doing work. She didn't, you know, leave work early for this. Okay, so let's get back to our thing here. So, the last item that we have on the list is this current or anticipated home healthcare or companion cost. And so I think this is an interesting one because it depends on what your current situation is, so if you have trouble or you need assistance with what we call the activities of daily living—those are things like getting dressed, bathing, taking care of your medication. What are other activities are in daily living?
Meredith: If you need help getting to a meal or having a meal brought to you, that can be included in that. Definitely medication management, dressing, bathing, all of that—and as little or as much as possible. So, you could go and you can move into independent living, which has a little bit of those services, or full-on assisted living services, so it's just this wide range.
Chris: Yes. And so what we're asking here on this particular cost calculator is what is the current or anticipated home healthcare cost? So, if you live at your home and something happens—it could be a response to a surgery or some other health change—you may find the need for a companion or some type of healthcare brought into your home. And there are services out there. There are fantastic services out there that will do that, but as you can see here, the national average monthly cost for that is about $3,300 to $5,700, and it goes up from there, so that can be quite expensive. I'm gonna leave it as zero here, because we're just going to assume that the person looking at this doesn't have any big care needs, but that is something to think about just as you're thinking about things going into the future, because a lot of these services do start being provided by the communities.
Meredith: Yeah, and on that point, even in independent living, you know, if you're living in your home and you just need one service—so you just need somebody to come help you with the shower, that only takes 30 minutes—but if you're in your home, many of these home care companies are going to require a four-hour minimum. So, they're going to come, and you have to pay for those four hours, but a lot of independent living communities, you can still live independently and you can only pay for that service. So, it's much more cost-effective.
Chris: Just a quick, little in and out.
Meredith: Yeah, they just come and help you with what they need to and then they leave.
Chris: And I think the other side of that is the social side of it. So, you know, you live in your home and maybe a companion service comes in for four hours a day or eight hours a day or whatever, but that's just one little eight-hour chunk and then you're left by yourself after that, whereas in a community, you have the opportunity to interact with people all day long.
Chris: And, you know, there are clubs and groups and things like—and we can get into that stuff later, but that's a big piece of this. We're going to click the next button here after we've inputted all of our costs. We've got these nice round numbers. And so the next, step two, is asking about the care, so what type of care or senior living option that you think is the best fit. Do you think that should be independent living, assisted living, memory care, all the way down to skilled nursing? For this case, I'm just going to put independent living because that is Meredith's community, it is primarily independent living, although you have a little bit of assisted living in the community.
Meredith: We do. Yup.
Chris: So, I'm gonna hit next and what we're looking at is our affordability. So, based on the information that we put into the calculator, this fictional person is spending about $2,800 per month, and then the national average—let's compare—the national average of independent living is about $4,700. So, that $4,700 ...
Meredith: I think that's ... it's high for us. You know, our prices start at around $3,550 for an independent one bedroom. So, I think, for the Atlanta market, that would be a little high.
Chris: Okay. Okay, so that's good to know, too. And I think what else we haven't built into this are things like if you own your home now, you know, likely if you are moving into senior living, you're going sell the home and so you've got equity built up into that home that you can use towards this. So, we haven't built that into the equation in this particular case because, you know, there's a lot of pieces to that. So, that's a big piece of it, too. And in another episode of Senior Living LIVE, we're going to talk about things that you can use to help you offset the costs or to pay for senior living. And—just quickly—some of those are VA benefits. So, if you or your spouse were in the military at some point in time, then there are VA benefits that are available. That's a whole episode just by itself to talk about the complexities of those, but that is something to think about. I mentioned there's the equity of your home. Long-term care insurance, a lot of people have that so that's a big piece of it, and there are nuances of independent living versus assisted living to think through with some of these things.
Chris: But still something to think about. And we do have resources on our website at arborcompany.com, and you click on the blog there and you can search through that. We've talked about a lot of these things, but again, we will talk about them on a future episode. Life insurance is another one. It's reverse life insurance. Is that what it's called?
Chris: So, where basically you can pre-cash in your life insurance ahead of time and help to pay that way, and then reverse mortgages, too. So, that's always an option.
Chris: So, lots of different ways that people pay for senior living, but I think the point that we really want to drive home is that there's more to it than just the cost. There's the intrinsic value of it, right?
Meredith: Yeah, the value of everything, like we talked about the food. You have to really, really look at the types of groceries you're buying and what you're really eating compared to if you were going to visit a senior living community and experience the four-course meal that they serve every day for lunch and dinner, and then the breakfast as well. I mean, it's just health-based, it's nutritious, it's delicious, and it’s served to you. You don't have to make it or cook it or do any of that. We just take all the chores away, and you can just relax and enjoy life.
Chris: Yeah, but like we said, in a typical independent living community, you usually have some type of kitchen in your apartment. So, if you do want to make something, if you've got your special banana bread recipe, then, you know, make your banana bread.
Meredith: Yes, please make your banana bread.
Chris: Yes, and bring it to Meredith's office. But I think we found, too, that people say they're going to do that, but then they don't. They end up liking what is available to them so you can go on and live your day, and that's what we're all about here at the Arbor Company and with Senior Living LIVE. Like we've said, you're watching here, you may not live near one of our communities and that's okay. We just want to help you make the right decisions so that you can live the life that you want to live. That's what it's all about. So, let's turn back to our comments for a second. We've got a question. Oh, so we got Denny is checking in from Wilmington, Delaware, where she is visiting her dad and all. We've got good info tonight. So, thank you for joining, Denny.
Chris: We're so happy that you are here and we hope to see you again. I know I've seen you last week, too, so thank you for joining. Lemoyne asks, "What is the average age group?" What is the average age in your building, would you say?
Meredith: At the Renaissance, our average age is about 82. So, our youngest is 62 and our oldest is 103, which is very exciting.
Chris: That is very exciting.
Meredith: One hundred and four, actually, I think this month. But most of us are in our late 70s, early 80s. So, it's a good group. We have a lot of young, active people. We call it a cruise ship that's docked on Peachtree Street.
Chris: There you go. That's great.
Meredith: So, we just—we have a great time. It's a wonderful community.
Chris: That is fantastic. Okay, so if you have any more questions, put those in the comments. We'll try to get those before we go off the air, and of course, we can answer them later or we can answer them in a future show. We're gonna be back here every Wednesday at 6 p.m. Eastern. So, not necessarily Meredith—but I would love to have you back again, Meredith. I promised you a coffee mug earlier.
Meredith: Yes, I need my coffee mug.
Chris: I'm gonna get you that coffee mug. So today, we've gone through the cost of senior living and, as we said, the cost really varies by community, by city, by region. Meredith said the cost that we had here seems a little bit high for her market. And so, you know, if you're ready to talk to someone about this a little bit more, you really should start thinking about which communities that are around you or where you want to live that you're interested in, and go in for a visit.
Meredith: Go in for many visits, actually.
Chris: Many visits. Yeah, and that's another show that we can talk about, too: How to visit a senior living community and things to look for. But yeah, don't just look at one place, definitely. If you live near an Arbor Company community—and you can find a list on our website, there's a community finder there—we would love to have you visit one of our communities. That would be fantastic, but that, again, is not our goal. We just want you to have the best information available and in this case, I think the best way to really have that cost conversation is to go to a senior living community. There's a lot of information you can find online. You can talk to your financial advisers, you can talk to other people, and you should do that, but I think you need to go to a community and talk to someone because that's really the only way that you're going to get a full picture of what that particular community is going to cost you, and looking at their rates and services and all that kind of stuff. A lot of senior living communities—us included—don't publish prices on the website, and it's not because we're trying to hide anything. It's just because there are a lot different options and there are different apartment options. How many apartment options do you have in your building?
Meredith: A lot.
Chris: A lot. What's that?
Meredith: We have about eight different floor plans in independent living, and then probably 10 to 12 different floor plans in assisted living.
Chris: Yeah, and so if you're just looking online, you don't necessarily know and it's a bit more of a complicated process than looking at regular apartment complexes online.
Meredith: Right. Right. Different programs, different amenities that you can add in.
Chris: And so, it's really just best to talk to someone about that, and you'll get a chance to talk to someone like Meredith or someone on her team. And they see this every day, and they can help you determine what your actual costs are more likely to be. So, that's the whole point there. Now, again, we've got this cost calculator that we talked about today. You may also want to look at this thing yourself. You can access that on our website by going to arborcompany.com and going to the resources section, or we have a little feature tool here on Facebook, so you can type the word "show," S-H-O-W, right in the comments of this stream right now. If you're watching live or you're watching later, just type "show" and that will send you a Facebook message. You'll see a message pop up in Facebook and that's from our little system that will send you a link to get to this. So if you're, away from your computer or something, that'll be a reminder, and we can also use that to remind you of when we go live again, which is Wednesdays at...
Chris: 6 p.m. eastern time because we have folks watching from other places. If you have any questions that we didn't answer for you today, leave those in the comments, and I will be sure to get those covered in a future show. I do not remember what we're talking about next week, but I believe that has been organized. I just don't remember. I didn't look at that coming into this. But we talked about the cost today. We got through it and we're so happy. So our next show, again, is gonna be next Wednesday, January 31... Did you know January is already over next week?
Meredith: No. I know. That's crazy.
Chris: So, Wednesday, January 31st at 6:00.
Meredith: I still feel like Christmas is coming up, right?
Chris: Yeah. Well, it's been too cold to take down the Christmas lights and stuff, you know?
Chris: I'm kind of halfway. I did see our neighbors put out their Christmas tree on the curb yesterday, so I didn't feel so bad.
Meredith: Oh, mine is still in my garage.
Chris: Hey, we do what we have to do, right? And again, if you want to be notified and get a reminder when we go live, just type "show" below in the comments and I'll make sure that you get that notification. And if you saw anything today that you think someone else may find helpful, please share this video with them or mention their name in the comments so that they see it. We want this valuable information to get out to as many people and help as many people as we can. I think that just about does it for us today.
Chris: And I'm sure you have to get laundry done, I've got dishwashers to unload, because we have no one to do that. And we will see you next Wednesday. Thank you for joining. Bye, bye.
Meredith: Thank you. Bye.