Housing options for seniors
The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
Finding the right living situation for elderly parents or relatives can be daunting. Especially since the level of help and care they may require changes over time, as they age. Fortunately, there are many options, from aging-in-place home modifications to retirement communities and assisted living or nursing facilities. Read on to learn how to smoothly navigate the often-stressful process of finding appropriate housing for seniors.
2022 elderly housing statistics
To get a lay of the land when it comes to your choices, consider these data points:
- More than 90% of seniors prefer to remain in their homes rather than moving into an assisted living facility, according to a 2021 survey from American Advisors Group.
- The state with the largest percentage of senior citizens living there is Florida, with more than 20 percent of its population aged 65 or over.
- 3.4 million adults aged 65 or older live in the homes of their children, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
- National Senior Campuses, a non-profit senior living organization, recorded nearly 21,000 senior living units across the U.S. in 2019.
- More than 800,000 people in the U.S. reside in assisted living facilities, according to the American Health Care Association.
- The median cost of assisted living in the U.S. is $4,500 per month, according to data from Genworth Financial.
- New Jersey is the most expensive state for assisted living, with an average monthly cost of $5,893 per month.
- According to Senior Housing News, there are nearly 2,000 “life plan communities,” or continuing-care retirement communities, in the U.S.
- More than half the households in public housing are headed by someone aged 62 or older, disabled, or both, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Living options for seniors
Aging in place
Many seniors prefer to remain in their homes as they age. This often requires renovations to make the home easier to navigate, as mobility decreases and things like stairs get harder to manage. The costs of these modifications can vary wildly, from a few hundred dollars for grab bars in a bathroom to thousands for bigger projects or additions. Plus, if these fixes are not aesthetically pleasing or look hospital-like, they could decrease a home’s value. To avoid taking on these projects, seniors can investigate other real estate options, like purchasing a home that’s already been renovated.
- No need to move
- Might be cheaper than other options
- Requires renovations
- No community, help or care on-site
Imagine aging in place, but with a roommate (and sometimes, even a roommate who pays rent). With this option, seniors can live independently while having someone to talk to and assist with daily living. Plus, seniors living together can slash their expenses significantly. Resources like Senior Homeshares, a nonprofit online housemate service, can help you find a good house-sharing match.
- Cost effective
- Might need to spend money on renovations
- Risk of problematic tenant-roommates
Moving in with kids
Financially, this option could be ideal: Moving in with adult children means seniors and their families avoid the cost of assisted living. As with aging in place, though, home modifications might be necessary. Homeowners planning to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), or separate housing unit on their lot for their parent to live in, should check local laws first. ADUs, often called “mother-in-law suites,” are not legal everywhere.
- Cost effective
- No need for assisted living facilities
- Home renovations might be necessary
- Adult children must oversee senior care and daily life
Independent living communities
As their names indicate, these developments allow their residents to live independently — they do not provide medical care or help with daily living. However, they do offer plenty of amenities, often including pools, gyms, activities, transportation and sometimes daily meals and laundry service. As you might imagine, buying or even renting in one of these resort-like communities is not cheap. For those who can afford it, this is an ideal option for couples and seniors who are still in good physical health and want a low-maintenance lifestyle and neighbors similar in age.
- Community and activities
- Tons of amenities
- No medical care or support
- May be expensive
Assisted living facilities can be similar to independent living, but with added medical care and assistance with daily necessities. These facilities are ideal for seniors who require help with things like bathing and taking medications, but not the 24/7 skilled medical care that nursing homes provide. The care plans and levels can differ by facility, but the monthly median cost of assisted living communities runs about $4,500.
- Help with daily needs and medical care
- Community and activities
- Costs can be steep
- Might feel more like a nursing home
Public housing may be available for low-income seniors — but receiving it often requires navigating a lengthy process and plenty of paperwork. The financial requirements differ by area, so seniors and their families should check with their local Public Housing Agency or ask a HUD housing counselor for guidance. HUD also offers a Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program, which helps place seniors in affordable housing that meets their physical needs. Alternatively, seniors can rent traditional units, offsetting their costs with HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program or Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program.
- Most economical
- Sometimes includes care and community
- Applying can be time-consuming
- Receiving housing can take a while
Life plan communities
These communities, also called continuing-care retirement communities or CCRCs, offer ascending levels of care, which seniors can transition through as they age. A single campus might encompass independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. Seniors either pay monthly rent or shell out an initial payment, followed by monthly maintenance or service fees. This is not an ideal option for those living on Social Security, as costs tend to be high: According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, the average monthly charge in the third quarter of 2021 was $3,555, and the average initial payment was $402,000.
- Can age in place within one campus
- Tiered care levels
- High costs
- May need to move from one building to another
There’s no single, official definition of a senior citizen, so it can be helpful to take a cue from government benefits. You can start collecting Social Security at age 62; however, you receive full benefits at full retirement age, which is generally 67. You generally become eligible for Medicare at age 65.
Contact your local Public Housing Agency or HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to find out about what housing programs you may be eligible for. Be forewarned that these programs may have long application processes and require a lot of paperwork.
Generally speaking, nursing homes provide more extensive medical care than assisted living facilities. Assisted living is ideal for people who are able to take care of themselves for the most part, but might need a bit of help when it comes to things like managing medications. Nursing homes, on the other hand, are more for people who need round-the-clock care or highly skilled medical treatment. Both can be expensive, but nursing homes are more so due to the heightened level of care.
You might be able to, particularly if the parent is a veteran or is eligible for Medicaid. To find out if your state will compensate you for long-term Medicaid services, contact your state Medicaid program. Vets should reach out to their local Veterans Affairs office to investigate its different plans offering payment for care. In addition, if your parent has long-term care insurance, that coverage might compensate family members for care.