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Finding Senior Living for Elderly Couples

16 minute readLast updated October 11, 2023
fact checkedon September 28, 2023
Written by Nirali Desai, memory care writer
Reviewed by Amy McLoughlin, senior living expertAmy McLoughlin is a learning and development specialist with A Place for Mom, focusing on improving the lives of seniors and caregivers.
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Senior care is a spectrum, and it’s important to find a community that meets both of your parents’ needs. One spouse may require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like dressing and bathing, while the other is fully independent. One partner may be experiencing dementia symptoms, while the other has no cognitive decline. This article outlines some common care types along with their associated costs — with the goal of helping your aging parents find a place to flourish together.

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“Couples want companionship, and people are living longer, so they need adequate space and unique health care arrangements for spouses with different care needs,” says Dr. Melissa Henston, a geriatric psychologist in Colorado.

The percentage of married seniors has grown over the past 50 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Remarriage, increased life expectancy, and a shrinking age gap between women and men mean more families are looking for senior living that supports both parents’ needs.[01]

Thankfully, many senior living communities today provide flexible services that can be tailored to many lifestyles and individualized needs. These customizable options can help couples stay happy together after a move to senior living.

Can couples live together in a senior living community?

The short answer is yes, elderly couples can live together in a senior living community. However, it depends on a couple’s care needs and the community’s design.

Each community has its own options and pricing structure for couples who live together. For instance, some communities charge a roommate or second-occupant fee on a monthly basis, while some communities may separate couples into different units due to differing care needs. Cost may also vary depending on each partner’s care needs.

Thankfully, many senior living communities offer a variety of activities and convenient services that cater to a wide range of interests and care needs. This means couples can find options that work for both individuals. When you’re visiting prospective communities, it’s important to make sure both parents’ needs will be met there.

“Family members who help provide care and advice should listen carefully to what the couple needs and wants before making any placement decisions,” advises Henston.

It’s important that the prospective community manager is fully aware that a couple will be living together there, so that everything is considered at once. For example, ask how they can accommodate a couple if one partner’s care needs change down the line.

Independent living and senior apartments for couples

If neither member of a senior couple needs help with ADLs, they may benefit from an independent living community. Sometimes, independent living communities even have third-party home care providers on-site, so tailored personal care can be an added service down the road. This can relieve the more independent partner of any care duties in the future.

These communities generally offer spacious apartments or suites with kitchenettes, private bathrooms, and many of the same amenities as luxury condominiums. Some communities mimic a neighborhood-feel and offer residents “cottages” or full-size homes. The residences often feature senior-friendly details like full wheelchair accessibility, hand-held showers, and emergency alert systems.

Independent living communities and senior apartments may also include the following in the monthly cost:

  • Home maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Light housekeeping
  • Social events and activities

Some independent living communities also allow residents to add dining plans and other convenient services. Convenient on-site services leave more time for the couple to nurture their social, emotional, and mental well-being. And, at most communities, a wide array of social opportunities provides senior couples with entertaining ways to spend retirement.

The following are just a few examples of the social opportunities available at our partner independent senior living communities:

  • Interest clubs
  • Art, music, and dance classes
  • Movie nights
  • Outings to local casinos
  • Happy hours
  • Holiday celebrations
  • Exercise classes
  • Outings to golfing hot spots

The average cost of independent living for couples

The approximate cost of independent living is $3,170 per month.[02]

Independent living is generally less expensive than assisted living, because residents are more independent and require fewer services. Keep in mind that this figure is for an individual, and some communities may require an add-on monthly fee for additional occupants. Additional occupant fees are sometimes a small monthly addition ($200, for example), so the price point may still remain close to the figure for an individual.

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Assisted living for elderly couples

Assisted living is a great fit for senior couples who want to maintain an active social schedule, would like help with personal care tasks, and would appreciate a hassle-free lifestyle.

Social and emotional needs can be just as important as care needs. Be sure that both parents find activities at the community they enjoy before settling. For example, while on your initial community tour, ask an activities director if there are any special programs designed to appeal to male residents, like a poker night, putting green, or chess club.

Some assisted living communities will have specialized care units with different care levels all on the same grounds. It’s important to ask about assisted living staff-to-resident ratios when touring prospective communities. Specialized care units can include memory care and skilled nursing care, so if one partner develops more advanced care needs down the road, the couple can at least remain in the same community.

The average cost of assisted living for couples

The median cost of assisted living is $4,500 per month for a private, one-bedroom apartment.[03]

That said, it’s difficult to determine the cost of assisted living for a couple, because each community has its own pricing structure and each partner has their own care needs. All of this can affect the price of services.

Communities often use a tiered pricing model. If one partner needs more assistance with ADLs, then the cost of those services would be added to the couple’s base rate. An additional occupant rate may also apply.

Memory care for couples

Many assisted living communities have attached memory care facilities. If one spouse exhibits signs of cognitive decline, or if there’s a family history of dementia, a community that offers memory care is a good option.

Some communities allow the couple to transfer to a memory care apartment together. However, since assisted living and memory care aren’t the same, a partner diagnosed with dementia may have to move to a separate wing of the building designed for residents with wandering tendencies or sundown syndrome.

Although a couple may sleep in separate wings, a resident should be able to visit a relocated spouse easily and often for meals, activities, and relaxation, allowing them to remain together as an elderly couple. Again, make sure to ask the community manager about the access couples have to one another inside the community, especially if one partner ever has to move to another part of the facility. Also ask the community manager how the couple’s right to privacy will remain intact in such cases.

The cost of memory care for couples

The median cost of memory care is approximately $5,800 per month.[03] It’s generally 20% – 30% more for a memory care apartment compared to one in assisted living due to the specialized oversight involved in memory care. However, monthly care fees may double if one partner needs to move into a separate apartment in a memory care wing while the other stays in assisted living.

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Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) for couples

continuing care retirement community (CCRC) is an ideal choice for older couples who want the most care security, because CCRCs offer multiple levels of care — independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and sometimes memory care — in one inclusive campus.

Healthy seniors, sometimes as young as 55, will move into a CCRC’s independent living unit and transition between levels of care in the future as needed. If one spouse develops health problems that require extra care services, they can easily add on assisted living services while remaining together. If one partner has a fall and needs rehabilitation, they can relocate to a wing or area offering nursing care until they’ve healed.

CCRCs have many living and care options. Some CCRCs have long waiting lists, so it’s best to plan for these moves in advance.

The cost of CCRCs for couples

Most CCRCs follow one of two payment structures: buy-in and monthly payment.

Here’s how the two options differ:

  • The average initial payment for the buy-in option is $402,000, according to recent research.[04] This option allows seniors to pay upfront for their care services. After move-in, residents typically pay an average of $3,555 per month, regardless of the level of care they need.[04] Depending on the contract, a part of the entry fee may also be refundable in the event that advanced care is never needed.
  • For residents moving into the independent living care level at a CCRC, the monthly option ranges between $3,000 and $6,000 per month. With this option, monthly costs are typically higher and start to increase as a couple’s care needs start to increase.

With both options, an additional monthly occupant fee may also apply.

How to find senior living options for couples

It’s important to plan ahead when you’re searching for senior living options for couples. By starting the search early, both parents can get on the same page and get on waiting lists for their preferred communities. This is especially important when looking for larger suites or into CCRCs. Even more, if a couple begins their senior living search when they’re both healthy, they can both have equal input on where they want to live.

When one parent’s health begins to decline, it can be hard to make an urgent choice that appeals to both parents. In an emergency situation, the decision will often be made for the parent with medical concerns, leaving the healthier spouse in a potentially negative emotional and social situation. Overall, starting the search early should simplify the process for everyone.

How to get started

To begin, it’s a good idea to have a geriatric care manager, doctor, or social worker assess both partners’ individual health concerns. The spouse who needs the higher level of care will typically dictate which type of senior living the couple should pursue. But it’s important that the more independent partner also has the resources they need to age happily in the community. With the range of communities out there, it’s possible to satisfy both partners’ needs.

You can also find expert help to guide you through the process. A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can detail which communities in your area provide special accommodations for couples, and they’ll help find the right fit for your family, all at no cost to your family.

Ask questions

You may find one or several communities that look like they will be a good fit for your parents, but make sure to ask questions before you schedule a move. Some good questions to start with include the following:

  • Are special privileges (like access to each other and right to privacy) granted to couples?
  • What services does each partner have access to on-site (both now and in the future, especially if one or both have a health condition)?
  • How much do care services cost, and what price increases should we expect for services in the future?
  • Are there any savings a couple might expect as compared to two individuals living independently?
  • Will both partners’ care needs be addressed if one of them requires a higher level of care down the line?
  • Does the community have special interest groups, outings, or activities that will appeal to both partners?
  • Will the community help the couple transition should they need to move to separate rooms or areas of the community? Will there be a transition fee?

Take space into consideration

If you’re considering senior living for your parents, you might assume that they’d be happy in a one-bedroom apartment. However, sometimes senior couples sleep apart. Snoring, noisy CPAP machines, and elderly insomnia all contribute to this statistic. Your parents might have to share a small space after moving and downsizing to senior living. Plus, some seniors may have a hard time adjusting to close cohabitation after years of luxuries like dens, offices, and multiple bedrooms.

To help ease the transition, keep the following in mind:

  • If your parents are considering a move to a one- or two-bedroom assisted living suite, be sure they take a virtual or in-person tour of the space to plan furniture and décor, so they’ll be comfortable upon move-in.
  • Two-bedroom units in assisted living communities often have long waiting lists, so plan in advance if possible.
  • If one parent thinks they’ll have significant sleep problems or be unable to cohabitate, see if the facility has two rooms near each other. Some communities offer discounted rates when couples live in separate units.

Respect the couple’s living choices

While many adult children will assume that their parents want to continue living together, that isn’t always what each couple wants. Listen to both parents.

“The strength of the marriage or partnership must be taken into consideration,” says Henston, who explains that even if your parents have been together since before you were born, your parents may have reasons to select a community where they don’t have to live in the same apartment.

For example, if one spouse is more physically active, or one requires memory care, they may make the decision to live in separate parts of a community. Always listen closely to your parents’ concerns and respect their wishes.

What to do if living together isn’t an option

In some instances, couples may not be able to live together within a senior living community at all.

For example, one partner may require 24-hour medical supervision that can only be provided at a skilled nursing facility, while the other partner is relatively independent. Or, a primarily independent senior may want to remain at home while their partner receives the care and social activities they seek within an assisted living community.

If living separately is the only feasible option, elderly couples can find new ways to stay connected through visits and technology. Here are some tips that can help senior couples stay connected:

  • Schedule regular visits. This enables the couple to stay in touch and see each other on a planned basis. Plus, it enables the partner at the facility to have a sense of routine and something to look forward to.
  • Talk over the phone or video chat. To prevent social isolation and ease separation anxiety, couples can plan phone calls or video chats on a daily basis. For example, calls before bed may benefit a couple who like to talk to one another before sleeping.
  • Schedule activities or outings. The visiting partner can bring a beloved activity to do together in the community, like reading a book or playing a board game. If the partner in the facility is healthy enough to leave for a couple of hours, you can also plan an accessible off-site activity, like a trip to a local museum or garden.
  • Enjoy meals together. Some senior living communities offer at-cost or complimentary meals for visiting guests. Check with your loved one’s community to see if they offer guest meals, or if they’ll allow you to bring your own food at their meal times. Eating together helps many couples feel closer, so this can be a great way to keep a familiar, comforting routine while living apart.


  1. United States Census Bureau. (2021, April 22). Marriage, divorce, widowhood remain prevalent among older populations.

  2. A Place for Mom. (2023). A Place for Mom proprietary senior living price index.

  3. Genworth. (2021). Cost of care survey.

Meet the Author
Nirali Desai, memory care writer

Nirali Desai is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom specializing in memory care and life enrichment topics. Previously, she worked in marketing and social media, edited a regional senior magazine, and wrote for the American Red Cross. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Marlena Gates

Reviewed by

Amy McLoughlin, senior living expert

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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