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Comparing the Average Cost of Retirement Communities

By Mary SalatinoAugust 5, 2021
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Enjoying retirement is easier when you have access to a wide variety of services and activities. If you have decided to find a retirement community for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to select one that fits your lifestyle. Consider the adventure of a downtown apartment, the neighborly feel of a planned community, or the security of continuing care: Every community is situated in an environment that will accentuate its culture, and that environment will make some amenities more or less available. Retirement communities strive to offer aging adults a stress-free lifestyle through eliminating the need to perform maintenance, ensuring at least basic health care is on site, and offering a variety activities. However, all this comes with a cost.

It’s important to think about your loved one’s interests, needs, and budget when choosing a retirement community. Learn about the cost of retirement communities such as 55+ apartments, independent living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Compare fees, amenities, and price structures to find the best option for you or your aging loved one.

What is a retirement community?

Retirement communities are designed to meet your loved one’s needs as they move into the next phase of their life. Communities give residents a sense of purpose and freedom, allowing them to release responsibility while staff attends to cooking, housekeeping, laundry, and other maintenance. Understanding the three main types of communities will help you choose a living situation that best fits your loved one’s needs.

55+ retirement communities and apartments

Senior apartments and planned communities come in a variety of forms. Some 55+ communities offer condominiums, townhomes, or freestanding houses, while senior apartments are multi-unit properties. To buy or rent in these communities, residents generally need to be 55 or older.

Independent living communities

These communities are designed for older adults who want a maintenance-free lifestyle but don’t need full-time medical or personal care. Most independent living communities don’t provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) or the individualized care assisted living and memory care facilities offer. However, residents can take advantage of communal amenities as well as individual services such as housekeeping and meal preparation.


These retirement communities offer independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care. CCRCs offer an engaging lifestyle for independent seniors who wish to remain in one community as their care needs increase. Assisted living care provides more help with ADLs, while nursing home care typically focus more on medical care. Medical services usually include nursing care, 24-hour supervision, assistance with ADLs, and rehabilitation services.

What do retirement communities cost?

Understanding the average cost of living in a retirement community is crucial to finding care within your budget. Retirement home costs depend on the size of the unit, available amenities and services, and location. Let us help you breakdown costs and amenities to make your community search easier.

Cost of 55+ retirement communities and senior apartments

The cost of living in a 55+ planned community is usually about the same as purchasing a house or apartment in any planned community. Pricing varies by number of bedrooms and included features. Many seniors see a home in a 55+ community as an investment opportunity, or they may use the money from the sale of their former house as a down payment. Homeowner’s association (HOA) or entry fees may cover lawn care, snow removal, and senior-specific amenities.

Cost of independent living communities

The median monthly cost of senior independent living in the U.S. is $2,552, according to A Place for Mom’s 2018 cost index. That’s about $1,400 less a month than the average cost of assisted living. However, independent living costs vary by supply and demand, geographic location, floor plan, services, and amenities.

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Cost of CCRCs

About two-thirds of CCRCs charge an entry fee, according to a CCRCs market report from commercial real-estate services firm CBRE. According to AARP, the average initial payment is around $329,000. In some CCRCs, up to 90% of the entrance fee is refundable to you or your beneficiaries when you leave the community. Monthly costs after entry can vary dramatically by location and amenities, with an average cost of $2,000 to $4,000 a month, according to CBRE.

Pay structures of retirement communities 

In addition to differing costs, retirement community pay structures often vary by care type. From monthly rent to fee-for-service contracts, consider which option is best for you or your loved one.

55+ communities or senior apartments

Senior apartments generally have standard, long-term leases with rent due each month and little to no up-front entrance fee. Rent typically includes senior-accessible amenities such as fitness centers and pools in higher-end buildings, and some communities may offer planned activities. On-site security, staff, and maintenance provide peace of mind in 55+ communities. Optional services such as housekeeping and dry cleaning may be offered by outside companies for an additional fee.

Homes in 55+ communities are purchased like any other houses. Residents may have to secure a mortgage and provide a down payment. Some 55+ communities require buy-in fees to cover amenities such as pools, parks, and senior centers, along with landscaping and maintenance. Again, communities may have a list of recommended vendors to provide additional services for a fee.

Independent living communities

Independent living is usually all-inclusive, unlike a 55+ community or senior apartments. Utilities, landscaping, and security are usually bundled into rent payments. Additionally, independent living amenities such as light housekeeping, transportation, and senior-oriented activities are included in monthly costs.

Continuing care retirement communities

The higher costs associated with continuing care retirement communities covers more benefits — mainly peace of mind for seniors who wish to remain in place as their health declines. When aging adults move into the independent living neighborhood of a CCRC, they begin paying for future care as well as current amenities. Thankfully, there are several ways to cover these additional assisted living costs — Medicare, bridge loans, and reverse mortgage are a few examples. 

CCRC fee structures

CCRCs generally determine payments through one of three fee structures:

  • Extensive contracts give residents unlimited access to health care with little increase in fees. Seniors will pay a significantly higher price for independent living than they would outside a CCRC.
  • Modified contracts allow residents to pay for health care as needed alongside monthly maintenance fees. This can be helpful if an independent resident suffers an injury or requires rehab services.
  • Fee-for-service contracts require separate payment for all health care costs. This could be the least expensive way to pay for retirement living in a CCRC. However, costs may add up in the future if assisted living and nursing care are needed.


AARP.“How Continuing Care Communities Work.”

National Institute on Aging.“Residential Facilities, Assisted Living, and Nursing Homes.”

Mary Salatino

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