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Comparing the Average Cost of Retirement Communities

10 minute readLast updated August 30, 2023
fact checkedon August 30, 2023
Written by Mary Salatino
Reviewed by Denise Lettau, J.D.Attorney Denise Lettau has over 15 years of experience in the wealth management industry.
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If you’re searching for 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, however, that comes at a cost. That’s precisely why you should consider your budget, preferences, and needs. Learn about the cost of retirement communities, including 55+ apartments, independent living communities, and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Also compare fees, amenities, and pay structures to find the most suitable option.

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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, enabling 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.

Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)

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 focuses more on medical care. Medical services usually include nursing care, 24-hour supervision, assistance with ADLs, and rehabilitation services.

How much does it cost to live in a retirement community?

Understanding retirement community costs is crucial to finding care within your budget. The cost of senior living communities depends on the size of the unit, available amenities and services, and location. Let us help you break down costs and amenities to make your retirement community search easier.

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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. Of course that means pricing greatly varies depending on the 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 cost of senior independent living in the U.S. is approximately $3,000 per month, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 internal cost data. That’s about $1,800 less a month than the median cost of assisted living.[01] However, independent living costs vary by supply and demand, geographic location, floor plan, services, and amenities.

Cost of CCRCs

Many CCRCs charge an entry fee which can vary greatly by age and circumstances. On average, the initial payment is around $402,000.[02] Depending on the contract, a substantial percentage of the entry fee may be 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 approximately $3,555 per month.[02] Some CCRCs offer a rental model with no up-front fee. For an independent living unit in a CCRC, rent usually falls between $3,000 and $6,000 per month.[02]

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.

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Continuing care retirement communities

The higher cost 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 mortgages 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.

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  1. A Place for Mom. (2023). A Place for Mom proprietary cost data.

Meet the Author
Mary Salatino

Mary Salatino is a former copywriter at A Place for Mom. She has worked as a freelance journalist and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in magazine editing from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she wrote and edited for several city publications.

Reviewed by

Denise Lettau, J.D.

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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