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U.S. Cities With the Fastest Growing Senior Housing Costs

Ben Hanowell
By Ben HanowellApril 25, 2017

A Place for Mom released its 2017 Senior Living Cost Index, with monthly cost estimates in thousands of U.S. cities. We’ll show you which metropolitan areas and care types have the fastest growing senior housing costs, and which cities are the most and least affordable.

Here are the main findings of the 2017 Senior Living Cost Index:

  • The consumer cost of senior living is growing faster than inflation, at a similar rate to housing rents, a slower rate than health care costs, and a much slower rate than home sale prices
  • The cost growth rate slowed in the Southern U.S. in 2016, but sped up everywhere else
  • Cost growth is heating up, but not because of care costs; it’s because of economic recovery from recession
  • Senior living cost growth shares a similar pattern to housing rent growth
  • There aren’t many surprises about which cities and metros are the most and least affordable
  • Stay tuned later this year for more insights about how the neighborhood and consumer ratings of senior living communities relate to costs

2017 Senior Living Cost Index

A Tool to Help Families Plan for the Costs of Senior Living


Each year, A Place for Mom releases a free report on the growth of senior living consumer costs, and estimates of costs at the local level. We built a map that can help you check typical senior living costs in your area, and in surrounding cities. The map has cost estimates for thousands of cities and metro areas in all but two U.S. states.

Over time, we will continue to make our Cost Index apps even more user-friendly, accurate and complete. We hope you’ll find these tools valuable in your search for senior housing and care.

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The Growth of Senior Housing Costs Isn’t Spiraling Out of Control

There’s widespread belief that health care costs in general are spiraling out of control. Senior housing and care costs are no exception. Yet with the notable exception of prescription drugs, health care cost growth has actually slowed in recent years, according to the Urban Institute and other research firms.

As for senior housing and care, A Place for Mom found found that costs are growing slowly relative to other health care costs, similar to housing rents and much slower than home prices. Yet cost growth is slowly speeding up and it’s possible senior living costs will one day grow as fast as other health care costs. So while in the near term families shouldn’t rush their move for fear of spiraling cost growth, everyone should keep a close eye on cost trends going forward and not put a move off for too long.

Cost Growth for Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care

The three main types of senior living are Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care. Here’s how costs grew for those three care types taken together

  • Average median annual growth rate 2012 – 2016: 1.8 percent, or about $62 per year
  • Median annual growth rate in 2016: 2.9 percent, or about $100

If you’re unfamiliar with what these care types mean, here are some quick descriptions:

  • Independent Living is for independent seniors seeking community. Rent typically includes individual apartments, transportation services, up to three meals per day, weekly housekeeping, and limited in-home assistance as needed.
  • Assisted Living is for seniors who need daily assistance with personal care. Rent typically includes private and semi-private suites, medication management, assistance with personal care, all meals and housekeeping, and 24-hour access to caregivers.
  • Memory Care is for seniors with moderate to advanced cognitive impairment. Memory care is like assisted living with specialized memory care services and programs, specially trained staff, and secured environments.

Cost Growth Slows in the South, Speeds Up Everywhere Else

Senior living cost growth has accelerated across U.S. regions as the economy recovered, especially in the Southern and Western states, which were hit hardest by the Great Recession. Yet in 2016, growth slowed in the South, possibly a sign that the recovery’s impact on older consumers has diminished, although it’s too early to tell for sure.

Cost Growth Speeds Up, But Not Because of Care Costs

Despite public perception, health care cost growth slowed in recent years, with the notable exception of prescription drug costs. Yet rent and home price growth has heated up during the economy recovery. Independent Living — the type of care most similar to rental and real estate markets and for which all costs go to rent not senior care — shows the fastest speed-up in cost growth compared to Assisted Living and Memory Care, which are a mix of rent and care.

Just as for rents and home prices, a major reason for rising cost growth in senior housing is economic recovery. Yet Assisted Living and Memory Care weren’t hurt as much by the recession because of the greater urgency of their consumers’ care needs. There may also be some indirect relation to slower health care cost growth. So Assisted Living and Memory Care markets have had less of a hill to climb. For Memory Care, about half of the costs go toward care, and there is no clear evidence of cost growth acceleration whatsoever.

Senior Living Cost Growth Mirrors the Rental Market

The growth of senior living costs shares a similar pace and geographic pattern to the rental market. According to the Zillow Rent Index, annual rent growth hovered nationally from 2 to 5 percent between 2013 and 2016, similar to growth in senior living costs. In contrast, national home sale prices, according to real estate brokerage Redfin, have grown at least twice as fast.

Metro areas with hot rental markets also tend to have the fastest growing senior living costs. In 2016, the top five metro areas in terms of average monthly Zillow Rent Index were Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Denver, and San Diego. Four of these metro areas are in the top-five list for the fastest growing costs for at least one of the major types of senior housing and care.

Top 5 Fastest Growing Metro Markets (2016 Percent Cost Growth)

Markets are underlined that appear in the top ten for both housing rents and senior living costs.

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Housing Rents

Seattle (8.7)
Portland, OR (8.3)
Sacramento, CA (5.8)
Denver, CO (5.3)
San Diego, CA (4.7)

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Independent Living

Seattle, WA (8.1)
Minneapolis, MN (7.5)
Phoenix, AZ (5.5)
Chicago, IL (3.4)
Los Angeles, CA (3.3)

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Assisted Living

Denver, CO (10.3)
San Diego, CA (9.1)
Chicago, IL (2.7)
Sacramento, CA (3.9)
New York, NY (3.6)

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Memory Care

San Diego, CA (6.0)
New York, NY (5.1)
Phoenix, AZ (3.2)
Chicago, IL (2.7)
Minneapolis, MN (1.3)

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Most and Least Affordable Areas for Senior Housing

Senior Housing Costs in the Top 15 Biggest Metros

Here are median monthly cost estimates for each care type in the 15 biggest metro areas (in terms of population age 55 and over) compared the United States (orange bars). No surprises here. Costs are higher in the biggest coastal metros, and lower in Midwestern, Southern and Southwestern states. The closest metro to the U.S. as a whole is Philadelphia.

Five Most and Least Affordable Metros for Senior Housing

We show the most affordable metros  for senior housing, including Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory. We also ranked cities for the affordability of Senior Apartments (also known as 55+ apartments), a less costly option for independent seniors who don’t want dining, housekeeping or scheduled activities to be included in their rent.

The most affordable metros tend to be in the South, Southwest, and Midwest. The least affordable metros tend to be in small to mid-sized, more affluent metros in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

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Senior Apartments

Most Affordable Metros

  • Birmingham, AL: $722
  • Kingsport, TN: $742
  • Cleveland, TN: $745
  • Macon, GA: $749
  • Pensacola, FL: $755

Least Affordable Metros

  • Bridgeport, CT: $1,831
  • Hartford, CT: $1,471
  • Boston, MA: $1,351
  • Silver Spring, MD: $1,347
  • Oakland, CA: $1,323

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Independent Living

Most Affordable Metros

  • Florence, SC: $1,924
  • Florence, AL: $1,969
  • Fayetteville, NC: $$1,991
  • Sebring, FL: $1,991
  • Muskegon, MI: $1,997

Least Affordable Metros

  • Trenton, NJ: $4,321
  • Nassau, NY: $3,983
  • Bridgeport, CT: $3,861
  • Newark, NJ: $3,798
  • Cambridge, MA: $3,702

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Assisted Living

Most Affordable Metros

  • Sebring, FL: $3,109
  • Florence, AL: $3,128
  • Sumter, SC: $3,129
  • Jackson, MI: $3,142
  • Hammond, LA: $3,160

Least Affordable Metros

  • Nassau, NY: $5,297
  • Cambridge, MA: $4,978
  • Bridgeport, CT: $4,975
  • Trenton, NJ: $4,968
  • Newark, NJ: $4,932

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Memory Care

Most Affordable Metros

  • Cleveland, TN: $3,682
  • Sebring, FL: $3,740
  • Dalton, GA: $3,767
  • Hammond, LA: $3,801
  • Gulfport, MS: $3,820

Least Affordable Metros

  • Nassau, NY: $6,779
  • Bridgeport, CT: $6,338
  • Newark, NJ: $6,284
  • Cambridge, MA: $6,207
  • San Jose, CA: $6,099

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Five Most and Least Affordable Cities for Senior Housing

Metro areas are big. It’s hard to tell which part of a metro area is the most affordable… until now. We have cost estimates for over 3,300 cities. Here are the most and least affordable for each type of care. Again, the most affordable cities are in the South, Southwest and Midwest. The least affordable are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and also some parts of California. Most of the least affordable cities are in the New York and Nassau metros of New York State. Detroit, Michigan pops up frequently among the most affordable, as well as other ailing Michigan cities like Flint.

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Senior Apartments

Most Affordable Cities

  • Detroit, MI: $656
  • Macon, GA: $695
  • Flint, MI: $716
  • Selma, AL: $721
  • Anderson, IN (Indianapolis metro): $722

Least Affordable Cities

  • Potomac, MD (Silver Spring metro): $1,831
  • Wilton, CT (Bridgeport metro): $1,824
  • Croton-on-Hudson, NY (New York metro): $1,610
  • Ashburn, VA (DC metro): $1,594
  • Herndon, VA (DC metro): $1,519

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Independent Living

Most Affordable Cities

  • Detroit, MI: $1,840
  • Moultrie, GA: $1,854
  • Milledgeville, GA: $1,883
  • Americus, GA: $1,883
  • Wrightsville, GA: $1,888

Least Affordable Cities

  • Darien, CT (Bridgeport metro): $4,960
  • Weston, MA (Cambridge metro): $4,906
  • Roslyn, NY (Nassau metro): $4,691
  • Ardsley, NY (New York metro): $4,643
  • Atlantic Beach, NY (Nassau metro): $4,531

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Assisted Living

Most Affordable Cities

  • Statesboro, GA: $2,871
  • Metter, GA: $2,928
  • Bastrop, LA: $2,932
  • Cordele, GA: $2,934
  • Moultrie, GA: $2,935

Least Affordable Cities

  • Armonk, NY (New York metro): $6,018
  • Ardsley, NY (New York metro): $5,758
  • Syosset, NY (Nassau metro): $5,711
  • Weston, MA (Cambridge metro): $5,693
  • Gladstone, NJ (Newark metro): $5,690

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Memory Care

Most Affordable Cities

  • Statesboro, GA: $3,458
  • Metter, GA: $3,484
  • Bastrop, LA: $3,489
  • Camilla, GA: $3,514
  • Newport, TN: $3,533

Least Affordable Cities

  • Syosset, NY (Nassau, NY metro): $7,114
  • Plainview, NY (Nassau, NY metro): $7,086
  • Armonk, NY (New York, NY metro): $7,069
  • Oyster Bay, NY (Nassau, NY metro): $7,065
  • Massapequa, NY (Nassau, NY metro): $7,011

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Methodology

The Senior Living Cost Index is based on actual rent and care charges collected from referred family move-ins to A Place for Mom community partners. National and regional median costs and growth estimates are based on communities with at least one move-in for a given care type two years in a row. The index reports the median cost and annual changes across communities based on their annual median move-in charges for each care type.

ZIP-code, city, county, metro, and state estimates are based on a proprietary machine-learning algorithm that models inflation-adjusted move-in charges (in 2015 dollars) during 2015 and 2016. ZIP codes with a small number of move-ins borrow information about costs from other zip codes with similar median household income, similar proportion of adults 55 or older and geographic proximity. Cost estimates in each location are a weighted average of zip code-level estimates. Zip-code weights are based on 2014 American Community Survey population counts of persons over age 55.

Median household income and older population counts are based on the 2015 five-year estimates from the American Community Survey.

Annual home price growth is based on the annual average median home price available from the Redfin Data Center. Housing rent growth is based on the annual average Zillow Rent Index. Inflation estimates are based on the monthly Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers – All Items, available from FRED, with inflation adjustment factors calculated relative to the average index value for 2016.

Texas and Oklahoma estimates are unavailable as APFM does not collect monthly care and rent charges due to state regulations.

Cost and cost growth estimates are available at various geographic levels in our fully-documented public data repository. Although just over 2,200 cities are shown on the map, the data repository has data on over 3,300 cities, as well as data at the ZIP-code, county, metro, state, regional and national level.

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Ben Hanowell
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