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Senior Living

An Introduction to Senior Living and Senior Care Options

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What is senior living?

Senior living is a term used to describe various housing and care options for older adults.

Today, adults 65 years of age and older have a 70% chance of eventually requiring long-term care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Family Services. Senior living communities are a solution to this growing need, as they can provide elderly adults with supervision, socialization, and on-site care and assistance.

There are many different types of senior living facilities — from maintenance-free, 55+ communities for active seniors, to secure, fully staffed communities for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This guide details the wide range of senior living options to help you find the best senior living communities near you.

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Benefits of senior community living

Senior living enhances quality of life for older adults while also giving caregivers peace of mind. For example, older adults living in a senior community were 20% more likely to report feelings of happiness and contentment than seniors living on their own, according to a 2019 study.

It’s not unusual to hear residents describe their senior living community as a cruise ship on land, while others compare their lifestyle to a vacation. They’re often referring to luxurious amenities offered within communities like spas, arts and crafts studios, cocktail lounges, coffee shops, and multiple types of restaurant-style dining halls.

Although community features vary based on care type and the individual facility, benefits can include:

  • Popular amenities, like pools, tennis courts, a beauty salon or barbershop, library, billiards hall, movie theatre, or fitness center.
  • Pet-friendly optionsfor seniors who have a pet they’d like to bring with them to senior living.
  • Maintenance, laundry, and housekeeping. Senior living communities empower older adults to live a stress-free lifestyle.
  • Social activities — such as game nights, exercise classes, and sing-alongs — to combat senior isolation. Senior living community residents can also participate in supervised field trips and outings.
  • Dining services that provide nutritious meals and snacks to meet seniors’ daily dietary needs and dietary preferences.
  • Complimentary transportation within a certain distance from the community.
  • Personal care assistance, like help with showering, toileting, medication management, and other activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Safety and supervision. Most communities have secured entrances and exits. And many assisted living and memory care communities offer on-site staff supervision, as well as layouts designed to prevent wandering and confusion.
  • Care planning and care coordination. In some cases, seniors can receive on-site medical services — such as physical therapy, diabetes management, and X-rays — from both primary care providers and specialists.
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Senior living and senior care options

Senior living communities fit a diverse range of care needs. If you’re unsure what type of care your loved one needs, consider these common senior living options and senior care options:

  • Senior apartments — which often feature amenities like pools, tennis courts, and fitness centers — for active adults over the age of 55.
  • Independent living for active, self-sufficient seniors who don’t need daily care and assistance, but who would benefit from socialization and a maintenance-free lifestyle.
  • Assisted living for seniors who require help with activities of daily living — like dressing, bathing, and mobility — but don’t have complex medical needs.
  • Board and care homes, which provide senior care in a smaller, more family-like setting.
  • Memory care for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who need enhanced security features and engaging, memory-enhancing therapies and activities.
  • Nursing homes for older adults with chronic or complex medical conditions, who require skilled nursing care and round-the-clock supervision.
  • Continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, which offer independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care all on one campus, allowing residents to move between care types.
  • Home care for elderly adults who prefer to age in place, but who would benefit from regular assistance, transportation, and companionship.
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Average long-term care and senior living costs

The cost of senior living depends on several factors, including location, care type, and services and amenities offered.

Some senior living options, like senior apartments and independent living, mirror more typical apartment or rental home prices. Others, like assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes, are generally more expensive due to the costs of care.

The figures below represent the monthly median senior living costs across the nation as of January 2022, based on data from A Place for Mom and Genworth.

Care typeMedian monthly cost
Independent living$3,000
Assisted living$4,700
Memory care$5,600
Nursing homes$9,034
Home care$5,148
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How to pay for senior living and long-term senior care

Whereas some options — independent living and senior apartments, in particular — are quite similar to paying for rent on an apartment, other care types may require families to use a variety of funding sources and strategies. It can be helpful to understand:

  • How to pay for long-term care. This guide outlines the most common options, including savings, pensions, investments, Social Security benefits, insurance, and selling a house to pay for care.
  • Medicaid coverage. Medicaid – currently the largest source of health insurance in the U.S. – can often cover senior care for low-income or medically needy older adults. Our State Medicaid Directory allows you to easily see the type of care that is covered by Medicaid in your state, as well as the eligibility requirements, rules and regulations for Medicaid in your state.
  • Veterans benefits for long-term care. Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits. These stipends often cover some or all care for veterans requiring help with activities of daily living and veterans with significant disabilities.
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Touring and choosing senior living communities near you

To find the right senior living community for yourself or a relative, evaluate your budget and priorities. For example, is your family member highly social, making activities and outings a deciding factor? Do they require a high level of care, meaning employee training and staff-to-resident ratio are most important?

Above all, touring is the best way to choose a senior living facility. In fact, 97% of families took a tour before making a decision, according to A Place for Mom’s family survey. This experience allows you to meet community staff, see the unit your family member would live in, and ask important questions.

Learn what to look for in a community

A Place for Mom’s touring guide helps you keep your notes, observations, and questions all in one place. Compare different options with this downloadable resource.

Download the senior living touring checklist >

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Not sure what type of senior living you need?

Start by exploring top-rated senior care near you A Place for Mom’s 2022 Best of Senior Living Awards identify the most highly rated communities and home care agencies in your area, based on real family reviews.

Use our service to help you find housing and care options. Our local advisors will work with you to better understand your budget, concerns, and questions. From there, you’ll receive a personalized list of the three best senior living communities for you.

Sources:

Genworth. (2021). Cost of Care Survey. Genworth Financial, Inc.

A Place for Mom. (2022). A Place for Mom Senior Living Price Index.

A Place for Mom. (2022). A Place for Mom Family Survey.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2020, Feb. 18). How Much Care Will You Need?LongTermCare.gov.

Associated Retirement Community Operators. (2019). Housing, health, and care: The health and wellbeing benefits of retirement communities.

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Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities offer housing and care for active seniors who may need support with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and medication management.

The score shown is the overall experience rating which is an average of the reviews submitted for those communities. The overall experience rating is a star rating that ranges from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.

Below are the 51 largest cities grouped by their metropolitan area.

Top states for Assisted Living

California, CA
4.1
2890 facilities
Oregon, OR
4.0
522 facilities
Washington, WA
4.1
1084 facilities
Massachusetts, MA
4.2
328 facilities
Texas, TX
4.2
1175 facilities
Ohio, OH
4.1
765 facilities
Wisconsin, WI
4.0
832 facilities
Colorado, CO
4.0
372 facilities
Idaho, ID
4.0
170 facilities
Illinois, IL
4.2
609 facilities
Virginia, VA
4.0
431 facilities
Maryland, MD
4.0
364 facilities
Arizona, AZ
4.0
668 facilities
Florida, FL
4.0
1658 facilities
South Carolina, SC
4.0
323 facilities
Nevada, NV
4.2
89 facilities
Pennsylvania, PA
3.9
849 facilities
Minnesota, MN
3.9
624 facilities
Louisiana, LA
4.2
112 facilities
New York, NY
4.0
438 facilities
Michigan, MI
4.0
799 facilities
Georgia, GA
4.1
717 facilities
Iowa, IA
4.2
279 facilities
Delaware, DE
4.0
38 facilities
Maine, ME
4.1
107 facilities
Tennessee, TN
4.2
376 facilities
Kansas, KS
4.0
259 facilities
Indiana, IN
4.0
397 facilities
New Jersey, NJ
4.1
348 facilities
Mississippi, MS
4.2
122 facilities
Oklahoma, OK
4.1
179 facilities
Missouri, MO
4.0
445 facilities
New Hampshire, NH
4.0
88 facilities
Kentucky, KY
4.3
208 facilities
North Carolina, NC
3.8
497 facilities
North Dakota, ND
4.2
50 facilities
Connecticut, CT
4.2
154 facilities
Alabama, AL
4.1
235 facilities
Nebraska, NE
4.2
187 facilities
Montana, MT
3.8
78 facilities
Utah, UT
4.2
141 facilities
Alaska, AK
4.1
36 facilities
Arkansas, AR
4.3
91 facilities
Rhode Island, RI
4.1
55 facilities
Wyoming, WY
3.7
25 facilities
West Virginia, WV
4.2
45 facilities
New Mexico, NM
4.0
105 facilities
Vermont, VT
4.3
39 facilities
District of Columbia, DC
4.0
14 facilities
South Dakota, SD
4.0
71 facilities
Hawaii, HI
4.3
31 facilities

Reviews and awards

The Best of Senior Living Award showcases top senior living communities stand out for their exceptional care and support of seniors.

Latest senior living reviews

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Winners of our Best Meals and Dining Award are the best communities for meals and dining, as determined by recent, highly rated reviews.