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What Is Senior Living? Costs, Benefits and Options

Find senior living options

What is senior living?

Senior living encompasses a range of housing and care options for older adults, from senior apartments and independent living communities for active seniors to nursing homes for those with significant medical needs. Determining who needs senior living and what type of community they should live in depends on how much care they need:

  • Senior apartments and independent living communities: The senior meets community age requirements and doesn’t need any care services.
  • Home care and assisted living communities: The senior needs help with a couple of activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing and eating, but is otherwise independent.
  • Memory care: The senior has symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, and they need help with ADLs.
  • Nursing homes: The senior needs skilled medical care for short-term or long-term conditions.

 

The costs and amenities of each community usually depend on the level of care provided and whether or not residents are given a maintenance-free, all-inclusive experience. Each senior living option is detailed below to help you find the best community for your needs.

What are the types of senior living?

Senior living options range from senior apartments and other 55+ communities to nursing homes. The biggest difference between each option is the level of care they provide to residents.

 

For independent seniors who don’t need assistance, senior apartments or independent living may be the right fit. Active seniors who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) may strike a balance of independence and support in assisted living communities or board and care homes. However, seniors with complex health conditions or a form of dementia may benefit more from memory care communities or nursing homes.

 

Depending on the needs of the senior, home care or home health care may be a good fit. Home care services can provide companionship and daily support, while home health care services can offer prescribed in-home skilled nursing care.

Your Complete Guide to Assisted Living

Assisted living provides long-term housing and care for generally active seniors who need assistance with activities of daily...

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Your Complete Guide to Memory Care

Memory care provides long-term housing and specialized care for seniors with dementia or memory loss.

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Your Complete Guide to Independent Living

Independent living offers a carefree lifestyle for older adults, usually age 55 and above, who want to enjoy retirement with ...

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Your Complete Guide to Senior Apartments

Understand the amenities and costs associated with senior apartments, with tips on how to know if it's the right fit.

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Your Complete Guide to Nursing Homes

Learn everything you need to know about nursing homes, include costs, services, amenities, and payment options.

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Your Complete Guide to Home Care

Senior home care services can include help with ADLs, housekeeping, and skilled nursing services, and costs are usually based...

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Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

What are the benefits of senior living?

Senior living communities empower seniors to remain as independent as possible while supporting their unique needs, enhancing their quality of life, and providing peace of mind to their loved ones. The benefits of residing in a senior living community may include the following:

 

  • Increased safety for older adults: Features such as secured campuses and environments specifically tailored to prevent falls can provide peace of mind.
  • Socialization opportunities for seniors: Holiday celebrations, educational classes, and more keep seniors engaged with their peers.
  • Healthy meals designed to support aging adults: Chefs and nutritionists may accommodate seniors’ unique dietary needs.
  • Low-stress lifestyles: Senior living staff may handle maintenance, laundry, housekeeping, and transportation services.
  • Wellness support tailored to seniors: Personal care planning and care coordination services may be available.

CARE OPTIONS

10 Surprising Facts About Senior Living

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AMENITIES

5 Reasons Why the Elderly Prefer Senior Living Communities

Amenities, services, activities, social events, and safety features help senior living stand out for older adults.

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Senior Living and Socialization: How Social Engagement in Communities Benefits Health

Learn how senior living can help seniors beat senior isolation with social opportunities.

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Fresh Ways to Enjoy Senior Living Dining Services

Learn about how senior living dining services have more options than you may think.

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Signs it's time for senior living

There are a variety of reasons someone may choose to move to senior living or employ a home care provider. For independent seniors, the desire to downsize or simplify expenses may indicate that it’s time to consider senior living. If a senior begins to have a decline in activities of daily living (ADLs), receives a dementia diagnosis, or has a complex medical condition requiring regular care, it may be time to consider more involved senior care. Look for options that provide health services, such as assisted living, memory care, nursing homes, and home health care.

AGING PARENTS

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AGING PARENTS

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Talking With Family When You Can No Longer Care for an Elderly Parent

Learn how to talk to your family about the need for a new caregiving arrangement.

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When to Move to Senior Living: Weighing Your Loved One’s Wants and Needs

Observe your loved one to understand whether or not they need help. Signs include sudden weight loss, expired food, and ...

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Senior living costs and payment options

Typically, the more specialized a senior living option is, the more it will cost. For example, nursing homes remain the most expensive senior living option while offering the highest level of care possible outside of a hospital setting. Other features like location, care type, floor plan, services and amenities, and pricing model will affect the monthly cost of senior care. 

 

Knowing what real families paid for care options can help you better plan for care and understand your budget. Below, you’ll see the monthly median senior living costs across the nation based on data from A Place for Mom’s 2024 Cost of Long-Term Care and Senior Living Report

 

When it comes time to cover the costs of senior care, families use both private and public pay options. Private payment methods include using funds from personal accounts, retirement savings, social security, and insurance. Some families may use public pay options, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits. 

The monthly median cost of assisted living in the U.S. is $5,000 based on our proprietary data gathered from our partnered communities across the country.

COST

Cost of Long-Term Care and Senior Living

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COST

Comparing the Average Cost of Retirement Communities

Understand the cost of retirement communities to find the best retirement option based on your budget, needs, and preferences.

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Your Complete Guide to Paying for Long-term Care

Use this guide to learn about paying for senior care, including Medicaid, Medicare, and private pay options.

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Senior Living Cost Calculator

See how your loved one’s current living expenses compare to senior living costs in your area.

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How to find senior living

Finding the right senior living option comes down to three questions: What are your needs, what are your retirement goals, and what is your budget? Knowing the answer to these questions should help you narrow down which option will fit your family’s needs best. For example, if your loved one doesn’t require care services, but wants to pursue new hobbies and make new friendships, independent living might be a better option than a senior apartment or assisted living environment.

 

Above all else, the best way to determine which senior living option is best is to tour. Touring allows families to meet community staff and residents, ask questions, evaluate floor plans, and truly get a sense of what life in that community would look like. According to our data, 97% of families tour before making a final decision about their senior living options.

CHOOSING CARE

How to Choose an Independent Living Community: 10 Key Considerations

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CARE OPTIONS

What to Do When Dad and Mom Have Different Senior Living Care Needs

Parents with different needs can choose the same senior living community, use in-home care, or visit each other with your help.

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Choosing a Memory Care Facility: 10 Tips and Essential Checklist of Questions

Use these 10 expert tips and a memory care checklist to find the most suitable memory care community for a loved one wit...

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Finding Senior Living for Elderly Couples

Learn about senior living options for elderly couples, find average costs, and get tips on navigating care options.

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Tips for moving to senior living

Moving can be a big adjustment, which is why it’s best to plan ahead. Consider the significant change you or a senior loved one will go through.  A successful move is key for a positive transition into a new environment and lifestyle. 

 

Below are some top tips for an easy senior living move:

 

  • Choose one room at a time for packing and downsizing.
  • Consider hiring a professional senior relocation service.
  • Work with a geriatric care manager to make sure there is e access to health care providers and prescriptions after the move.
  • Consider mobility needs to find the best way to travel, whether by car or plane.

MOVING

Helping Seniors Move: Design and Downsizing Tips for Senior Living

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CAREGIVER SUPPORT

Overcome the Guilt of Moving a Parent to Senior Living

Even when moving to senior living is the right decision, it can trigger guilty feelings for caregivers. Use these tips to cope.

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Checklist for Moving Elderly Parents: 6 Practical Things to Consider When Moving an Aging ...

These six tips can help with the transition, from downsizing and focusing on the positives to finding new health care pr...

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How a Senior Care Plan Manages Care After the Move to Senior Living

Learn how a senior care plan can help promote care management in senior living.

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Explore more senior living topics

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COST

Comparing the Average Cost of Retirement Communities

CARE OPTIONS

Senior Respite Care: Time Off From Caregiving

CHOOSING CARE

A State-by-State Guide to Senior Living Regulations

HEALTH & WELLNESS

7 Reasons Why Visiting Elderly Parents is Important After a Move to a Senior Living Community

MOVING

The Benefits of Shared Housing for Seniors in Senior Living Communities

CAREGIVER SUPPORT

Guide to Creating a Senior Care Plan

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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.