What Does Assisted Living Cost?
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We all want to remain independent for as long as possible, but some seniors realize at a certain point they could use some help with daily activities. An assisted living lifestyle is often the most appropriate next step, as long as paying for assisted living is within your retirement budget.
Assisted living is independent living in an apartment with the added benefit of having help nearby for medication management, meal preparation, housekeeping, and transportation. Seniors enjoy social connections, wellness programs, secure housing, and cultural outings in such facilities. Assisted living costs include the housing, utilities, and care services.
But how much does assisted living cost? $54,000 a year, though it varies significantly depending on where you live.
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National Assisted Living Costs
According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), seniors can choose from 30,600 assisted living communities across the country. More than 815,000 Americans currently reside in assisted living facilities.
The average median cost for an assisted living apartment in the United States is $4,500 per month ($54,000 a year). Half of all residents are 85 or older, though residents under 65 can and do reside in assisted living facilities.
Assisted living costs have gone up tremendously in recent years, both with inflation and the increased costs of COVID-19 protocols. Costs should continue to rise as more seniors require assistance. According to Grand View Research, the U.S. assisted living market size is $91.8 billion, and that’s expected to grow 5.5% between now and 2030. Between now and then, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day, according to Genworth—and eventually, 70% of them will need long-term care.
Assisted Living Costs by Region
No matter where you live, you should easily be able to locate an assisted living facility near you, but keep in mind, facilities in large cities are usually more expensive than facilities in suburbs or smaller cities.
Note that these facilities aren’t evenly distributed across the country. Here’s the full regional breakdown:
- 40.8% of assisted living facilities are in the West
- 28.0% of assisted living facilities are in the South
- 22.6% of assisted living facilities are in the Midwest
- 8.6% of assisted living facilities are in the Northeast
The lower percentage of assisted living facilities up north is understandable—both because seniors are statistically more likely to retire in the south and because assisted living is more affordable the farther south you go. Genworth reports the most expensive states for assisted living facilities are:
- Alaska ($81,960 a year)
- Rhode Island ($81,915 a year)
- Massachusetts ($78,000 a year)
- New Jersey ($77,940 a year)
- New Hampshire ($72,630 a year)
- Washington ($72,000 a year)
- Maine ($70,380 a year)
The District of Columbia is the most expensive of all at $83,730 a year.
On the flip side, the cheapest states for assisted living facilities are:
- Missouri ($36,000 a year)
- South Dakota ($40,200 a year)
- North Dakota ($40,695 a year)
- Kentucky ($41,370 a year)
- Mississippi ($42,000 a year)
Cost of Assisted Living vs. Memory Care vs. Nursing Homes
The cost of senior housing varies based on the type of community (and the level of care). For example, memory care costs more than assisted living facilities because staff members there must provide more specialized care.
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*Costs shown reflect semi-private rooms.
Assisted Living Cost Factors
Location is one of the largest factors affecting the cost of assisted living facilities, but additional considerations can impact how much you’ll pay, including:
- Private rooms vs. shared spaces
- The size of the facility
- The amenities offered (on-site pharmacies, pools, dining facilities, etc.)
- Number of beds available
- Staff-to-resident ratio (federal law requires that there be at least one staff member for every eight residents)
- Specialized services (memory care, physical therapy, etc.)
Most Affordable Cities For Assisted Living
Assisted living costs are one of the biggest factors to consider when searching for a facility. The table below ranks cities from least to most expensive.
Paying for Assisted Living
Acknowledging that you need help in your senior years is one thing—but paying for assisted living, especially if you’re on a tight budget, is another thing entirely. So how can seniors afford assisted living costs? Here are a few options to consider:
- Retirement savings: Ideally, you’ll have contributed to retirement accounts during your working years, and you can now draw from them to fund your rising medical costs, including assisted living facilities, in retirement. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of growing their retirement savings during their working years, so you may have to explore other options.
- Government benefits: Even if you don’t have retirement income from your own accounts, you likely receive Social Security benefits each month that you can put toward the cost of assisted living.
- Reverse mortgage: Reverse mortgages can be complicated, but depending on your needs in retirement, they might actually make sense for you. Check out these best reverse mortgage lenders to start your search.
- Life insurance: Some life insurance policies may let you access the death benefit even while you’re still alive, in order to cover medical costs. (Often, there’s a long-term care rider on your policy that spells out this option.) You may also be able to access the cash value portion of your life insurance, depending on the policy. If you’re planning ahead for future medical costs in retirement, choose one of these best life insurance companies for seniors.
Can Medicaid Help Pay for Assisted Living?
Each state operates its own Medicaid program, so you’ll have to check the specifics to see what is and isn’t covered. Some assisted living costs, such as personal care services and homemaker services, may be covered through Medicaid.
Assisted living facilities provide essential services for seniors, but they’re also expensive. You can keep costs down by retiring in a state with cheaper assisted living facilities, but ultimately, you may need to rely on retirement savings, life insurance, or even a reverse mortgage to pay for assisted living.