Tips for Families Comparing the Cost of Senior Living with Staying at Home

January 17, 2023

When deciding whether or not to move to a retirement community, older adults and their families often assume the cost of senior living will be out of reach. It may actually be more affordable than you think especially compared with the cost of aging at home today. That's right; staying home is not always less expensive!  

Whether it's you or your loved one who's considering senior living, we recommend older adults and their adult children work together as we know a decision this big can be overwhelming. These tips can help you compare costs and better understand your budget.

The Cost of Senior Living and Care at Home

First, let's give you an idea of what to expect regarding cost. Whether at home or in senior living, there are different levels of care available. While several variables affect the amount you'll pay, typically, the more care you need, the higher the cost. That said, according to the most recent Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average monthly costs are as follows.

Cost of Care at Home

  • Homemaker Services – Help with household tasks like cooking, cleaning, and errands that cannot be managed independently. The average monthly cost is $4,957, assuming 44 hours per week.
  • Home Health Aide Services – Assistance with personal care, but not medical care. The average monthly cost is $5,148, assuming 44 hours per week.
  • Adult Day Care – Typically includes meals and snacks, health monitoring, medication assistance, and social activities during regular business hours, five days a week. The average monthly cost is $1,690.

Cost of Senior Living

  • Independent Living – Designed for seniors who can still live independently, the lifestyle is focused less on support and more on active living, with home upkeep, cooking, and housekeeping provided, in addition to a range of amenities plus social and enrichment opportunities. Published data on the average cost of independent living varies greatly, but you can typically expect to pay $2,500 to $4,000 a month.
  • Assisted Living – This level of care provides many of the same amenities and conveniences as independent living, but you'll also have support with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and medication management as needed. The average monthly cost for a private one-bedroom is $4,500.
  • Memory Care – Designed just for those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, this level of care offers 24-hour support in a secure, nurturing environment with specially trained staff. Published data on the average monthly cost for memory care also varies greatly, but you can usually expect a range between $4,000 to $7,000 a month.

Comparing the Cost of Senior Living versus Staying at Home

When considering the cost of senior living versus staying at home, the mistake families often make is to compare the monthly fee in a community to their mortgage or rent alone. However, the total monthly cost of staying at home also includes food, utilities, home maintenance, property taxes, insurance, entertainment, and healthcare. It's essential to factor these in for a realistic comparison between the cost of senior living versus staying at home because most of these are included in the former. This worksheet can help families more easily compare their specific circumstances.

Monthly ExpensesCosts at HomeCosts of Senior Living
Mortgage or rent
Property tax and insuranceIncluded
Home maintenance and repairsIncluded
Lawn care and yard maintenanceIncluded
(electricity, gas, water, trash removal, etc.)
24-hour securityIncluded
(insurance, gas, registration, repairs)
Social and EntertainmentIncluded
Exercise and wellnessIncluded
24-hour emergency alert systemIncluded
Total Actual Costs

Once you've compared, you may find that the cost of senior living is actually less than what you pay at home per month! Particularly with higher levels of care at home, as caregiving costs can quickly skyrocket the more help you need. Not to mention you may have to pay for home modifications for safety and accessibility.

Gain a Better Understanding of Your Budget

Even if the cost of senior living does turn out to be less than you would pay at home, you may still worry whether or not you can make it work with your budget. To find out, consider your or your loved one's financial picture to get a better handle on the budget for senior living. The basics include:

  • The home's market value, what's owed, and home insurance policy details.
  • What's owed on the car if you or they still have one, as well as auto insurance details.
  • Savings and investments.
  • Income such as a pension and/or Social Security.
  • Outstanding debts and/or monthly bills.
  • Medical insurance coverage – Medicare, private health insurance, and/or a long-term care insurance policy.
  • Life insurance policy details.
  • Estate planning details like the will and power of attorney.

Also, keep in mind that there are a number of options that can help offset the cost of senior living, such as the Veterans Aid & Attendance benefit for wartime Veterans or their surviving spouses, life insurance conversion, or a reverse mortgage.

To learn more, download our
Family Decision Toolkit

Family Decision Toolkit


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