The perception of senior living is typical that it is very expensive, sometimes even unreasonably so. In Northern Virginia, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes will typically cost between $4,000 and $9,000 per month for seniors and their families, whereas independent living is frequently less expensive, with a monthly price tag that generally ranges from $2,500 to $5,000.
So why is independent living less costly than other senior living options? A big part of the reason is in the name itself. Independent living communities, also known as retirement communities, are usually ideal for seniors who are still able to care for themselves and handle the majority of their daily needs. In other words, individuals residing in these communities have minimal medical needs, don't require round-the-clock personal care or nursing care, are still able to prepare their own meals, maintain their own houses, and are still capable of managing their finances.
In Northern Virginia, most independent living communities provide services that make residents' lives simpler. Community dining rooms provide a place for seniors to have prepared meals and congregate with their friends who also reside in the community, and weekly housekeeping or laundry services are commonplace. But for the most part, a senior's life in an independent living community doesn't alter all that much from their life in their own home. In actuality, the majority of seniors choose to relocate to independent living communities not out of necessity but rather out of convenience. It can be the desire for a more compact living arrangement or for the more active, social senior environment that independent living communities frequently offer.
Independent Living Costs
Similar to other types of senior housing in Northern Virginia, independent living community costs can vary widely depending on location, the community’s services and amenities, and how luxurious the accommodations are, whether it’s a villa, townhouse, condo, or apartment. Many independent living communities rent to their residents on a monthly basis, but there are some communities that offer their residents the opportunity to own instead of renting.
Yet, whatever the cost, nearly all seniors pay out of pocket for independent living. Many people either cover their independent living expenses with their retirement assets, or they opt to sell their prior residences to fund their independent living needs. The latter option is extremely prevalent since many seniors transition from private property to senior housing by moving into an independent living community.
Seniors may sell their houses for a variety of reasons. Some older couples who have raised offspring discover that large residences are simply too difficult to maintain and manage after they no longer have kids living in the home. Others choose to spend the summer in one place and then live elsewhere during the winter to avoid undesirable weather. For those chasing nice weather, residency in an independent living community allows you to depart for an extended period without worrying about the security and upkeep of your home. Some seniors even discover that selling their home and moving into an independent living community can save them a significant amount of money.
Ultimately, most seniors find that they don’t need to worry as much about independent living costs because the rent and service expenses at independent living communities are frequently comparable to what they would spend to cover a monthly mortgage or rent a decent apartment. In other words, when many seniors transition to independent living, the financial change is often not harsh or even apparent, particularly when compared to the financial obligations involved in assisted living and memory care.
Need Help Paying for Independent Living?
There are also various possibilities available for seniors who wish to move into an independent living community but don’t have the capital needed to pay those costs out of pocket.
Medicaid will not pay for any independent living expenses. Yet, certain government subsidies can assist eligible individuals with independent living costs. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Section 202 program was enacted to afford "capital advances to private, nonprofit sponsors to finance the development of housing for elderly residents." In addition, this housing program creates rental assistance avenues that help seniors pay their rent in any type of senior housing, including independent living and assisted living communities. Additional information on the Section 202 program can be found here.
Life insurance or long-term care insurance can also help pay the expenses related to independent living and other types of senior housing, and veteran's benefits can provide financial assistance to eligible veterans who have served in the United States military. If paying the costs of independent living out of pocket is just not a viable option for you, it’s a good idea to explore financial aid opportunities like these. While it’s highly unlikely that any of them will fully cover all independent living costs, they may provide some financial relief by bringing the costs down to a more manageable level.
Final Thoughts on Independent Living
Independent living is undoubtedly not cheap, especially in more high-end communities that offer numerous amenities and services, but one of the main benefits of independent living is that it is typically less expensive than other senior housing and care options. You could discover that paying the monthly cost of independent living out of pocket is more affordable than you initially thought. In cases where independent living expenses are still too high for you to manage on your own, there are various financial assistance options that might help subsidize those costs.
Yet, regardless of whether money is a concern or not, it can be worthwhile to contact our local senior living advisors to explore options and compare pricing for independent living in your area. Most senior housing communities are run as private businesses, and their monthly costs can widely vary. While some people may choose an inferior or lower-rated independent living community to save some money, our local advisors can often help you find high-quality options that still fit within your budget.
For more information or no-cost assistance with independent living, assisted living, memory care, in-home care, or other senior living options in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, or Alexandria, please call our local elder care experts today at (703) 878-7870 or contact us via e-mail.