Senior Living: Save Money and Find Peace of Mind

Author: Amanda Woodward

| Published on: June,26 | Viewed: 2812 times


What is a senior living community?

A senior living community is an age restricted community (typically aged 55 and up) for older adults who want to live independently, but in a community of older adults.   Sometimes they are referred to as retirement communities.  Other sources may refer to them as independent living, although at Seniorly this is treated as a different category.  

The range of amenities offered in senior living communities, as well as the cost, can vary greatly depending on location and size.  However, in a 2013 article published in the Journal of Housing for the Elderly, Anne Glass and Jane Skinner suggest some criteria common across these types of communities.  These include:

  • An aggregation of housing units within clearly demarcated geographic boundaries

  • Intentionally planned for older people

  • Some level of common services or leisure amenities

  • Residents must meet age restrictions, voluntarily relocate to the community, and some, or all are retired or partially retired  

  • Some type of shared common space to promote interaction

  • May offer some supportive services, such as light housekeeping, but does not offer personal care

  • Every unit must have a kitchen or kitchenette

Using this definition senior living communities can include a range of housing options such as senior apartments; congregate housing; subdivisions; and mobile home, RV, and modular home parks. As illustrated in the figure above, it can also include independent living facilities that may provide additional services such as dining halls and housekeeping.  It does not include, however, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) because they also offer assisted living and nursing facility care.

Why live in a senior community?

Peace of mind

Social isolation can be a common problem among older adults, even those who are still active.  When you live in a retirement community you are embedded in a place where your neighbors are your age peers.  Opportunities for socializing and entertainment are easily accessible onsite or through community transportation and there is generally a range to meet the interests of many.  Some communities are also catering to older adults with specific interests such as travel, arts and culture, or outdoor activities.  

Senior living communities can alleviate much of the stress and hassle of daily life.  They tend to more quiet than mixed-age neighborhoods.  Maintenance such as mowing the lawn or dealing with a leaking water heater is included in the overall cost.  If you like to travel, you can leave and know that someone is taking care of your home.  At the same time, you can be as independent as you want.  You can keep a car and do grocery shopping and other errands on your own or you can go with a group using provided transportation.  Some communities even have a dining hall or restaurant where you can share meals with your neighbors.

The homes as well as the community are intentionally designed for older adults.  You may not need grab bars in the shower or wheelchair accessibility now, but you may in the future.  In senior communities, these accommodations are already done so you don’t have to go through the hassle and cost of making changes to your own home.

Studies as far back as the 1960s have documented positive impacts on quality of life for those living in age-integrated communities.  Study participants have talked about the ease of making new friends and becoming part of a community, improvements in health from the active environment, opportunities for personal development and growth.  Safety, comfort, and having someone else to take care of the house and yard were also important.  Retirement communities have the positive aspects of living in the wider community with the protection and peace of mind that comes from a formal residential community.

Cost savings

The cost of senior living communities varies widely depending on the market and the type of housing.  Assuming, however, that you maintain a similar lifestyle to the one you currently live, moving to a retirement community can save you money.  

In a 2014 nationwide survey, A Place for Mom calculated average costs for senior living properties weighted by occupancy.  While they do not include data for retirement communities, they do include independent living for which prices include rent and miscellaneous charges.  

So, how might a senior living community save you money?  Let’s use the hypothetical example of Susan as an illustration.  Her relevant monthly expenses are depicted in the table below.


Susan’s current costs*

Average independent living**

Monthly home owner costs



Routine maintenance


Included in above

Real estate taxes


Included in above

Car ownership^


Reduced or eliminated





*Based on CA medians from US Census. Selected Monthly Owner Cost includes utilities, fuel, condo and other homeowner association fees, insurance, mortgage.

**Based on A Place for Mom data.  Monthly cost includes rent and miscellaneous charges.

^Includes auto insurance, gas, parking, car payments, and maintenance.

Based on median costs for California from the U.S. Census Bureau it looks like a senior living community might actually be more for Susan than she is currently paying.  As with a senior living community, the Census data includes utilities, fuel, association fees, insurance, and mortgage together in one monthly fee.  But most of don’t pay them that way.  They are all included in the senior living monthly payment, however, so Susan will not have to deal with multiple bills.

In addition, routine maintenance and real estate taxes will be included in the senior living community monthly total. And, because the community purchases services in bulk and divides the costs among the residents, costs will generally be cheaper than Susan pays on her own.  Her monthly fee may also include access to other community amenities such as a pool or gym and events that she is currently paying for beyond her monthly homeowner costs included above.

Susan might decide to keep her car, but she will probably use it less.  That means less money for gas, maintenance, and insurance.  Or she may decide to get rid of it altogether depending on the transportation options available. Many senior living communities have transportation available.  Others are developed so that a shopping district is part of the community itself and easily accessible by walking.  Not only might Susan save these costs, but she would be free from the hassle of maintaining a car as well.


There are lifestyle and financial benefits to senior living communities that are worth taking the time to explore for yourself. See our comprehensive search that lets you filter communities by price, the mission-critical piece you need by visiting

About Amanda Woodward

Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. She does research on services and supports for older adults including racial and ethnic disparities in access to services and international comparisons of service systems. She writes about a wide range of topics related to aging research, social work, academia, and whatever else catches her fancy at

Other Articles written by Amanda Woodward

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