Aging in Place vs. Assisted Living: Which Is More Affordable?

As you age, one of the major decisions to make is where to live. With inflation and rising costs, you may wonder how long you can afford your current standards. Could you remain in your home and age in place? Would staying in an assisted living facility be more beneficial? More importantly, how much would it cost? Let’s compare the financial considerations of aging in place vs assisted living.

Aging in place vs. assisted living

Aging in place means remaining in your own home as you get older. For many, a home is a place of comfort, memories, and identity. It may also be part of a community where you have invested in retirement planning and established close friendships. To age in place safely, older adults need to make home modifications to improve accessibility and adaptability. Some older adults may also require help with everyday activities, such as personal hygiene, eating, and walking.

Conversely, assisted living provides long-term care for older adults who are mostly independent but need some support. Residents reside in personal rooms or apartments. Services typically include meals, housekeeping, laundry, personal care, medication management, transportation, and staff supervision. There are also opportunities for socialization, such as exercise classes or field trips.

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Assisted living facilities can stand alone or be part of continuing care retirement communities, where older adults can access different levels of care on a single campus.

Weighing your options

Consider these factors while weighing your options: level of care, personal preferences, and financial resources.

  1. Level of care. Think about how much help you need to complete your daily tasks. Can you do them independently, or do you often need help? Do you live close to trusted family and friends, or would you benefit from the services provided in assisted living?
  2. Personal preferences. Physical limitations and chronic conditions may necessitate changes in the home. If you prefer aging in place, what accessibility modifications do you need to foster independent living? If you are considering assisted living, determine if the facility caters to your needs and interests.
  3. Financial resources. Evaluate your income and assets. How much does it cost to age at home compared to senior living facilities? Are there any programs that can help you pay for services?

Costs of aging in place

For some, aging in place may seem like a cost-effective option. Before making any long-term decisions, consider the following:

Housing costs

Living at home may mean paying mortgage, property taxes, and homeowner’s insurance. Aging-in-place modifications may include ramps, grab bars, or accessible showers to maintain safety and independence. Depending on the type of remodeling, this can cost $350 up to $50,000, with most homeowners spending between $3,000 and $15,000.

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Daily living expenses

Daily living expenses include groceries, home maintenance, monthly utilities, and transportation. The 2023 Elder Index suggests that older Americans living alone and in good health require a monthly budget of at least $2,032 to $3,133, depending on whether they pay the mortgage. This covers housing, food, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous costs.

Optional in-home care costs

Older adults who need help with household tasks or personal care may incur additional in-home care costs. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2023, homemaker and home health aide services have a monthly median of $5,720 to $6,292 nationally. Those who require skilled nursing care may need to budget additional costs, although care may be intermittent, and Medicare may cover expenses.

Costs of assisted living

In assisted living, you may have to pay monthly dues and a one-time community fee. Personal care items and additional services may also add to extra charges.

Monthly fees

Base fee. Assisted living facilities typically charge a base fee. This includes meals, housekeeping, essential utilities, maintenance services, and socialization. The cost varies by location, type of service, residential size, and whether you will live alone or with a companion. The Genworth survey estimates that the national median monthly rate for assisted living is $5,350. You can also expect the base fee to increase yearly, like rent.

Care services fee. The care services fee is added to the base fee. Many facilities use a tiered approach based on how much help you need, such as medication management, level of physical activity, safety risk factors, and toileting. The National Council of Aging estimates that this can range from $300 for the basic tier to $1,700 for the highest tier. Nurses regularly assess residents' needs, so care service fees may change. Other facilities offer all-inclusive prices or à la carte options.

Additional costs

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Community fee. Future residents are usually charged a one-time community fee before they move in. This is like a reservation fee and may cost $1,000 to $5,000.

Personal care and extra costs. Typically, residents would have to pay for their care items, health and beauty aids, incontinence supplies, medications, and transportation. Guest meals and special recreational events may also incur extra charges.

Comparing costs: a breakdown

The table below compares the costs associated with aging in place vs. residing in an assisted living.


Aging in placeAssisted living
Estimated monthly fees for single occupant$2,032 to $3,133 based on mortgage payment$5,350 for base fee (national median cost)
Estimated monthly fees for additional help$5,720 to $6,292 for homemaker and home aide services$300 to $1,700 for care services fee
Other fees$350 to $50,000 for housing modifications

Additional costs for entertainment and socialization
$1,000 to $5,000 for one-time community fee

Additional costs for personal care, medications, supplies, and events

Estimated costs obtained from the Elder Index (2023), Genworth Cost of Care (2023), National Council on Aging (2024), and Fixr (2022).

Consider your individual needs and finances. It may be prudent to consult professionals to assist you with financial and legal planning for long-term care. Geriatric care managers can also help identify current and future long-term care needs, including types of services and living arrangements.

If you decide to age in place, schedule a home safety assessment. This is usually done by licensed health professionals, such as social workers, physical or occupational therapists, home health care nurses, and geriatric care managers.

Financial resources and considerations

Paying for senior care can be costly. Long-term care insurance, veteran’s benefits, Medicaid waiver programs, and reverse mortgages can help finance senior living arrangements. Financial planners and attorneys with experience in long-term care planning can help identify resources that may be available to you.

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  • Long-term care insurance. This is an insurance policy to help cover the costs of long-term care services, including assisted living. Typically, long-term care insurance covers skilled nursing care, personal care tasks, and therapies. It is recommended to apply while you are young and healthy, as insurers may deny applications for those considered high-risk with pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Veteran's benefits. Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care covers some long-term care services, including assisted living and home health care. These services can be provided by the VA system or at authorized non-VA facilities. You will need to get approved for the service, and it has to be available near you. A copay may be necessary. An additional VA benefit is Aid and Attendance, which can provide a monthly allowance for a veteran who requires another person's regular aid and attendance and meets specific financial requirements. The veteran's surviving spouse may also receive a smaller monthly benefit. Aid and Attendance benefits can be used for home care or assisted living expenses.
  • Medicaid. Medicaid waiver programs can help with certain support services in assisted living. This may include medication management, toileting, dressing, housekeeping, and transportation. Even though Medicaid does not cover room and board, it can still reduce the total cost. However, Medicaid recipients will need to pay most of their monthly income directly to the assisted living facility before Medicaid reimbursement. This is called the patient share of cost. Not all assisted living facilities accept Medicaid. For those that do, there are limited slots. The Eldercare Locator is a tool that can help you find Medicaid-approved facilities.
  • Reverse mortgages. Older adults looking for affordable ways to age in place may consider a reverse mortgage. This lets you convert the equity in your home into payments that you can use for living costs like home care, maintenance, transportation, and medical expenses. The most common type of reverse mortgage is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). To qualify for a HECM, you must meet specific criteria. This includes:
    • Being a homeowner who is 62 or older
    • Living in your home for most of the year
    • Not having federal debt, including income taxes and student loans
    • A mortgage that has been paid off or a low mortgage balance
    • Affording property charges such as taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs of your home
    • Maintaining your house in good shape, according to property standards set by the the lender

The expenses should be considered whether you decide to age in place or move to assisted living. Plan and discuss options with trusted family members. Consult health professionals, financial experts, and attorneys who can help guide you. With knowledge, support, and careful preparation, you can find the living arrangement that best meets your needs.

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