When considering your living and lifestyle options in retirement, you should include senior living communities. At first glance, senior living may appear to be expensive because it is more than just an apartment — it’s a community that offers a lifestyle.

An apartment or house is a real estate transaction. Everything that is part of your lifestyle — dining, activities, seeing friends and fitness/wellness — is something you have to cultivate with you own effort and money. By contrast, a senior living community is designed specifically to provide a robust, active and exciting lifestyle — consider it a home with your own personal concierge.

You should also consider all the costs associated with your home when deciding on your future lifestyle.

  • Mortgage payments — unless your mortgage is paid off, this is a cost of living for home owners.
  • Annual maintenance — Ongoing expenses can be 1-3% of the home’s value. That equates to $2,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 home.
  • Property taxes- an annual expense for every home owner.
  • Home owner’s insurance.
  • Utilities — gas, water, sewer, electric and trash.
  • Yard care, landscape maintenance and snow removal.
  • Security system.
  • Housekeeping.
  • Transportation to activities and event including church, the salon and fitness centers.
  • Exercise, health and wellness such as a health club.
  • Activities and clubs.

All of these costs are part of the lifestyle that a senior living community can provide right onsite. Further, there is the consideration of major home repairs. As a home ages, many items need regular replacement such as appliances, water heaters, furnaces and the roof. The cost of these items regularly run in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Aging in place in a home can mean retro-fitting your home for safety and security. Costs for this includes widening doorways, adding ramps, reinforcing walls for grab bars and replacing tubs with zero-threshold showers. Again, this type of remodeling can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. By contrast, senior living communities are made and built with aging in place in mind.

There are also the soft costs of staying at home. Though these may not have a definitive price tag associated with them, the cost can be very high in health and well-being which contributes both to happiness and longevity.

The first of these soft costs is loneliness and isolation. A 2018 AARP survey of 6,343 Americans ages 45 and older found that 35% were lonely. Isolation can lead to poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress and fewer intellectual challenges. According to Stephen C Schimpff, MD, “loneliness damages many aspects of body functions, shortening the life span and predisposing individuals to the development of chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, depression, and a decline of cognitive skills.” Douglas Nemececk, MD, Cigna’s chief medical officer, stated in their released loneliness survey that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity. A senior living community is designed with socialization, activities and friendship as a major goal for all of their residents while still affording the level of privacy that each person desires.

The second soft cost is the risk of falling for seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four Americans age 65 and older fall each year, and one in five falls cause serious injury. Falls can also force you out of your home and into higher levels of care. Only 22% of seniors in a University of Mississippi study could handle living on their own after being released from the hospital following a fall. The best way to avoid the trauma and potential injury from a fall is prevention. This is another advantage of senior living communities which are, again, designed specifically and only with seniors in mind. In other words, the entire community is designed to allow the maximum fulfillment and enjoyment with the utmost attention to environmental quality and safety.

Only you can decide if you can afford to stay at home or enjoy the immense benefits of senior living. 

Kay Grobel is the director of sales and marketing for Benedictine Living Community of Shakopee, a senior living community opening in the summer of 2020. 

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