Advice Assisted Living

What’s Included in the Cost of Senior Living Communities?

Seniors in exercise class

It’s easy to look at the cost of senior living communities and get caught up in sticker shock. You may even rule out certain options right away, thinking, “Mom could never afford that!” But you have to think of a senior living community in two parts:

  1. It’s a place to live, and
  1. It provides care or non-care related services and amenities.

With both of those factors, you can’t compare the cost of senior living to just renting a condominium, or even to just paying for a visiting nurse. It’s a combination of numerous factors all under one roof, rather than scattered across different providers.

Consider all the people involved in the ongoing operations of a care community, from frontline workers to those behind the scenes:

  • Care staff administering medications and attending to basic daily needs
  • Dining room servers and the kitchen team
  • Housekeeping staff
  • Plant operations crew
  • Employees responsible for quality control, training, and human resource management
  • Sales teams keeping the building occupied

It’s hard work — and it comes with a price tag. Here’s a closer look at what comprises the costs of senior living communities (but be aware, this is not an exhaustive list).

First, meet the types of senior living communities

When it comes to senior living and senior care, you can choose from a wide range of senior care options. These include:

  • living in your home and receiving care services (i.e. medication management; assistance with daily activities; rehab)
  • residing in a senior living community that provides care and services (i.e. meals, transportation and programs)
  • living in a health care center where skilled nursing (i.e. short/long term) is available

Home-Based Care & Services

Adult Day Services, Home Care, Hospice & Palliative Care

These services cover a wide range of programs, from intensive palliative care to adult day services and community programming. You’ll likely pay for day-to-day needs such as:

  • Assistance with activities of daily living
  • Assistance with medications
  • Help with housekeeping
  • Transportation

Senior Residential Communities

Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Independent Living

Residential senior living communities have more regimented cost structures. They’re also more expensive than most of the options mentioned above, because they typically include a full range of living expenses such as basic residency fee and amenities.

These communities vary in the type of programming, from more lightweight independent living to more supportive assisted living, or specialized services like memory care.

Make sure you know how to compare assisted living costs across these communities. Broadly speaking, you should expect to pay for accommodation and medical services.


Accommodation costs typically include:

  • Housing such as a studio or shared room apartment
  • A meal plan and nutritional support for dietary needs
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Grounds, landscaping and maintenance services
  • Access to amenities: fitness center, religious services, recreational and social activities,  etc.

Of course, the level of maintenance or type of amenities will range across different senior living communities, so make sure to assess what’s behind the price tag and determine what features you don’t want to live without.

Care Services

The other half of the coin at these residential communities is care services. Costs may go up as you or your loved one requires more specialized care, but communities typically include robust care offerings. These include:

  • A trained, vetted, and caring staff to meet your lifestyle, care and basic daily needs
  • Transportation to doctor’s appointments and other activities
  • Assistance with daily activities and other care services as needed: medication reminders, help with getting in and out of bed, etc.
  • Nursing care (varies by state)
  • Security & Emergency Response System

Skilled Nursing Care

Rehabilitation or Hospice Facility, Skilled Nursing Facility

In a skilled nursing facility, care is focused more on the medical needs of a resident. While accommodations are still included in the cost of senior living, there’s a more specialized list of medical services available.

These include many of the same factors as residential communities, without some of the supplemental services like transportation. For instance:

  • A private or shared room
  • Nursing care: medication management, access to therapies, etc.
  • A meal plan and nutritional support for dietary needs
  • Housekeeping & laundry services
  • Access to amenities: fitness center, religious services, recreational & social activities, etc.
  • Specialized programming: fall prevention, brain health fitness training, etc.
  • A trained, vetted, caring staff to meet your lifestyle, healthcare, and basic daily needs
  • Security & Emergency Response System

Need help making sense of these options? Check out our post, Senior Living 101: Your Quick Guide to the World of Senior Care Options.

If you’re just starting this journey, consider taking this 5-minute survey to assess your situation and determine whether it’s the right time for senior living for you or your loved one.

Assisted Living, Independent Living, Mind & Memory Care, Respite Care, Skilled Nursing/Rehab