Seeking Senior Independent Living Arrangements

When you decide you want to be responsible for less as you age and move to something more convenient, your choices are independent living and assisted living.

With independent living you still cook for yourself and take care of your own needs, but in a setting around other seniors.

These places sometimes have a hair salon and other niceties right there on the grounds. Often there is transportation included to drive to grocery stores, etc.

If you make less money than most, there are places being built that are income restrictive. And I’m glad they have those places so seniors with less retirement funds have a nice place to live out their golden years.

Then there are all-inclusive places where you have your own apartment and the luxury of three meals a day, etc. But most are around $4000.

In doing a little research, I found average prices for senior independent living.

What Is The Average Cost Of Senior Independent Living?

It varies depending on where you live, but the cost of senior independent living can range from $1,500 to $6,000 per month.

I saw a place last week that I was pretty excited about and I shared it with you. But then I found out the common practices with those type of places and decided it was too much of a risk. More on that down further.

Wanting Less Worry In Your Golden Years:

If you have a very good income, you will probably be okay.

If you can afford the $3000 to $4000 a month, you will be able to live in a place where their services are built around your senior needs. And there will be planned social activities where you can make friends

But for those of us who make too much for income restricted independent living, then your other option is to go on long waiting lists for the few senior apartment communities that are somewhat reasonably priced. At least it’s that way here in Tulsa.

I put numbers into one online calculator for a new income restricted apartment community and it told me when the number put me out of range.

The number that said I no longer qualified was an income of $30,000 per year in Oklahoma. It will be different wherever you live based on various factors. I just kept putting in numbers to see what qualified and what didn’t.

More People/Fewer Possibilities:

There are lots of baby boomers seeking living accommodations. People are living longer. And the housing accommodations simply has not kept up with the need.

Monday I went by one of the three places in Tulsa that are for those wanting total independent living. Which means making your own food and paying your own bills, etc. In essence, taking care of yourself.

I am now on 3 waiting lists and none of them ticks off all the boxes I’m seeking.

Like having your own washer/dryer or a small patio or balcony to sit outside and feel the breeze on your face. Every one I went to is at least two stories, whereas I’m accustomed to having no one above or below me.

None of them had elevators, so I’m stuck with finding a bottom floor apartment, which limits me even more.

So one might have washer/dryer hookups but no outside space. Or vice versa.

Fewer Market Priced Apartments:

The place I went to Monday had only a handful of apartments for seniors who make market price income, meaning you pay the full amount. The vast majority of apartments were for lower income residents.

I’ve checked into probably 8 places where I simply make too much money to qualify. That number seems to be around $30,000.

Therein lies the problem you may face as well.

If I stopped blogging, I could get into one of those income restricted independent living apartments.

One I called said my monthly social security, which is close to $2300 a month, means I’d pay the upper end of costs. Yet that upper end is close to $1000 a month just for an apartment.

Like Gambling With Your Income:

Who wants to take a gamble where much of your monthly income is spent on housing? What if something happens and you need that money?

For instance, I’m driving a 15 year old car. It stands to reason that I will be needing another one as I am currently 64 years of age. I don’t have the cash to buy one, so I’d be making payments. Which would lower what I have left even further per month.

Once I qualify for Medicare, which is close to a year from now, I have no idea how much I’ll be paying. And I’ll almost certainly be needing a supplemental type of medical insurance.

All Inclusive Communities:

If you decide to go with an all inclusive community, where they pay the vast majority of the bills and provide 3 meals a day, you’re taking another gamble.

Those places often give you one price, which seems like a good deal, and then jack up your rate $400-$500 a month a little later.

And continue to keep jacking it up.

My friend Laura had that happen with her mother, who is now deceased. She was paying monthly for an all inclusive senior community, after giving them a sizeable entry fee.

Then before she knew it they raised her rent, making it close to $3000 per month.

So she probably thought that she’d found the place to live out her golden years. But then they yanked the rug out from under her by increasing her rent and she was forced to move.

From the research I did over the weekend, this is a pretty common practice.

Steadily Increasing Prices:

And these places, if they’re private, have every right to do that. To increase the price when it’s time to sign a new lease, etc. You won’t have any idea how much. Or when.

Thus you’re left worrying. Which is the whole reason you wanted to live in one of these communities to start with.

So that you’d have less worries and not have to depend on your adult children.

Buying Versus Renting:

If you have the money you can opt into one of those communities where you buy a home in a senior living community.

That will put you in the range of close to half a million bucks for this luxury in Tulsa. I don’t know about you, but I am far, far away from being able to pull that off.

Do you have an extra half a million laying around?

Why I Can’t Move Right Now:

Currently I really can’t move for several reasons. I am on a month to month lease here now, so there’s that worry taken care of.

But I’m getting ready to begin what could be a series of surgeries to hopefully make my fingers more functional again. Which starts next week.

And then there’s Charlie, my sweet boy. I pay a minimum of $500 for his prescriptions, food and care per month. And I’ll do whatever I can for him. A few times it’s been closer to $1000 if he’s sick and has to go to his regular vet as well as the vet who provides acupuncture.

That’s a high enough amount that it restricts me financially for other areas of my life.

How Much Money You Have To Spend:

All in all, it comes down to what you can afford to spend on a regular basis, unless you buy in with cash for a house, etc.

What you need to do now if you think senior living is soon in your future is get yourself on the waiting lists.

Because unless you find a place that is brand new you will likely be looking at a wait. You’ll have to bide your time until someone moves out, goes to assisted living, or dies. Harsh as that sounds, it’s true.

I’ll be writing more posts about this senior journey of mine. And I’ll let you know what the pros and cons and the costs are as I learn about them.

You can learn along with me and hopefully it will help you make your own decision.

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52 Comments

  1. I’ve been navigating this process with my father because he’ll be moving to the city in which I live, and we’ve found the same issues as you. His income is comparable to yours and puts him out of range for subsidized senior housing, but non-subsidized is pricey and doesn’t leave much wiggle room for unexpected expenses. He’s opted, at this time, for a downstairs unit in an all-ages apt complex because the rent is affordable, his apt will be across the driveway from the laundry facilities, the complex premises are nicely maintained, the complex is located centrally to grocery stores, pharmacies, medical care, banks, and other shopping, and he’ll only be 10 minutes from my husband and me. The con is that it may be noisier as compared to a seniors-only complex. He knows he may need to move to assisted living at some point in the future so he wants to be more frugal right now to allow him to prepare for that and he wants to be independent and live on his own until he can’t.

    This process has spurred many conversations with my husband about our options for the future. We’re mid-to-late 50s and it’s not too soon to be thinking ahead, especially since we’ll also be in that middle-class-income gap.

  2. Brenda, I am glad you are looking into this. I have lived in a senior community for 15 years and am now 84. Extremely satisfied. I have also worked in the area of senior housing. There are a great many options, so there will almost certainly be one that fits your circumstances. Rather than attempt all the research yourself, start with your local Area Office on Aging. Every area of the country has one. They can educate you and help you search in the right direction as well as offering guidance on quality. Be prepared to compromise some, but I bet you’ll meet most of your needs and wants. Good luck!

  3. I wish what you state here was incorrect…but I think you have hit the nail on the head!! We live in a state that seems to be quickly filling up with people, making such searches so futile…I am wondering what we will do. Our income drops a lot next year when an annuity from my Hubby’s dad is gone. I truly do not know what we will do. We are paying $50 more a month in order to be “month to month”…and even then if we find something, we will have to give 2 months notice in this joint…and for some reason I cannot understand, there are almost no apts available for seniors that have walk-in showers…why on earth is that? There must be some “under the table” deal between them and the more expensive assisted living places, etc. Thanks for sharing what you learn, Brenda!!

  4. Medicare costs are available on line. They increase a little each year it seems. That history will be available too. Social security has tax in part of it. At least mine does. The companies with supplemental plans are easy to contact. Do not worry they will keep in touch. Thank you for this info. It is what is in the future for many of us.

  5. Brenda, should you find a unit you like, but it doesn’t have washer/dryer hookups, check out the compact portable washing machines. The highly-rated Panda 1.60 cu ft washing machine has a footprint of only 20″x21″ inches. It might fit in a closet, or the bathroom.

  6. This is all very helpful information to those who are consider senior living arrangements. I sometimes worry about what’s going to happen with my mom. She’s almost 81 and is very independent and healthy and lives in a townhouse, which she owns. But what’s going to happen as she gets older and will probably need help? She’s said she hates those senior living condos, that she has to have some open space. (Her townhome has a nice, fenced back yard with a deck.) She might have to come live with us, which I know she’d also hate. The only other thing we can think of is for both of us to sell our homes and pool our money and buy a place somewhere where there’s a mother-in-law arrangement. But we’d have to move out-of-state as there’s no way we could afford something here in Illinois, especially with our insanely high property taxes. So much to think about!

  7. Hi Brenda, There’s two other possibilities to consider. 1) A tiny home parked in a tiny home community, and 2) RV living. Keep an open mind before you dismiss full-timing in an RV. A shocking number of ladies in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have chosen this lifestyle for many reasons. I suggest you watch this charming video by the organizer of girlcamper.com. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/iSqo5rurMHM
    I just turned 70, and I’m only still in my condo because I’m caring for my elderly mother. Many of these ladies caravan together, and they stay on BLM land and national parks for minimal fees. I’d be happy to answer any questions.

  8. Brenda, I know you said you don’t want to be dependent on your adult children but would one of them be able to build you a little mother/mother in law apt onto their home or property and you could pay them rent to pay it off? Of course, there would be basic boundaries set on both sides so you all feel comfortable with it. As much as I love my kids and grandchildren, I do like that I can come home and close the door & my husband and I have our privacy with our puppies. As our energy levels wane a bit, we need our rest. Just an idea. I have several friends who have done this and it has worked out, esp with boundaries set … on BOTH sides.

  9. All great information and I’m thankful for you sharing what you’ve found out. My mother just moved to an assisted living in November and they are already raising the rate by $200 starting in July. I guess these are common practices. She could possibly qualify for assistance through the VA because of my father’s military service but we;re waiting to hear about that. The lawyer to get that all set up is about $7,000 but IF she does qualify it’ll be worth it in the end. I’m of a similar age as you… aren’t these supposed to be our “Golden Years”?

  10. After reading comments today, yours, and those from all your guests, the more I would choose to stay where you are, for as long as you can. But, as I wrote before, I am much older at 82, altho, I am still able to do the things I want, walk, go shopping, drive, cooking, baking, laundry, go out with husband and friends, time for hobbies, making cards, painting, drawing, and of course reading.There is a grocery store within walking distance, less than 2 blocks, so if I didn’t drive, I could walk. I am lucky, so far, that I have no health problems. Living here, in a mobile home, sold a new home we built 10 years before, so not in debt, and lower taxes. Lot rent is inexpensive, compared to an apartment, we are comfortable here. DH tried lawn care, for a year, and winter plowing hired out,but he was not happy how the lawn looked (not nice enough)so he bought a new lawnmower ( after he had sold his) and also purchased a smaller snow blower than the huge one he had before. We talk about how long we will be able to live here , the reason we moved here (8 years now) was we talked about when one of us is gone, the other can (hopefully) still take care of things alone. This is a tough decision for you Brenda. I know, I love and still plant flower gardens, my deck and patio where we can sit and talk and have a drink. Neighbors will drive by and wave, but things are private, which is good. I will be following your journey, and your hand surgery. Wishing you only the best! Hugs to you, Ivy, and Charlie.

  11. I’m quite a bit older than you and have already been on the senior housing search. The top-notch facilities have a medical component and continuum of care, but Gosh! are they expensive. It would take us selling our home and liquidating all our assets to afford it. Even the non-profits run by religious groups are prohibitively expensive. We decided to “age in place” and converted the bathroom to accommodate our infirmities, hired helpers, and put on a new roof. That’s about all we can do to provide for ourselves without spending our last cent. Good luck to you.

  12. I’ve been thinking about this stage of my life since I first moved mother to be able to care for her in 2000. She lived in a 1 bedroom senior apartment 5 miles from me. Thankfully she was able to stay there until the end.

    I’m only 55, still have my husband & we own our home. My husband wants to stay in our home to the end. I’m hoping we can pay for yard service & in-home care but who knows what that will cost. If I outlive my husband I think I’d like to live in a duplex in the same town as my son…5 miles away, the same town my mother lived in. I’d love to stay in my house but I want to make it easy on my son. I’ve told him that we could get a duplex, his mother-in-law on one side & me on the other. He loved that idea!

    I’m not far from you near Siloam Springs, AR. I assume you’ve looked at Tulsa suburbs? Broken Arrow, Jenks, Bixby, ect?

    1. Oh yes. I’ve looked at every town within about 25 miles. Owasso and Bixby are the little towns that have the senior places about to open, but they’re income restricted.

  13. Brenda,
    Can you daughter find you a cozy little house that she can renovate for you? It can be a fixer upper that she works on a little at a time for you. She probably knows the most about all the nice, safe areas to live and affordable pricing options. Just a thought. I feel like she’s a great source of information for you. I wish you well on your journey. We’re all rooting for you!

    1. She is a good source of information. But all her money is tied up right now and she’s maxed her credit card I think trying to keep 2 flip houses going. She also has 2 rentals and is trying to refinance the one I lived in. She’s balancing a whole lot of things and I don’t want to worry her even more.

  14. My mom had a really sweet and pretty apartment in a senior apartment place. It was only for seniors and they based rent on your income. My mom only paid $700 a month for her 800 sq. foot apartment and she had her own balcony. It was super nice and very quiet. They had all kinds of activities too. I would take my mom shopping and to doctors etc. but they did offer a bus for them. Her place was in a small community of only 40 apartments and little ranch apartments. These were totally independent living. She made her own meals. You could get meals on wheels which a lot of them did. Sometimes you just have to hunt for what will fit your lifestyle.

  15. This is all too familiar, Brenda. Before my mom got sick, she sold her home and bought a home in a 50+ community. When she could no longer live on her own, we moved her to several different places. Her needs kept changing, but so did the prices, as you said. It’s a tough place to be for sure, and honestly, most states don’t really have great solutions for people like you, whose income puts them in that middle area where you make too much to qualify for an affordable option, but too little to buy on your own. I’m eager to see where you land.

    1. Me too. At this point I’m tired of looking. Maybe I’ll take a break from it. It’s not like I need to do this right away. There’s Charlie to consider.

  16. Have mercy! I’m learning a lot from your journey! And changing my mind about my house too! I have too much house for me but it is paid for and in the middle of our little town so transportation won’t be a problem. It requires more maintenance than I expected but after reading all the posts I’m thinking I’m ok with that! It is so easy to get food delivered now, my friends are close, I can have all my pets easily so I’m seeing all this as a blessing now instead of a burden. I wish you good luck finding a suitable place that makes you happy. Maybe you already have it!

  17. I think one of the best bets in senior housing is called Low Income Housing Tax Credit. It is Chapter 42 of the Internal Revenue Service code and, as they are not in the housing business, it is administered by HUD. It is not public housing. It has a lot of rules and regulations for the owners and is monitored. HUD does inspections and tells owners how much they can increase rent. That and the income restriction levels are revised annually and are based on area finanacial information, on a county basis, i believe. The owners are people or LLCs who get financial benefits if they build and maintain good quality apartments offered at below market rate. They have to fulfill the rules and regulations and do not get to do whatever they want. If you have problems, you can go to HUD or your county or state housing authority for help.
    Where I live, the upper income restriction is around 37K for a single person. I have a 2 bedroom corner, 807 sq ft, with rent of 1025. I have lived here 14 years. My apartment is currently renting for 1211. My income is about 17,500.
    The downside is there are not nearly enough of this kind of housing being built. I’ve heard of some that are filled before construction is finished. If you should run across one, check it out. Often there will be a story in your local paper. Also, make use of sources like your local and state housing authorities or your local Agency on Aging. All financed by your tax dollars. If they can’t help you they may be able to direct you to help. In this area Catholic Charities is very helpful in many ways. They don’t care who you are or what you believe in but they can direct to all kinds of activities for seniors and refer you to programs and even give you assistance in applying for some programs.
    Also, check out Benefits.gov. They have a questionnaire that directs you to programs of all kinds for which you may qualify.
    I am not an expert on these things but I believe my information is accurate.

  18. I just did a cursory look of available ground level condos w privacy patios in Tulsa on redfin and you have a really great selection. Maybe consider? That way you could still have your laundry, patio, and pets. Only thing that would be fluctuating price would be HOA but that is usually only a few dollars a year. You could sign up for one of those monthly meal services if cooking is too much. I ended up getting a condo a few years back because I was actually paying more to rent even with the added HOA and insurance cost. I love it.

  19. At 67, I’ve half-heartedly begun looking into some sort of senior independent living. It’s been discouraging to say the least! So many no pets rules and I would live on the street before I gave up my little Sadie.
    Thanks for this incredibly timely post and I’ll be following along,of course!

  20. I have my name on the wait list of a income based senior living community in RI.I looked into the senior living community when my husband passed away five years ago. Currently I live in WV in a log home on 7 acres which my husband and I lived in before his death! My daughter and I live there and we are very happy! I take care of my great grandson 3 days a week! My problem is that, my son and his family live in RI along with the rest of my family and I want to spend more time with them before I become too old !
    So if my name would come up what do I choose!

  21. Great informative post! I’ve been thinking of buying a condo so I have a small patio, attached garage and my own washer/dryer. Trouble is, our real estate market is crazy and any time a condo is available, it is listed by auction in order to get the maximum sales price, which usually ends up $30,000 over my budget. My house would likely sell fast as it’s in town with 3/4 acre of land, but if I sell it, I’ll have nowhere to move to. It’s frustrating.

  22. Everywhere in the country there are people trying to get into low income senior housing units and there are nothing but waiting lists. I would not recommend moving out to one that is not on a bus line or train line near by because at some point a senior may have to give up driving, or simply cannot afford to keep a car any longer. And where would it be parked? The few senior developments I’ve seen in my city don’t have large parking lots – they probably figure not that many seniors drive! The people who develop these projects never think they may need one themselves, someday, unless it’s a luxury one where you buy-in for half a million or more. That’s why as tired as I get sometimes, I’ll stay in this house as long as I can and pay others to do what I can’t do now and in the future – and then force myself on a niece or nephew to take me in when I’m 90 and REALLY cranky. About the time the last of the babyboomers die is the time all the developers will see the light and design complexes for REAL seniors with REAL incomes – not the alleged “middle class” in this country who, to me, are RICH people! Middle class is not making $200,000 a year. That’s a rich person income! Middle class is not having a million tucked away in an IRA/retirement plan. That is a rich person IRA/retirement plan. Totally unrealistic when it comes to a majority of babyboomers today.

  23. Brenda, I am 74 and receive Social Security and a small retirement. There is no way that I could afford any of the housing options you mentioned. How do seniors in Oklahoma afford to live in such places? Luckily, I am in good health and agile. That’s why I’m able to remain in my mobile home here on the river. I hope this is where I breathe my last breath. As I said, how do senior apartment complex owners expect people on fixed incomes to pay such ridiculous prices?

    1. The people probably paid into an insurance retirement type fund that would pay for much of their senior housing when it came time. I’ve known people who did that.

    2. They do not actually care about seniors except to
      milk away their nest eggs. Their primary interest is achieving a financial bottom line that benefits themselves. That’s the trouble. IMHO of course.

  24. B~
    Excellent post!
    I’ve navigated these fields for the past five years. Like you, i did not want to be a burden to my son, however as of almost a year ago, we now share a home. It is quite difficult to go from being totally independent and realize you do need someone to rely on after all!
    We do have a set of ground rules which we both respect! That is the key to
    peaceful co-existence! Also, altho i love him dearly,and he will always be mommy’s little boy; I had to realize and respect him as a grown man!
    In return, I’m on the receiving end of excellent meals which he prefers to cook (he’s been a chef for years,but now has a business of producing Custom-Made Surfboards!)
    I look forward to your continued posts on Senior Journey!
    Loui

  25. Brenda, this is a lot for you to take on and have to think about with all of your surgeries. I think it is great that you are being pro-active and are on a few lists. One thing I would say is that if you are going into a two story senior living I cannot imagine that there will be a lot of noise, unless the person is hard fo hearing and refuses to wear a hearing aid. Did you mention that there was a facility with 2 stories and no elevator? Or did I misread that.
    I hope that your surgeries go well, and as for Charlie he is your child so do not let anyone tell you how to spend your income. Have a good day Brenda!

  26. Being older than you I have been thinking about condo living. They have neighbors and most have a small yard. I would prefer one of the smaller homes similar to the “patio” homes of a few years ago. I have to have my yard mowed now.
    It is unbelievable all of the things we face with each birthday. My major goal is to not be a burden to my children.