As baby boomers age, the cost of housing and care for seniors is accelerating but not as fast as housing prices in general.
That’s according to a study released this week by the senior housing referral service A Place for Mom (APFM).
The organization reported that the cost of rent and care in senior living facilities increased by 2.7 percent between 2014 and 2015.
That means now may be a good time for seniors interested in moving to put their houses on the market, the company says.
“One of the ways that many families fund senior living is through the sale of their home,” Charlie Severn, a marketing executive with A Place for Mom, told Healthline. “Now it makes financial sense to do that if that was indeed the way a family was hoping to finance that transition.”
Some Can Wait, Others Can’t
The cost of “independent living”—retirement communities that do not provide in-home care—has jumped every year since 2012.
APFM officials attribute this increase as a response to increased demand following the comeback of the real estate market.
Because healthy seniors can wait to put off moving into such communities, demand for this kind of housing dipped during the recession, the company said. In fact, some independent living communities began taking over the sale of resident’s homes to encourage people to make the move.
But not everyone can wait for the housing market to change before making the transition to senior housing.
Demand for assisted living facilities and facilities that provide more comprehensive care has been consistent, making those housing types more resilient to the recession, APFM said.
“For memory care there’s less of a cost acceleration trend evident because the demand for memory care is urgent,” Ben Hanowell, an analyst with APFM, told Healthline. “When your mother or father is wandering from the home you feel compelled to find care for them.”
Region by Region
The study also broke down cost trends geographically.
The three most expensive cities are Washington, Boston, and New York. All are located on the East Coast. However, price acceleration in the West and South is faster than other parts of the country.
Hanowell said that’s likely a reflection of recovery in the parts of the country that were hit hardest in the recession.
APFM’s Senior Living Cost Index, available online as of this week, describes prices at the regional, state, metro, and city level.
Being able to compare prices within a metro region is particularly important for seniors and their families who are trying to find the most affordable housing options in their area, Severn said. This is because prices can fluctuate greatly within a relatively small region.
Making The Right Decision
The index is meant to help families and seniors understand and plan for the costs facing them, he said.
“What we’ve found is that many families are unprepared when the time comes and they start searching,” he said.
He said the decision is equivalent to buying a house or selecting a college.
Being rushed to make a decision can result in the wrong decision, Severn said. That might mean multiple moves while trying to find the right fit.
In an interview with Healthline a year and a half ago, APFM spokesperson and former Good Morning America anchor Joan Lunden described such a situation.
“I so misplaced mom the first time and it’s because I went out looking for a place that would have been perfect for mom 10 or 15 years [prior] because that’s how I still saw her, going down to the dining room, playing cards with her friends, having visitors in her apartment," she told Healthline. "My mom was way beyond that point.”
About 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will require some form of long-term care in their lives, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The percentage of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to double between 2012 and 2050. As that demographic grows the need for such services will remain high.
Genworth, a long-term care insurance company, publishes its own survey on cost of senior care every year. For those needing long-term care, they report, being visited at home presents an appealing alternative to moving into a facility. According to their survey, in-home care is rising at about 1 to 2 percent a year.
Despite the relatively low acceleration rates, long-term care and housing is still not cheap.
APFM calculated the nationwide median price of assisted living at $3,900 a month and that of memory care at $5,100 a month. Genworth assessed the median price of in-home care at about $3,500 a month.
Faced with such prices, some seniors are turning to different types of community living, like retiree co-ops or housing designed specifically for multi-generation families. RV parks that are exclusively for seniors are also cropping up.
“Over the last 20 years the senior living industry has evolved and to me what’s great about it is in today’s world there are so many choices for families looking to make a transition to senior living from the types of care available to the types of community to the types of activities that that family is seeking to enjoy,” Severn said.