Are Retirement Communities Worth the Cost?

senior asian people getting together and having a good time.
imtmphoto / iStock.com

As we age, we start to need more and more help with tasks we have always done on our own. At the same time, we may find ourselves a bit isolated as children move out of the house and we lose contact with old friends. Retirement communities are one way to get the help you need while having plenty of opportunities to socialize with your neighbors.

Retirement at Any Age: Get Retirement Tips That Fit Every Stage of Life
See: 5 Things You Must Do When Your Savings Reach $50,000

Typically, these are 55 and up communities that will have you living in a communal setting, such as in an apartment or a condo. These communities allow you to downsize your lifestyle, and in some cases, the costs may be lower.

But the choice to move into a retirement community isn’t necessarily a no-brainer. Like most life decisions, there are pros and cons, and there are costs to consider, too. Make sure to keep all of these things in mind before deciding what to do.

Retire Comfortably

Affordability

While cost is not the only consideration when moving into a retirement community, it is often one of the first things that come to mind. Staying in a retirement community can be affordable, but it can also be expensive. The cost can vary widely based on factors such as the type of community and its location.

The costs at retirement communities can be lower than other living arrangements, but it depends on the type of community. For example, luxury retirement communities are typically more costly than your typical community. If you need to live at an assisted living facility, that will likely cost more than an independent living community.

Where you live can also make a big difference. Retirement communities are much cheaper, on average, in states like South Dakota and Minnesota than they are in states like Maryland and Massachusetts. That is according to data from SeniorHomes.com. The national average monthly cost is $2,432 based on that data.

Live Richer Podcast: Unexpected Ways Losing a Spouse Can Affect Your Finances and Retirement

There is still more to think about in terms of cost. Retirement communities can have HOA fees, and some have one-time move-in fees. Be sure you’re aware of all of the fees ahead of time.

Retire Comfortably

Lastly, if you are enrolled in Medicaid, it might be able to cover some of the cost. However, not all types of facilities are covered in all states, and restrictions apply. Check with your state to find out what is covered.

Amenities

Retirement communities can have a variety of amenities, depending on the type of community. There are 55+ retirement communities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, senior co-housing communities, and more.

However, some of the amenities you may find at your retirement community include:

  • Art classes
  • Fitness classes
  • Courts for basketball, volleyball, etc.
  • Swimming pools
  • Fitness centers
  • Golf courses
  • Dog parks

These are a few examples, but there are countless amenities that may be included. Of course, retirement communities with a higher monthly cost will tend to have a wider range of amenities.

Socializing with Neighbors

One of the biggest benefits of living in a retirement community is the opportunity to get to know your neighbors. The transition into the later stages of life can be difficult, especially if you are naturally extroverted. You may have lost most of the social circles you once had, and if you have children, they may have moved away by now, leaving your house empty.

Retire Comfortably

Fortunately, retirement communities often provide ample opportunities to socialize with your neighbors. “From a community standpoint, look to see what events, gatherings and services they have that bring people together,” says Jay Zigmont, founder at Childfree Wealth. “Some communities offer communal meals, entertainment and more,” Zigmont says.

Zigmont also mentioned that these opportunities are great if you’re a people person, but not everyone fits that mold. “If you are more of an introvert and won’t attend then the community may not add a value (and may actually take away from what you want),” he said.

Safety and Security

Safety is a concern no matter your age. The good news is that retirement communities are often set up in a way that makes them safe. For instance, they may be gated and only allow approved guests to enter the premises. Compared to living in a neighborhood, you can generally feel safer with this setup.

Medical Care

Tending to medical needs can be either a pro or a con for retirement communities, depending on what it offers and the extent of your needs. As with other types of services, there are differing levels of care for different types of facilities. For example, assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer daily care for those who need it.

Other types of facilities may not have medical staff on site but might provide transportation to nearby medical facilities. Generally, you will pay more for more extensive care. Thus, although some types of retirement communities may not offer the level of care you need, the costs at those communities may also be lower.

Pros and Cons

We’ve walked through some of the pros and cons of retirement communities. Here is a quick glance at the benefits and drawbacks:

Pros

  • The cost of living can be lower than living alone
  • Some offer ample amenities
  • Allows you to socialize with neighbors
  • Can be very safe
  • Some have medical staff on site

Cons

  • There can be unexpected fees, such as an HOA
  • Lack of diversity in age
  • Homes can be smaller than detached homes

More From GOBankingRates

Share This Article:

Retire Comfortably

About the Author

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who specializes in topics such as investing, banking and credit cards. He left his day job in 2019 to pursue his passion for helping people get out of debt and build wealth. You can find his work at outlets such as Business Insider, Forbes Advisor and SoFi.
Learn More