The number of older adults in the U.S. is expected to more than double in the years between 2014 and 2060, according to the Administration for Community Living. One of the main challenges facing society given this boom? Senior housing.
While many seniors and their caregivers reject the prospect of assisted living due to financial concerns, the latest research indicates that this option is actually growing at a slower rate than other forms of long-term care. Let's take a closer look at the data on the cost of assisted living, along with what it means for the future of senior living.
Understanding Assisted Living Growth Rates
According to the 2016 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, which culled more than 15,000 responses from 440 regions of the country, the national median rate of residential care in assisted living communities increased by less than a percent from 2015 to 2016 with a five-year annual growth of 2.15 percent.
RELATED: 6 WAYS TO REDUCE ASSISTED LIVING PRICES
Private nursing home care, meanwhile, leaped by 1.24 percent over the same year-long period with a five-year annual growth rate of 3.51 percent.
In addition to demonstrating slower growth rates, assisted living is also considerably less expensive than private nursing home care dollar for dollar with an annual price tag of $43,539 compared to $92,378.
And while adult day health care undercuts them both with an annual cost of $17,680, this “aging in place”-related alternative is also growing significantly faster than assisted living with a five-year annual growth rate of 3 percent.
Related: Ebook- How to Choose Assisted Living Like a Pro!
Keeping Assisted Living Costs Low
While slower growth rates represent a positive trend for older adults planning on assisted living, the cost of care can still be crippling for seniors — particularly those on fixed or limited budgets. Luckily, they can take some steps to keep costs low.
For starters, many assisted living communities offer residents their choice of room size. Choosing a studio over a one-bedroom apartment can significantly reduce rent without sacrificing much due to the abundance of public spaces and activity rooms found in most contemporary assisted living communities.
Sharing a two-bedroom apartment with another older adult in the community is also a way to cut costs, with the added benefit of offering both parties increased opportunities for vital socialization.
Also, don't underestimate the role of geography. For example, assisted living options in the heart of the city may not only be steeper than less central or more rural options, but typically come with less space.
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Assisted living expenses also vary from state to state so a move, if possible, may also be financially advantageous for those living in pricier regions. (Compare Alaska's annual assisted living price tag of $69,000 to Missouri's $30,444.) If a move is feasible, be sure to check out Paying for Senior Care's handy Assisted Living Costs and affordability Index to find out more.
Other inputs which factor into the assisted living equation? Occupancy rates, timing, and the level of care provided by the community.
Lastly, keep in mind that even with the slow rates of growth, some individuals already living in assisted living may find themselves unable to continue to cover the full cost. In this case, some communities do offer reductions to help the resident remain in their homes at a discounted monthly cost.
The takeaway for older adults and their caregivers? Don't dismiss assisted living based on assumptions about its exorbitant expense. Not only are there a number of ways to help mitigate the cost of popular kind of long-term care, but the comparatively slow rate of growth in the senior housing market may make it a surprisingly affordable option.