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Joining the union in 1959, Alaska is one of the youngest American states. While this is true in the literal sense, it’s also true in the figurative sense. That’s because Alaska’s population tends to be much younger than those living in other states.
Just over a quarter-million residents of the state are 50 and older, which equates to just 31 percent. That’s the third-lowest percentage in the country, and Alaska’s median age (34.9) is almost four years younger than the overall U.S. median age of 38.5. The state’s position as one of the youngest could be in jeopardy, as the median age rose by a faster-than-average rate between 2010 and 2018.
What can we learn from demographic and economic data about Alaska’s seniors? While they might be a small bunch, they’re also more diverse than in the average state, with nearly 28 percent of those 60 and older being people of color. Senior-led households have a median income of almost $60,000 per year, which is the second-highest in the country, and those 55 and older are more likely than their counterparts across the country to remain part of the working world.
*Includes Black, Native American, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or individuals of one or more other races, and Hispanic/Latinx people of any race.
Senior Living Costs in Alaska
Retiring in Alaska is generally a more costly endeavor compared to settling down in other states, because of its location. Remoteness means that food have to be transported from far away, and utility costs are often higher than elsewhere. Since it’s always so cold in Alaska, most people have to keep their central heating on at all times inside the home. The electricity bill alone racks up quickly as a result. Overall, it costs approximately 34% more to live in Alaska. Utility costs are roughly 50% higher than in other parts of the United States, while food expenses come out to about 37% more according to a report by MarketWatch.
There are more affordable places in Alaska to retire, however. A city like Fairbanks is a good choice because it’s not in a rural area, which means that goods don’t have to be transported as far to get in. The cost of living in Fairbanks is lower than most other Alaskan cities.
Let’s take a quick look at numbers to get a better idea of senior living costs in Alaska. Home health care costs average out to about $5,000 a month, while adult day care fees come out to roughly $3,642 a month. Assisted living costs are pretty high in Alaska with a median of $6,000 a month. To give some perspective, most of the other states in the U.S. have assisted living costs anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000 a month. Nursing home care is extremely costly, with a median monthly cost of $24,333. Most of the other states in the country hardly exceed $10,000 a month in this area.
Keep in mind that if you require a lot of medical attention, you’ll want to make sure to pick a city where you won’t have to commute too far to a hospital in case of an emergency. Most of the remote areas of the state will require you to travel quite far to get to the nearest hospital. However, there are several dispersed across Anchorage that operate 24/7, allowing the elderly to get seen by a medical professional easily when needed. Fairbanks and Juneau also have hospitals within reach. In remote areas of the state, residents have no choice but to travel in a tiny plane for hours to get to a good hospital. Not only can this become costly over time, but also inconvenient and not time-efficient especially in an emergency.
The overall cost of living may not be considered the most affordable in Alaska, but the low taxes and annual stipend from the state ($1-2k per permanent resident — more on this below) do help with the cost perspective. The U.S. News & World Report actually ranked Alaska as one of its top places for retirees from a tax perspective!
Alaska’s Senior Living Options
Whether you’re looking for independent living, assisted living, memory care, or nursing home care, the senior living options in Alaska are ample. Learn more about each and get an idea of your options and which would suit you best below.
For Alaskan seniors living in their own home, care costs are pretty much the same across the state. They range from $22.50-$29.50 an hour, which averages out to $26.50 an hour regardless of the location. Those living in remote areas don’t have to worry about higher fees — however, the cost of independent living care in Alaska is still more per hour than the other states along the Pacific. Seniors requiring medical attention will have to pay more per hour on top of the home care cost.
Seniors in the market for an apartment in Alaska can expect rent to be on the expensive side. Most of the senior communities are located in Anchorage. Here, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is $1,120 a month, while a two bedroom apartment averages to $1,363.
Independent living in Alaska is a good choice for seniors who are healthy and independent, but just want to live with others in the same age range. On-site maintenance and housekeeping services are taken care of, so that elders can focus on their well-being and socializing with their neighbors.
Despite Alaska being the biggest state in the United States, it also has the fewest options when it comes to assisted living. Your best bet is going to be in the largest cities, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. These areas have the most assisted living options, but you can expect to pay more for assisted living in this state than in others. The average monthly cost in Alaska comes out to about 45% higher than in the other states in the country. For reference, in Fairbanks, assisted living can range from $4,311 – $8,050 a month! Of course, prices will vary greatly in Alaska depending on location.
Most assisted living facilities in the state are located in Anchorage. The Yosef Family Assisted Living Home is a highly rated one in the area offering senior housing in a clean and caring setting. It’s ideal for older people who can’t get around easily as shopping centers, healthcare facilities, pharmacies, and churches are all nearby.
At assisted living communities, caregivers provide help with routine chores and day-to-day living, while allowing seniors to enjoy a healthy level of independence.
Alaska is home to 16 memory care facilities. Data published by Medicare indicates that the average cost of memory care facilities in the state is $95,700 annually, with costs ranging from $4,915 to $10,875 a month. Just like the other forms of health care for seniors in Alaska, memory care is on the pricier end as the national average cost for all states comes out to about $5,075 a month.
Memory care in Fairbanks is the most expensive. Prices here range from $7,031 to $13,200 per month. That averages out to $141,075 every year. If you’re looking for more affordable memory care, then Anchorage will be your best bet. This area offers affordable options as well as pricier ones — costs range from $1,320 to $13,613 a month, with a median cost of $108,900.
Jewel Lake Plaza is one of the top memory care facilities in the state. Located in an upscale area, it is central to everything that one would need to live out the golden years, such as shopping centers, churches, and hospitals. These are all just a short drive away from the facility.
Memory care facilities in Alaska offer housing for seniors at various stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia requiring support and care for their safety.
Just like the other senior living options, nursing home costs in Alaska are quite high. A study found that for a semi-private room in a nursing home, the average cost came out to as much as $232,505 a year. Depending on location, some nursing homes may cost more than others. The ones located out of the metropolitan areas are more costly, averaging out to a hefty $285,000 per year!
Adult day care nursing homes will keep residents busy with activities like music therapy, art therapy, and more. Seniors can expect supervision, health screening, nutrition, exercise, and lots of love at nursing homes. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, PTSD, or brain tumor can take advantage of the help offered at these nursing homes in the state. Adult day care costs vary in Alaska but as mentioned above, the average came out to $3,642 a month.
Hospice care is vital for seniors who are dealing with a terminal illness. There are 6 hospice facilities in Alaska, with 3 located in Anchorage. The average cost of hospice facilities in Alaska is $55,080 a year, with costs ranging from $3,330 to $6,000 a month. Under hospice care, seniors can expect staff to provide required medications and manage pain and symptoms, as well as counseling for the family on how to best care for the elderly. Hospice nursing homes help seniors live as comfortably as possible in their final years of life.
It’s only natural for caregivers to feel exhausted from taking care of their dependent elderly at some point, and that’s when respite care comes in to help. Alaska is home to 10 respite care facilities that provide short-term care stays for seniors. Typical prices for respite care in this state range from $22,403 to $29,145 a month. Respite care facilities offer your everyday nursing home services and amenities, including but not limited to three nutritious meals everyday, housekeeping and laundry service, personal transportation, activities, personal assistance (bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting), medical management, and 24-hour supervision and security.
Seniors needing 24/7 care and regular access to healthcare services will benefit from staying at nursing homes in Alaska. Experienced healthcare professionals are readily available to provide medical support, stroke care, pain management, therapy, and more at nursing homes. These facilities also offer a variety of activities to keep the elderly minds stimulated — from social activities to arts & crafts.