What are the options for senior couples when they want to retire, sell the house, and enjoy life? That is a question that many senior couples face. In this article, we go over many of the options available for senior couples looking for a new place to call home.
What Senior Living Options Exist for Couples?
There is a fairly large range of options that go from nursing homes and assisted living facility to senior communities.
Nursing Homes for Couples
For some couples, one or both require advanced nursing care or care from a licensed nurse – LVN, LPN, or RN and may opt to move to a skilled nursing facility as a couple, even if the pair are housed in separate units or rooms or they may share the same room. For many seniors, one partner may have an advanced disease such as dementia and may just fine. In those situations, a mixed services building can be beneficial. The couple may start off with an independent unit and as more care is needed, may move to an assisted living unit. Many of these multi-service facilities have units that include advanced and skilled care and even hospice.
Assisted Living for Couples
Assisted living facilities are great places for seniors who are ambulatory and who are able to mostly take care of themselves. These housing options include comprehensive social activities, meals, and help when it is needed. Service range from personal care to housekeeping. Quality facilities have some kind of transportation service that shuttles seniors to doctors appointments or on group trips to the grocery store. In terms of entertainment, they do group events like a meal out to a restaurant or a trip to the movies. Even day trips to local venues are doable.
Can a Spouse Live in Assisted Living?
The answer is yes! Many assisted living facilities offer living arrangements for spouses. Even if your spouse requires a different level of care than you, there are options to meet both of your needs. Assisted living apartments and other types of units typically offer senior-friendly features like handrails and wheelchair accessibility, so you can both live in the same unit, even if only one of you needs these features. Say your husband needs help with ADLs and medication management, but you don’t. At most assisted living facilities, you’ll only pay for these services for your husband; you won’t be charged twice for services that only one of you needs. If you’re looking for an assisted living facility for you and your spouse, make sure to ask what options there are for couples upfront during your tour.
Couples Retirement Communities
These communities are all about active living. They have many names such as active senior living, luxury senior living, etc. The focus here is on providing an atmosphere that is socially engaging and active. Many have limited services such as house cleaning and light personal care. Most have a meal program and or dining room. These units are for both couples and singles. In a couples retirement community, the couple often owns their condo or apartment or they might rent it.
Couple Specific Senior Living Amenities
One of the first things to realize is that the focus shifts from one type of facility to the next. The greater the independence of the seniors, the more the focus shifts to fun and quality of life. The more the focus becomes about care, then the focus shifts from fun to safety and with a different type of focus on the quality of life.
- Quality of Life– One of the first benefits is an improvement in the quality of life and for couples, that means staying together and continuing the relationship they have shared for so many years. It also means that there is less stress. When a couple is separated due to medical issues, then one part of that pair focuses on treatment while the other must not only manage the day-to-day living and homemaking but also manage to get from home to their spouse, care for them, etc. That is an added burden that is reduced when couples remain together. The benefit for the ailing spouse is the comfort and convenience of having their spouse around while they recover.
- Great Access to Events and Community – The benefit of have many senior couples in the same location is that it becomes easier to develop social events that cater to that population – this is regardless of their level of care. For example in an independent living community, there might be many options for day trips or overnight bus trips, happy hour, games, and exercise clubs, such as morning aerobics. While at an assisted living center, the social activities might include themed lunches, bingo, day trips for grocery shopping or for entertainment.
- Better Access to Care – On the same level as for entertainment, there is better access to things that help improve health, such as meal planning, onsite services such as doctors appointments. Nursing help available when needed. Access to auxiliary services such as a dietitian, physical therapy, etc.
- Improved Socialization – There is more opportunity to meet new couples that have similar interests and to socialize in a safe and known environment.
- Improved Personal Relationship – When couples retire to the same place together, they continue the bond that they have shared.
How Much Does Couples Senior Living Cost?
According to BankRate.com, the national average costs is $3,628 per month in 2016 or around $48,000 per year for a couple to live in a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility. The care you need is added to this amount and can run as much as $1,000 per month or higher. That cost can skyrocket to $120,000 per year or more for an independent living community. The cost for independent facilities is even higher and may require that the couple buy or rent a unit such as a condo. An independent living community may cost as much as $10,000 per month depending on the community and the services that they offer.
The cost of living in a senior community varies by geographic location, the type of the facility, and the level of care or services needed.
How Do you Pay for Couples Senior Living?
For the most part, couples must pay out of pocket for senior living. There are some long-term insurances that will pay for assisted living and some retirement benefits may also cover the cost or a portion thereof for senior living.
- Medicare – Medicare does not pay for senior living or assisted living. Medicare is not a long-term care insurance, though they will pay for a short stay in a nursing facility they do not typically pay for assisted living and never for independent living.
- Cash – What is left is cash from savings and the sale of assets, such as the sale of a home.
- Long-term Care Insurance – The key to affording senior living is usually long-term care insurance. Even still, it is important to carefully choose a policy as some cost more and pay out less. Learn more about Long-term Care Insurance from AARP's Understanding Long-Term Care Insurance
- Medicaid – For those seniors who do not have a large retirement or who are on a smaller fixed income, Medicaid might pay for assisted living if the seniors qualify. In addition, check with the Medicaid branch of government in the state where you live. Some states have a policy that supplies a Medicaid waiver that may help pay for assisted living.
- VA – There are VA benefits that help to cover assisted living for a qualified vet and spouse. However, qualification is income based but they do look at the cost of ongoing medical care and discount that amount from the annual income. It pays to always check the VA for benefits if you or your spouse are a vet. Learn more about the VA's care options for veterans.
There is a wide range of senior living options and those options change based on the level of care that is needed. The more care is needed the more assistance that is available and the less care that is needed the more expensive (generally) the cost of senior care becomes.
One of the keys to realizing all of the options available to seniors is not to wait to start planning the financial piece until you are a senior. Insurance is less expensive the younger you are and there are more roadblocks the older you are. Life as a senior couple can be both rich and highly rewarding.