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Nearly 13 million residents of California are age 50 or older, which means there are more seniors in the state of California than residents of any age in states like Illinois, Pennsylvania or Ohio. This seems like a huge number, but where does California stand when it comes to the percentage of older adults in the population or the quality of their lives?
California, it turns out, is among the youngest states. The median age is 36.7, the eighth-youngest median age in the country, and 32 percent of the total population is over the age of 50. That compares to about 35 percent of the country as a whole.
What else can we learn about the state of California seniors? The state is young overall, but it has the second-highest life expectancy, and senior-led households tend to have relatively high standards of living.
*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.
California’s Senior Living Costs
With a steep housing index of 152.30, it’s obvious that California is not one of the more affordable states to retire in. Areas of Northern California such as the Bay Area, Santa Clara County, Contra Costa County and Alameda County all contribute to this high housing index. Generally speaking, it is actually one of the most expensive states to live in the country. Still, many seniors find it to be a worthwhile investment and choice to spend their final years here. To put costs into perspective, one bedroom apartments in California average out to $1,142 a month to rent. The national average sits at only $825 a month. Need more space? Two bedroom apartments here are even more costly, at $1,459 a month on average. The national average for a two bedroom apartment is only $1,027 a month. Some of the top-rated cities to retire in the state include Thousand Oaks, Saratoga, and Torrance.
Curious about what the monthly living costs for seniors in California are like? Let’s take a look at some numbers.
Seniors who are mostly healthy and independently active have the luxury of living in their own residences. Depending on whether they have a caregiver living with them, they may or may not need home health care services. These services include basic things like housekeeping, help with running errands, and meal prep, for example. In the event that home health care services are necessary, you can expect to pay an average monthly cost of $4,767 a month in California.
California also has plenty of day care centers for the elderly. It’s only natural for caregivers to need some time out of the day to take care of their other obligations and recharge. So, adult day care would provide seniors a supervised place to stay during the day. At adult day care, seniors can expect to participate in social activities, therapy, and receive some basic health services as needed. Bear in mind that since adult day care does not include extensive nursing care, it is ideal for those who are healthy and independent. On average, it costs $1,668 a month to stay at an adult day care facility in The Golden State.
Assisted living facilities are available statewide for older people who need help with Activities of Daily Living. Assisted living is not to be mixed up with nursing home care, as it is not as extensive. Think of assisted living as an intermediate form of long-term care. For an average cost of $4,275 a month, Californian seniors can get access to health services and receive personal care at an assisted living facility.
Nursing home care is the most expensive form of care. Seniors in California who cannot live independently at home and do not have caregivers helping them out typically live in nursing homes to receive the proper care and supervision needed to get through each day. Nursing homes also provide residents with any required medications, therapy, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing care all day and night. Depending on whether you opt for a semi-private room or a fully private room, you can expect to pay anywhere from $8,114 to $9,703 a month on average.
Living Options for Senior Californians
There is certainly no shortage of living options for California’s seniors. Plenty of independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing home care facilities are available throughout the state to provide for the elderly and help them to live their best final years. Which one you end up choosing will ultimately depend on individual needs and circumstances. If you’re still trying to decide which one is best for your lifestyle, take a look at what each option offers below.
There are more than 1,400 independent living facilities in California. Independent living facilities are essentially retirement communities designed specifically for seniors aged 55 and up. Independent living is best for older people who are healthy and active, and don’t require 24/7 nursing care. The average costs of independent living facilities range from $542 to $4,950 a month.
The most common type of independent senior living is apartment living. Apartments typically include services like transportation, meals, and recreational programs, along with attractive amenities for residents to enjoy such as walking trails, small gyms, pools and jacuzzis, and more.
Independent living facilities may also take the form of housing units and subsidized housing. Housing units are like single-family homes, condos, duplexes, mobile homes, and the like. It’s different from apartment living in that it give seniors the option to buy if they prefer that, over renting. Subsidized housing is available for low-income seniors. There are certain requirements you must meet to qualify for subsidized housing, and oftentimes there are lengthy wait lists.
If you are looking to live in California without stretching your retirement funds too much, then it may be worthwhile to check out housing options in the Yuba City area where living prices are generally lower. The highest living costs in the state are in the Santa Maria and Santa Barbara metropolitan areas.
California is home to more than 4,500 assisted living facilities statewide. It costs anywhere from $987 to $9,000 a month, largely dependent on where you choose to live. Similar to independent living, it generally costs more to live in city areas, and less in the suburban areas. Unlike independent living where seniors are able to live by themselves, assisted living takes place at facilities that provide a group living environment. Seniors who are not able to live independently or choose not to live by themselves may look into staying at an assisted living facility in The Golden State. Assisted living facilities also are great for those with disabilities. Trained caregivers and health professionals work to provide the elderly with access to healthcare and social opportunities, along with help with everyday tasks like transportation, meal prep, laundry, housekeeping, and more. Assisted living facilities are monitored 24/7 to ensure safety.
Memory care is a specialized type of long-term care for the specific needs of seniors with memory loss. Caring for a senior with memory loss is not the same as care for other seniors, as memory loss can create an extreme case of helplessness and stress brought on from not remembering basic things like how to put on clothing, or in more extreme cases, not recognizing themselves in the mirror. Memory care goes above and beyond by providing monitoring of the senior all day and night, to reduce the chances of a senior wandering off and getting lost or having a health issue that needs immediate attention. Staff will also help residents with day to day tasks, in an environment that is built to be less stressful and easy to navigate.
California has not slouched off in regards to memory care, with over 2,000 memory care facilities operating within the state. The average cost of memory care in California is $65,250 a year, with costs ranging from a low of $1,431 up to $13,050 a month. Location plays a big factor in memory costs as well, with Santa Barbara being amongst the most expensive areas for memory care. Santa Barbara has an average memory care cost of $101,475 a year, much higher than nearly the entire nation. The lowest cost area for memory care in California is around Yuba City, where the average annual cost was nearly half, at just $59,400.
California’s senior population is expected to grow by four million by the year 2030, with a higher percentage of those seniors being unmarried or without any children to help take care of them. This puts greater emphasis on senior living providers to fill in the gap of care that’d otherwise be provided by a senior’s family. California policy makers are working on ways to provide in-home care for as long as possible, to lighten the load on nursing homes. However, for seniors needing higher levels of care, then nursing homes will be absolutely necessary. We’ll go over a few of the nursing home types available below.
Adult Day Care Facilities
Adult day care centers are a great compromise for seniors needing a greater level of care, but don’t need it professionally provided 24/7 due to having family help in the evenings and through the night. During the day, the primary caregiver, such as a daughter, son, or spouse, can tend to their job, or raising their own children, while their elderly loved one is receiving professional care at a day care center.
At the adult day care center, the senior will receive all their needed meals, and have staff on hand at all times to assist with anything that is needed, including bathing and other personal hygiene tasks, and taking medications. Another benefit of adult day care is the social aspect of it. Seniors can meet others their age and at the same life stage, so that they have others to relate to and bond with. Adult day care often have group activities to encourage socialization and ward off boredom and loneliness. Some activities include live music by local musicians for seniors to move and dance if possible, pet therapy visits, and of course an all time favorite – Bingo nights. There are also trivia nights and flower arranging for more cognitively stimulating activities.
Costs of adult day care in California can vary greatly based on location and how expansive the facility may be (some have large gardens or new technologies). To give a basic idea of costs though, the average cost of the over 200 day care facilities in state comes out to be $19,830 a year. The area surrounding and within Chico has the highest average costs, coming out to a very high $37,700 a year. Madera, on the other hand, has the lowest average costs, at a very low $7,475 per year.
Hospice care is generally a team-oriented approach to providing terminally ill seniors the best quality of life possible during their final stage of life. Seniors can expect to receive professional medical care from trained nurses and on-site physician, emotional support from counselors, and even spiritual support through chaplain services. Grief counseling is also often provided for family members. One factor to keep in mind, is that seniors can’t be admitted into hospice care without a doctor’s note that expressly says the senior is expected to pass on within 6 months. Providing hospice care as early as possible is both helpful and therapeutic for the senior and their family, as professional care helps everyone get through this trying time in a more constructive way.
California has over 500 hospices available throughout the state. Costs are almost always covered by Medicare through the Medicare Hospice Benefit. Medi-Cal can also cover the costs of hospice care when income and assets are low. Some private insurances also have benefits that would cover the costs of hospice care, but seniors will want to check and make sure. Hospice staff would be able to help with any questions or concerns in regards to filing the right paperwork and taking advantage of any available benefits to be sure hospice care is fully covered and paid for.
Respite Care Facilities
Many family members who take on the role of being a caregiver for their elderly loved one, underestimate how emotionally draining it can be, and can even lead to depression and health problems for the caregiver. Respite care is meant to relieve the caregiver of the demands of senior care, so that they don’t develop caregiver burnout. Respite care can be arranged to have the professional caregiver come to the senior’s home for temporary bouts of time, or have the senior live at a respite care facility for a bit.
The duration of respite care can be open ended, but most often it is for short bouts of time due to how costly it can be, and respite care is generally not covered by insurances. Location can also affect the cost of respite care. Of the 1,700+ respite care facilities in California, the average cost is $86,815 per year according to a study be Genworth Financial. The range in costs can be from $5,916 a month, up to an exorbitant $34,800 a month. Seniors and their families will definitely want to research their respite care options to see what is within budget while providing the necessary amount of care.
Annual rental cost, Zillow Rent Index, States
Job openings, pulled from Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com in April 2020
Employment and wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019 publication
Household income and population figures, U.S. Census Bureau, most recent publications on all topics