Senior Living Pros and Cons – Which Option is Best?

The truth is, there is no definitively “best” senior living arrangement. After all, every older adult is different and has different needs. That means certain kinds of senior living will be better suited for some people than others. The real question is to ask which arrangement is best for the individual senior.

For families with aging loved ones, narrowing down what options work for them can seem overwhelming. That’s where we can help. Keep reading to learn more about 10 popular kinds of senior living, as well as their pros and cons at a glance.

1. Independent Living

Also Called:

  • Retirement living community
  • Senior apartment
  • Retirement community

Pricing: $2,750/month


  • Wide variety of amenities
  • High degree of independence for residents
  • Great for social people


  • Medicare and Medicaid typically do not cover expenses
  • Does not provide 24/7 medical care
  • Not for older people who want more than just other seniors in their community

Independent living communities are for active seniors who want to live in a vibrant community full of other active seniors. As the name implies, these communities offer residents a high degree of autonomy. That’s because residents require little to no help with activities of daily living (ADLs). These activities include dressing, feeding, and toileting.

Because residents can typically live safely on their own, independent living communities often offer a much wider range of amenities not found in other senior living facilities, such as swimming pools. They may also offer services such as lawn care, appliance maintenance, and laundering services.

2. Assisted Living

Also Called:

  • Assisted living facility
  • ALF

Pricing: $4,300/month*


  • Provides assistance with ADLs
  • Usually offer decent amount of amenities to residents


  • Can be expensive
  • Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage often don’t cover room and board
  • Does not provide the same level of care as nursing homes do
  • Some communities do not offer memory care services

Assisted living facilities are for seniors who need some assistance in their day-to-day life, although they do not require the level of care a nursing home provides. Simply put, assisted living communities are for seniors who need some help with ADLs or occasional medical assistance, but can otherwise care for themselves reasonably well.

3. Memory Care

Also Called:

  • Memory care facility
  • Dementia care
  • Alzheimer’s care

Pricing: About $1,000 to $4,000 more a month than assisted living


  • Can meet the needs of residents with cognitive impairments


  • Expensive
  • Can be isolating for residents

Cognitive impairment is a common issue when aging. When the impairment is severe enough that it impacts day-to-day life, memory care services are necessary.

Memory care services can be rendered either in a specialized facility or unique ward within a nursing home or assisted living facility. The staff at these facilities are trained to handle patients with all sorts of cognitive impairment, including those who suffer from some form of dementia.

Memory care units can offer families peace of mind that their loved ones are in a safe environment full of highly trained staff. Doors are typically locked on these units to offer greater protection to residents. That said, the drawback is that residents may be more likely to feel isolated than residents of other senior living arrangements.

4. Skilled Nursing Care

Also Called:

  • Skilled nursing facility
  • SNF
  • Nursing home

Pricing: $7,756/month (semi-private suite) and $8,821/month (private room)*


  • Provides 24/7 medical care to patients
  • Gives families peace of mind their loved one is safe


  • Expensive
  • Medicare only covers short-term stays
  • Not all are well-run

Skilled nursing care homes, or nursing homes, are for people who cannot live on their own safely. At these locations, residents receive priority access to healthcare services and have around-the-lock care administered by staff.

5. Convalescent Care

Also Called:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation facility
  • IRF
  • Acute care facility

Pricing: Varies widely depending on location, but is often covered by Medicare


  • Great for rehabilitation
  • Offers highly specialized services


  • Not for patients needing long-term care

Convalescent care is sometimes confused with skilled nursing care. While there is some overlap between the two, specialized convalescent care homes are designed to provide short-term rehabilitation services to residents. The ultimate goal is to have residents recover from an injury, illness, or surgery well enough that they can live on their own again.

People can receive convalescent care in specialized facilities or in nursing homes that offer short-term rehabilitation programs.

6. Continuing Care Retirement Community

Also Called:

  • CCRC
  • Life plan community
  • Continuing care community

Pricing: Entrance fee + $500/month to $3,000/month


  • Offers residents comfort and a sense of security


  • Expensive entrance fee
  • Expensive monthly fees

Needs can change rapidly with age. Unfortunately, rapidly changing needs can mean that someone has to shuffle between various facilities often. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) understand that moving frequently can be stressful for seniors, which is why they provide a wide range of healthcare services at one location.

Residents can live in one community for the rest of their lives, even if their needs change. The level of care CCRCs offer range from independent living to assisted living to memory care to skilled nursing services.

7. Home Health Care

Also Called:

  • In-home care
  • Homecare
  • Social care
  • Domiciliary care

Pricing: $4,481/month (in-home homemaker services) and $4,576 (home health aide)*


  • Allows older people to receive care in their own homes


  • Not for people who have extreme cognitive impairments

There’s no place like home. For older adults who require some assistance with ADLs but do not want to move, home health care may be the best option for them. Home health care services vary widely, but they typically include:

  • Help with laundry
  • Meal preparation
  • Assistance with bills
  • Medication management

Depending on where the person lives and what services they require, home health care may even be cheaper than assisted living services or skilled nursing care. This affordability makes it an attractive option for many seniors and their families.

8. Adult Foster Care

Also Called:

  • Adult family homes
  • Adult family care
  • Elderly foster care

Pricing: About $1,000 – $3,600/month


  • Gives seniors assistance with ADL
  • Care can be received in-home


  • Can be expensive
  • Availability limited by area
  • Not for adults who need 24/7 medical care

Adults that require personal care services are good fits for adult foster care programs. Enrollees can receive assistance, sometimes even in-home help, with ADLs. While these services aren’t cheap, many choose them because they are often far more affordable than living in a senior care facility.

9. Adult Day Care

Also Called:

  • Adult day health care
  • ADHC

Pricing: $1,603/month*


  • Gives families peace of mind that their loved one is safe
  • Allows the senior to return home at the end of the day


  • Expensive

As the name implies, these services are similar to day care services for kids; the primary difference is that enrollees are older and/or disabled adults. There is some overlap between adult day care services and adult foster care services, although they are not quite the same thing.

Adult day care services are for seniors who require ADL assistance but still live with their families. Typically, seniors will be under the day care program’s supervision during the day while other family members are at work or school. This arrangement gives families peace of mind that their aging relative is safe while they are away for a short period of time.

10. Respite Care

Also Called:

  • Residential respite care
  • Short-term assisted living

Pricing: Varies widely depending on the care selected and where it is received


  • Provides relief for caregivers
  • Ensures older people are in a safe environment


  • Can be expensive
  • Not a long-term solution to elder care

There is no doubt about it: caregiving, especially unpaid caregiving, can be exhausting. Everyone needs a break from time to time, and caregivers are no exception. Many caregivers, however, fear they cannot take a break from caregiving duties without putting their loved one’s safety at risk.

That’s where respite care comes in. Respite care is an umbrella term for helping caregivers manage the stress of caregiving. Respite care can take the form of a support group for unpaid family caregivers, or it can be putting aging relatives into a senior care facility for a short period of time while the caregivers have time to relax and recover without worrying about their relative’s safety.

Final Thoughts

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to elder care. What works best for one person may not work well for another. When choosing a senior living arrangement for an aging loved one, it’s better to take many different factors into consideration to make the right choice for your family.

(*Prices according to Genworth’s 2020 “Cost of Care Survey.”)