The sunny state of California, which is listed among the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, features diverse geography, scenic parks and 840 miles of coastline, making it a prime retirement destination for active seniors. The state is made up of a dozen regions, each with its own culture and amenities, and it has nearly 40 million residents, about 15% of whom are retirees. A very comfortable climate means plenty of opportunities to explore the state’s park system, many of which feature stocked fishing lakes, boat launches and picnic spots, and exciting festivals throughout the year provide entertainment and celebrate the state’s unique heritage.
Independent living communities provide housing for active older adults. These communities promote a comfortable, maintenance-free lifestyle and typically feature amenities such as recreational centers, swimming pools and clubs and interest groups. Some communities also offer daily meals, basic housekeeping and laundry services and onsite spas and fitness centers. On average, Californians pay $3,250 per month for independent living, though fees vary considerably depending on location and amenities.
This guide provides more details on independent living in California and outlines agencies and programs available to retirees in the state.
The Cost of Independent Living in California
When trying to decide how to pay for independent living, one of the first questions that comes up is "How much does it cost?" With the impact of inflation, it's more important than ever to have up-to-date information when making a financial plan for senior living. To help shed light on real senior living prices, Caring.com has compiled proprietary cost data from its network of over 75,000 senior living providers to offer insight into the average cost of independent living in California and its 107 cities.
The Cost of Independent Living in California's Top Cities
Different cities in California have experienced different rates of inflation-driven increases. Sacramento has average costs of $3,500 a month for independent living, not far off from the $3,556 state average. San Diego is also close, at $3,679. Los Angeles' costs are somewhat higher, at $4,158 a month for independent living services. Topping the list is San Francisco, where the average $6,110 is a full 72% higher than the state average.
Inflation's Impact on the Cost of Independent Living in California
Independent care costs in California are projected to rise substantially by 2024, largely due to the effects of inflation. From 2022-2024, trend analysis shows a 10% increase from $3,481 to $3,823. This is close to the estimated 12% increase in national average costs. Other states likewise anticipate increases. Alaska and Nevada both project a rise of 5%, while New Mexico expects a stunning 61% increase during the same period, from $1,962 to $3,154. Wyoming actually shows overall decline from $2,723 in 2022 to a projected $2,200 a month in 2024, a 19% decrease.
The Costs of Other Types of Senior Living
Independent living is relatively affordable in California, at $3,556 a month, but it isn't the only care option for seniors. Older adults who could use closer support can choose assisted living in the Golden State for $4,946 a month, while memory care costs $5,866.
Can You Use Medicare or Medicaid to Pay for Independent Living in California?
Unfortunately, you cannot use Medicaid and Medicare to help pay the monthly fee for residing in an Independent Living community. For seniors who need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), there may be financial assistance programs available to help cover the cost of care in Independent Living. For more information about financial assistance for those who need a higher level of care, read our guide to Assisted Living in California.
Read on for more information about using alternative means to make Independent Living more affordable, such as retirement funds, the sale of a home, etc.
Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in California
There are many resources in California that assist seniors in their retirement. caring.com has compiled information on local organizations, programs and agencies and categorized them into care types for easy reference.
Area Agency on Aging
Retirees can find support and advice on various senior-related issues from their local Area Agency on Aging. The agency provides advice on topics such as financial assistance programs, in-home care and long-term care planning. It also connects seniors and caregivers with community-based resources. (California Area Agencies on Aging)
Cash Assistance Programs
Cash assistance programs in California provide financial support to help low-income retirees remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Seniors and caregivers can apply for tax rebates and reductions, discounts on vital services and help covering the cost of heating and cooling their home. (California General Assistance, California Lifeline Program)
Food Assistance Programs
Local organizations help ensure elderly citizens have a balanced diet and receive essential vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Through nutrition programs, congregate meals, home-delivered meals and food pantries, these programs help California seniors afford the nutritious food they need. (California CalFresh, California Meals on Wheels)
Free Used Medical Equipment
Due to the high cost of purchasing new medical equipment, several organizations in California collect lightly used medical devices such as wheelchairs, ramps and walkers and distribute them to local seniors and residents in need. (California Ability Tools, California Dignity At Home Fall Prevention Program)
Home Repair and Modifications
Seniors and those with disabilities can access a variety of local resources to help them pay for home repairs and modifications. Programs in California have different eligibility criteria and often assist retirees by providing grants or loans. (California Low-Income Weatherization Program, California Section 504 Home Repair Program)
Many organizations offer free or low-cost legal services to California seniors. Older adults can access advice on issues such as estate planning, living wills and power of attorney. Some firms also act as long-term care ombudsmen, advocating for the rights of seniors in senior living communities.
Senior centers in California bring together residents through recreational activities and events. Many also offer advice and support on senior issues, run wellness and nutrition programs, and connect older adults with other resources in the local area. (Alzheimer's Association California Chapter, California Assisted Living Association (CALA))
Senior engagement resources and programs in California help older adults remain active and ensure they contribute to the community. Resources include wellness programs, volunteer opportunities, support groups and organizations that help residents connect with the community to live fulfilling lives. (California Cyber Seniors, California Friendly Phoning Program)
Social Security Offices
Social Security offices in California help seniors and disabled people access the benefits they're entitled to. Older adults can contact their local office for information about receiving retirement benefits, disability allowance and Supplemental Security Income. (California Social Security)
Seniors can apply for tax assistance from several California resources. Elderly residents and those with disabilities could be eligible for tax exemptions on medical expenses, reductions on property tax and other tax assistance programs.
Utility & Energy Bill Assistance
Low-income seniors who are struggling to meet the costs of maintaining their homes can find support from organizations that offer assistance with utility and energy bills. California retirees could also qualify for emergency funding programs if they're in danger of losing utility services due to unpaid invoices. (California Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP))
California retirees who have served in the U.S. military can find support from local veteran services. These offices and organizations help vets access the benefits they're eligible for and provide advice and information on a variety of issues. (California Department of Veterans Affairs, California VA Benefits and Health Care)