High Costs, Inadequate Service Top Reasons Senior Living Residents Leave Communities

The rising costs of assisted and independent living and being displeased with the level of service are two leading reasons for individuals to leave their senior living community, in addition to their own declining health, reports the Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research in a recent survey on residents’ financial situations.

“With the leading edge of the baby boom generation reaching retirement age, decisionmakers need a comprehensive understanding of their social, economic, and health characteristics—both in terms of resources and needs—in order to adopt effective public policies and private services to meet the needs of an aging population,” the researchers write.

Finances, Health and Acuity Primary Reasons for Moving Out


Looking at responses to one of the survey’s questions, which asks for individuals’ primary reasons for moving out, multiple responses centered around finances.

“Can own cheaper than this outrageous rent” and “Rent is too high and unevenly (unfairly) administered” are just two responses indicating dissatisfaction with the costs of senior living, while others cited being unable to sell their home, or the fact that many assisted and independent living communities can’t accept Medicaid.

Genworth’s (NYSE:GNW) 2012 Cost of Care Survey revealed facility-based care (such as skilled nursing or assisted living) has the highest cost growth in the past five years compared to in-home care or adult day care.


Meals and quality of food were two important factors in not liking a community’s service and wanting to move out, and poor staffing/inadequately trained staff was another complaint.

While residents’ own worsening health was also listed as a top factor for leaving a community, several survey respondents indicated they didn’t belong with some of the other higher-acuity residents.

“Not appropriate placement,” “People are much older and disabled,” “Residents here are too old, only a few close in age to me,” “Too many moving in that should be in AL not IL due to physical/mental health concerns” and “Too many residents need to be in assisted living,” are some of the comments residents wrote into the survey.

Wanting to be closer to family is another top reason for residents to leave.

Age and health of senior living residents

The average age of the senior living residents surveyed in this study was 86, roughly uniform across both freestanding independent and assisted living, and communities that offer both. The average age that an individual moved into a senior living community was 83.2.

Less than one-third of respondents rated their health as “very good” or “excellent” compared to their peers. For those in freestanding independent living facilities, 31.5% consider their health to be “very good,” while 37% say their health is “good,” 21% say their health is “fair,” and 2% rate their health as “poor.”

By comparison, the number of assisted living residents who reported themselves to be in poor health is actually much higher, at 9% for those in freestanding assisted living, and 7% of communities which offer both assisted and independent living. However, 50% of respondents rated their current health as either “much better now,” “somewhat better now,” or “about the same” as compared to two years ago.

The Center for Retirement Research also notes “there does not appear to be a relationship between health changes and the length of time living in the current community,” which suggests that residents aren’t experiencing rapid or continuous health declines.

Gender and race in independent/assisted living communities

Men are still out-represented by women in senior living communities.

About one quarter of freestanding assisted living residents were men, rising to 29% in freestanding independent living communities, 31% in the assisted living portion of combined communities, and 35% in the independent living portion. This represents a higher male representation for assisted living communities compared to previous surveys, while the proportion of men in independent living is comparable to previous sample studies.

The senior living community census is predominantly white, with more than 97% identifying themselves as Caucasians across assisted living, independent living, and communities that offer both. Less than 2% of residents who identified themselves as African-American.

View the survey here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace